At 3-4 and heading into Monday Night Football, the Dallas Cowboys are sitting in a precarious position when it comes to the NFC Playoffs. With only nine games left, they're going to need to go on a serious run the rest of the season to put themselves in a position to compete for a Super Bowl this season. The way I see it, they'd need to go 7-2 the rest of the way and would probably need to win the NFC East to get into the tournament.
Against the Tennessee Titans, who are also 3-4, the Dallas Cowboys will be facing a team that is eerily similar to themselves. Inside The Star Staff Writer Kevin Brady gave you an inside look at the Tennessee Titans, and if you aren't sure about it, the Titans are the AFC version of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys need to win this game. In order to do so, they'll have to be the better team in the following areas against the Tennessee Titans.
Open Up the Passing Game
The Dallas Cowboys have had their struggles offensively, but mostly on the road. At home, they've averaged 28 points per game. Over the bye week the Dallas Cowboys made a couple of moves to try to spark the offense by trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and replacing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander with Marc Colombo.
Now's the time to get aggressive in the passing game. Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns are coming off of their best games of the season against the Redskins. Cole Beasley is one of the more unguardable wide receivers in the NFL. Amari Cooper just adds another dynamic weapon to a passing game that has had some good moments this year.
Now's the time for Dak Prescott and Scott Linehan to let it rip.
The Tennessee Titans have allowed 250 yards passing in three games this season, most recently in their week seven loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. In that game in London, Philip Rivers threw for 297 yards beating the Titans 20-19. The Titans had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, but elected to go for two and the two point conversion attempt failed.
Get In the End Zone
The Tennessee Titans and The Dallas Cowboys have allowed the fewest touchdowns in the NFL at 13. Just under two touchdowns per game. The Baltimore Ravens have allowed 15 touchdowns through eight games.
That is the name of the game in the NFL. You force teams to kick field goals and you're going to come out on top more often than not. The Titans are pretty average in most statistical categories, aside from touchdowns allowed. They've allowed the 13th most yards per drive this season, and are middle of the pack in most defensive statistics. They're solid, but not spectacular.
The Dallas Cowboys will be able to move the ball on the Titans, but they'll have to score touchdowns when they get the ball into the red zone as opposed to kicking field goals.
Prior to week nine the Dallas Cowboys ranked 30th in total touchdowns scored. They sat behind the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants in total touchdowns. Each and every one of those offenses I just listed are considered bad offenses by most, if not all, NFL analysts.
That's not a place you want to be if you want to win games in the NFL. Interestingly enough, the Tennessee Titans are 31st in the NFL in touchdowns scored. Only one teams in the bottom 10 in the NFL in touchdowns scored has a winning record, the Washington Redskins.
The team that is able to score touchdowns in this game as opposed to settling for field goals is going to be the victor on Monday night.
Contain Jurrell Casey
The Dallas Cowboys have struggled with really good interior players this season and they'll face another good one on Monday Night Football in Jurrell Casey. The 29-year-old defensive tackle is leading the Titans in total pressures (sacks, hits, and hurries) with 21 and leads the Titans with 4 sacks, per Pro Football Focus.
According to PFF, Casey is leading the Titans with 22 stops (plays that are considered a loss for the offense), which is tied for third in the NFL among interior defensive lineman. Casey sits only two stops behind Aaron Donald, who's considered one of the best players in the NFL.
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The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to pull within one game of the NFC East leading Washington Redskins with a win on Monday Night Football. They have to take advantage of an opportunity to close the gap in the divisional race. That opportunity lies before them on Monday Night Football.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup
For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.
Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.
Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.
We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.
Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?
What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?
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