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Game Notes

Cowboys-Redskins Preview

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Jerry Jones’s “moral victory” over the Denver Broncos will mean nothing if his Dallas Cowboys suffer a letdown against the Washington Redskins this Sunday night at AT&T Stadium (8:25, NBC). If the Cowboys are seeking any further motivation, other than taking another step toward ending a three year playoff drought, they should look no further than last season’s games against the ‘Skins.

In a performance that made many Cowboys fans throw up their Thanksgiving dinner, the Cowboys put up a turkey when the Redskins came to Arlington last November. They fell behind 28-3 at halftime before making a comeback that fell just short, losing the game  38-31. As painful as the Thanksgiving loss was, the later Washington loss undoubtedly stung more. In the final game of the 2012 regular season, which served as a de facto NFC East championship game, the Redskins topped the Cowboys 28-18 to clinch their first division title since 1999, and their first sweep of the Cowboys since 2005.

The most polarizing and scrutinized figure on the Redskins is obviously QB Robert Griffin III. Griffin captured the attention of the nation with his amazing rookie season, but his shaky knee has temporarily grounded the explosive QB. To say he has had a sophomore slump is being friendly. After a five interception rookie year, he has already tossed four to opposing teams this season. His completion percentage numbers are also down (65.6% to 62.4%) as well as his rushing average (6.8 to 4.0). While I do believe Griffin will return to the form we saw last season eventually, I don’t believe we’ll see it this week, even though he’s had an extra week to prepare thanks to the Week 5 bye.

However, even if Griffin is grounded, the Cowboys learned the hard way that the Redskins don’t need Griffin to post monstrous numbers like he did on Thanksgiving (19-27, 304 yards, 4 TD’s) to win. In the season finale last year, Griffin posted pedestrian numbers (9-18, 100 yards, 63 rushing yards, 1 TD), but the Cowboys were burned by RB Alfred Morris who ran for 200 yards and 3 TD’s. Like Griffin, Morris has also struggled in his second year, but that could be attributed to the fact that Washington has fallen behind early in all of their games this season, leading them to ignore the run game. He has just one 100 yard game (He ran for 107 in a Week 2 loss to Green Bay), but his season high in carries came in Washington’s last game against Oakland, when he had 16. One of the biggest reasons the Cowboys couldn’t finish off the Broncos last week was that they couldn’t stop Denver RB Knowson Moreno, allowing him to tally 150 total yards, not to mention the previous week’s loss against San Diego, a game that saw RB Danny Woodhead tally 2 touchdowns in addition to 86 total yards on 10 combined carries and receptions.

Tony Romo cannot be blamed for last week’s loss. Sure, last year’s dreadful season finale was on him (he threw 3 picks)  but when you score 48 points and still lose, put that one on the defense. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin told the media to point the finger at him. That’s nice and all, but it means nothing if the defense blows it again. The Cowboys defense is coming off back to back rough weeks against top five offenses Denver (1st) and San Diego (5th). Washington’s offense lacks the firepower of 2012, but they still rank 8th in the NFL in total offense with 390.8 yards per game.

The Cowboys have already sent a message through the release of safety Will Allen that defensive duds will not be tolerated. The defense must step it up this week. As we’ve seen this season, the fragile Griffin makes bad choices when the pressure is on him. After failing to sack Peyton Manning once last week, it’s important the Cowboys get to the quarterback early. The defense does a get a break when it comes to Washington’s receivers. Other than Pierre Garcon (29 receptions, 339 yards, 2 TD’s) nobody in the Washington receiving corps is particularly frightening, although Santana Moss always seems to save his best stuff for Dallas.

On the offensive side of things, the Cowboys have a golden opportunity to expose a Washington defense allowing a league high 440.5 YPG, in addition to 28 points per game, which ties for 6th with Chicago. With so much of the media focused on his one gaffe from Sunday this week, you may have already forgotten that Romo threw for 506 yards and 5 TD’s in a valiant effort to stop the Broncos. After four weeks of conservative football, none of which saw Romo reach the 300 yard plateau, Romo was allowed to revert to his gun slinging ways on Sunday, and, interception notwithstanding, it paid off. Three receivers tallied 100 plus yards and the Cowboys scored 48 points.

We all know that the Cowboys have receivers capable of putting up outstanding numbers, like Dez Bryant (6 receptions, 141 yards, 2 TD’s on Sunday), Jason Witten (7 receptions, 121 yards, 1 TD) and Miles Austin, who has been practicing this week and could return from a hamstring injury on Sunday. However, it was guys like Terrence Williams (4 receptions, game high 151 yards, 1 TD) and Cole Beasley (4 receptions 47 yards, 1 TD) that stood out last week. With the Redskins no doubt focusing on the big names, it will be important for the “other guys” to keep playing at this level on Sunday night.

The Washington Redskins will always be a rival to the Dallas Cowboys. The rivalry started before the Cowboys had played a down of NFL football, as Cowboys founder Clint Murchison Jr., seeking revenge on Redskins owner George Preston Marshall for changing terms of a deal that would’ve sold the Redskins to Murchison at the last second, bought the rights to the infamous Redskins fight song “Hail to the Redskins” from the song’s composer, who had a falling out with Marshall. Murchison agreed to return the song to Washington only when Marshall, the one naysayer against a pro football franchise in Dallas, gave his approval to award the NFL’s 13th franchise to Dallas. Since then, the Cowboys have enjoyed more of the rivalry’s better moments, leading the all time series 62-44-2, though the Redskins have had their moments…like the two wins in 2012 that knocked Dallas from the playoffs.

The Cowboys, despite their 2-3 record, have been crowned the class of the NFC East by many pundits, and it’s time to live up to that statement. Standing strong against the mighty Broncos is cute and all, but this isn’t college football, where a game like that will get you some respect in the latest rankings. A team needs wins to make the playoffs, and with a visit to Philadelphia on the docket next week, the Cowboys better get one against a Redskins team that ranks last in defense. There’s no reason to think the Cowboys couldn’t be 5-0 entering this matchup with a hated rival. It’s time to start playing like the undefeated team they could’ve been.

Prediction: Cowboys 37, Redskins 21

 

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1 Comment
  • John

    These next two Weeks are make or break for the 3 remaining NFC East contenders.

    Nice analysis.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn’t look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Ryan Switzer’s first target came on a third down — something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can’t catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 – Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender’s face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 – Streamable

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Switzer’s third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback — who is cheating to the inside — with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I’d still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.

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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might’ve lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season’s finally over. It wasn’t easy, but we’re still here. Here’s to 2018. Let’s hope it’s a good one for our Cowboys. Here’s this week’s edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Coaching Staff Didn’t Help Its Cause

It’s more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett’s job was not an issue. Now, Jerry’s even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it’s true.

While I don’t think we’ll see a new head coach anytime soon, I’d dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would’ve meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a “real action” game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC’s #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can’t help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers’ first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones – Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I’d be surprised if the Cowboys don’t keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he’ll be paid $790,000 next year which isn’t at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn’t been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR – Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he’s used more next season.

At the end of the day, he’s a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on “gadget plays” or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott’s best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it’s too optimistic to expect something like that.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Dan Bailey’s Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey’s 2017 season hasn’t been easy at all. We’ve seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys’ season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it’s all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan “Automatic” Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we’re not sure about calling him “Automatic” anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let’s hope that’s the case.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports… Maybe next year. We’re on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about “Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation – despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli’s defense.

We’ll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean’s Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys’ second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles’ eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we’ll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott’s strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open — relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn’t been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn’t now that he’s lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer’s ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer’s spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean’s Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean’s Scout won’t be going anywhere! I’m shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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