Connect with us

Star Blog

Cowboys Shouldn’t Abandon Run First Mentality Against Chiefs

Brian Martin

Published

on

Will Cowboys Lean On The Running Game Against Chiefs?

Without Ezekiel Elliott for the next six games, the ultimate unknown for the Dallas Cowboys is how they will adjust during his absence. It doesn’t really matter if you personally believe they should go to more four receiver sets or if they will be fine with their current stable of running backs. There is one thing they absolutely can’t do against the Kansas City Chiefs, abandon their run first mentality.

There is no denying that going from Ezekiel Elliott to Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden for that matter is a huge step down. But, I discovered something this week when studying the Kansas City Chiefs and I think it could actually benefit the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon.

The Kansas City Chiefs have been pretty impressive this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Alex Smith could very well be the NFL MVP, Kareem Hunt is leading league in rushing, Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the game, and Tyreek Hill is arguably the most explosive player with the ball in his hands. But, the Chiefs are susceptible on the defensive side of the ball.

Shocked? So was I.

From the outside looking in, I thought the Kansas City Chiefs had a pretty good defense. But, looks can be deceiving. They’re are currently ranked 30th in total defense, but I think it’s the rushing defense the Dallas Cowboys can take advantage of the most.

Kansas City Chiefs defenseThe Kansas City Chiefs are currently ranked 29th in the league giving up 4.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. That should have the Cowboys coaching staff licking their chops for this matchup, even without Elliott in the lineup.

Everybody knows the Dallas Cowboys pride themselves in the offensive line they have put together. They are arguably the best in the NFL at what they do, and what they do best is block in the running game. That is why I think the Cowboys would be foolish to abandon their run first mentality.

You see, the Chiefs defensive lineman have a problem maintaining their gap discipline and as a result get washed out of plays. That leaves their linebackers to pick up the slack, but fortunately for the Cowboys Derrick Johnson and Reggie Ragland have been struggling this season.

The Dallas Cowboys absolutely have to take advantage of the Chiefs defense, especially in the running game. Whether it’s Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, or Rod Smith. They have to continue to control the game clock in the running game and keep the Alex Smith led Chiefs offense off the field.

If the Cowboys can find success in the running game, I don’t see any reason why they can’t come away with a victory in front of their home crowd. But, if they abandon their run first mentality, it plays right into the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. That simply can’t be allowed.

Will the Dallas Cowboys stick with their run first mentality?

ADVERTISEMENT

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

Advertisement
6 Comments
  • Russ_Te

    Of course late word is that Elliott will play Sunday, but what changes if any for Morris against this defense, applies the same way if Elliott were to be knocked out of the game with injury.

    Certainly against a porous run D who is visiting, it can easily be a 40-carry game regardless of who is the workhorse. But if Morris gets starts this year, I think 1st down carries will be a bit easier for him than Elliott, because defenses will spend the 8th defender on him less often.

    For Elliott starts, I think a rule of 1st down pass, 1st quarter will go a long way. Defenses have to play run first with him, and that should set up some easy hits that get the offense off to a fast start. Now defenses have to back off Elliott.

    And it should be done with an eye toward a fast start for Dez also. That can pay double dividends.

    • Brian Martin

      I think the Chiefs are going to stack the box to try to stop the run regardless of who starts at RB. They know teams are able to run on them at will and the Cowboys are a run first team. We will have to wait and see though.

      • Russ_Te

        Cha-ching for Dak & receivers in that case. I presume Garrett learned his lesson in Denver, about not just running into the teeth of that to start the game.

        • Brian Martin

          I’m sure he did. And luckily, Kansas City’s defense is nowhere near as good as Denver’s. The Cowboys should be able to move the ball relatively easy, but hopefully they can get into the end zone instead of settling for FGs like they had to do last week.

  • EverybodyTalks

    I haven’t seen the numbers on run vs. pass, but it seemed maybe 60/40 % pass to run today. Dak had some good runs to complement Zeke and Albert had a nice 10 yard scamper. What I loved the most about this game were the much maligned players, who are continually being criticized and all had good individual games. T-Williams performance should quiet the critics. Beasley pulled the sauce out after his 2nd TD. Hopefully, he saved a little sauce for Taco’s first QB sack. The haters gonna hate, but Heath closed out the game with his interception. Well done, guys. Great Win. – Go Cowboys !!

    • Brian Martin

      I don’t think the critics will quiet on T-Will anytime soon. This is exactly what he does. He’ll show up one game and absolutely disappear another. But, it was good to see both him and Beasley finally involved in the passing game. It also was good to see both Taco Charlton and Jeff Heath make plays defensively. They are arguably two of the most talked about (not in a good way) players on the Cowboys roster right now.

Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

Published

on

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

Published

on

Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott.

It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”.

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”.

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”?

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Months Later, it Seems Jaguars S Barry Church was Right

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Months Later, Jaguars Safety Barry Church Wa E

About five months ago, before the 2017 NFL season had even begun, former Cowboys safety Barry Church made comments which made Cowboys Nation scratch their heads. Now a Jacksonville Jaguar, Church said his current team was more talented than his former, the Dallas Cowboys.

At the time, many fans and writers alike laughed off his comments and chalked it up to typical preseason hype. Most people thought Church was crazy for suggesting a 13-3 team had less talent than the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team led by Blake Bortles.

Well, five months later, it’s become clear Barry Church was right.

Brian Chojnacki on Twitter

Jaguars safety Barry Church says he feels this Jags team has more talent than his #Cowboys squad last season. Dallas went 13-3. https://t.co/EcbxfUGsvy

This weekend the Jaguars went on the road to Pittsburgh, and came away with a wire-to-wire victory in January. The Jaguars were the more physical team from start to finish, and dominated from the opening kick off.

On the road.

Against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now the Jaguars are preparing to do something the Cowboys haven’t done in two decades: play in a conference championship game.

The Jaguars and Cowboys will be linked for the next decade or so due to decisions each made during the 2016 NFL Draft. And while it appeared the Cowboys pushed all the right buttons in 2016, it now looks as if the Jaguars are preparing to compete for AFC supremacy for years to come.

With their talented secondary, dominant defense, and physical rushing attack, the Jaguars have built their team in the mold of past champions.

The Cowboys have attempted to do some of the same, but it certainly looks as if Barry Church was correct in his preseason assessment of the two rosters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Advertisement
Advertisement
Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending