Who am I kidding?
There truly was very little to not like about how the Cowboys attacked the Seahawks. The Cowboys walked into that NFL playground, gave the biggest baddest bully a wedgie and stole his lunch money. If you didn’t watch the game and merely saw the score at the end, know this: it wasn’t really that close.
The Cowboys had a few miscues that afforded the Seahawks an opportunity to stay in this game.
In summation, The Big Three:
- Punt blocked and returned for a Touchdown. Tough to point fingers here. This was a very well-executed/timed blitz by the Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin to create a walk-in touchdown for Mike Morgan.
- The muffed punt. Two weeks in a row now, Dwayne Harris has been guilty of the worst possible type of mistake for a punt returner. This cannot become a trend if he wants to keep that job.
- The premature snap. Frederick sent it, Romo wasn’t ready. This particular gaff is par for that particular course, given the level of crowd noise in Seattle.
The above accounted for 17 of the Seahawks 23 points. Without them the Cowboys would have blown out the Seahawks and one could make the argument avoiding those 3 turnovers very well could have led to additional points for the Cowboys given the overall offensive effectiveness in what was supposed to be a low-score outing. I won’t attempt to make that argument; I’m just pointing out there is a viable debate to be had.
I said it last week, you cannot make mistakes against the Seahawks; they will make you pay…and they did…and it still wasn’t enough. True to form, the Seahawks did not make many mistakes themselves, save a few key penalties and the game-ending interception to Rolando McClain gift wrapped by Russell Wilson.
It begs the question: Are the Cowboys that good or are the Seahawks not who we thought they were?
I honestly do not want to take anything from that win…clearly the Cowboys are a much better team than what the football-watching nation thought coming into the season. The defense does have several players who have answered the questions that were looming over them in the offseason and they've answered favorably.
Tyrone Crawford is ideal as a 3-tech DT. Anthony Spencer and Henry Melton look to be putting their injuries behind them and have steadily improved as the season progresses. Bruce Carter seems to be more comfortable a year removed from looking lost the majority of the time in the new 4-3 defense last season. Rolando McClain does care about football and has brought physicality to this defense that was lacking. Justin Durant can be a leader on defense and is quietly having a very productive season. JJ Wilcox has gradually made strides in making better decisions as a Safety and the angles of attack he has taken lately have been on point. Brandon Carr is much better in man coverage. Jerry Jones is looking like a genius in hindsight for locking up Scandrick, who is arguably the Cowboys' best defensive back. At this stage in their perspective careers, Rod Marinelli may be the better defensive play caller/defensive coordinator over Monte Kiffen.
Add to that the confidence this team has - as a whole - now and we should see improvement as the season progresses and as various players get added to the rotation, like DeMarcus Lawrence and Josh Brent.
Having said all of that, the Seahawks were exposed Sunday afternoon.
Their lack of top-tier talent at receiver was made obvious. If a defense can remain disciplined and cut off Russell Wilson’s bail-out lanes, his lack of comfort being a pure pocket passer becomes evident. If a team can impose their will and run the ball, the Seahawks defense is nowhere close to being as vaunted as advertised. Along with shutting down Marshawn Lynch, therein is the blueprint for making Seahawks fans sleepless in Seattle.
Granted, all of this is easier said than done and clearly the team has to have the right players with a high degree of discipline and focus to execute, but the less than stellar side of Sunday above and beyond the aforementioned big 3 is the fact that every team the Cowboys face down the stretch will present unique and different challenges. My predominant concern in regards to the Cowboys defense is their ability to effectively employ zone coverages against quarterbacks that thrive in the pocket, such as Eli Manning whom the Cowboys will face this upcoming Sunday.
Given the comfort level the Cowboys displayed in man-coverage Sunday against Seattle's receivers, going forward teams will attempt to force the Cowboys into zone coverages. This means employing route combinations that feature drag and slant routes which I expect the Cowboys will be seeing a lot of against the Giants.
Special Teams continue to disappoint, excluding Dan Bailey and the coverage teams. Blocking on both return units have been lackluster, we have seen far too many penalties, and – aside from the muffed punts of the last two games – Harris has also been seemingly tentative with picking his lane in both kick and punt returns. Poor blocking could certainly be part of the issue, but nevertheless, the best returners seem to break into a sprint from the point that they secure the rock and do not stop until they hit a human wall or the end zone.
While it is my personal belief that average points allowed (Cowboys ranked 8th in the league allowing 21 points per game) is a far more telling stat as compared to yards allowed, even so, the Cowboys presently rank 29th allowing 6.1 per play. Therefore, the one disconcerting truth that all fans should accept is that these Cowboys cannot depend on their defense to carry the team. The Cowboys are very much reliant on the offensive line and DeMarco Murray sustaining their current level of performance.
All of their liabilities considered, the Cowboys can ill-afford to become complacent and/or start harboring the belief that they have arrived. Thus far winning has blinded the casual-watchers to many of their shortcomings, particularly on defense. These deficiencies, however, are not lost on the Cowboys coaches and by extension, the players. But if there is any sense of entitlement among the players, it will become obvious this Sunday afternoon as the Giants will give the Cowboys their best effort to stay relevant and in the playoff chase.
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?
The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense
The Dallas Cowboys earned their first win of the 2019 preseason on Saturday night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 in Hawaii.
Despite the low scoring affair, there were certainly standout performances from both offensive and defensive players for Dallas. Some who are looking to earn a roster spot, and others who are rather solidified in their place with the team.
Let's get into some of my game notes from the Cowboys preseason victory.
- Tony Pollard. I mean, I've said enough right? The rookie running back was awesome in his one drive of action Saturday night, rushing 5 times for 42 yards and a touchdown on the team's opening possession. Pollard was decisive, patient, and comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, and seemed to know exactly where and how to run on each rep. Pollard is looking like a complete back, rather than just a receiving threat for the Cowboys offense going forward.
- While undrafted free agents Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have garnered much of the attention, it was Devin Smith who impressed the most out of all the Cowboys' down-roster receivers this week. He caught 3 balls for just 24 yards, but had a fantastic touchdown grab from Cooper Rush in the third quarter.
- Speaking of Cooper Rush, he's your backup quarterback for the 2019 season. The coaching staff gave Mike White a chance to work with the 2's this week, allowing him equal ground for competition with Rush. But even with this opportunity, Mike White did not play well whatsoever. He's indecisive in the pocket, abandons clean protection, runs into pressure, and just looks kind of lost out there. Hopefully White can improve, but Rush is certainly deserving of the QB2 spot going forward.
- While Rush solidified his position as the QB2, QB1 Dak Prescott led another impressive drive on Saturday night. Prescott has command in the pocket and of the entire offense, and he orchestrated an excellent touchdown drive in his own possession this week. Prescott went 5/5 for 64 yards, but the highlight of the game for Prescott was his third and seven completion for 31 of those yards to Michael Gallup. He and Gallup seem to be connecting this preseason, and if that's going to happen regularly, look out.
- Now to the defense. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show signs that 2019 could be a career season for him. He was disruptive in limited playing time this week, and showcased a scary spin move on the inside. He can be an electric interior pass rusher for the Cowboys, and he looks to be "putting it all together" this year.
- Jourdan Lewis is too good to rot away on the bench, guys. Though he did get beat for decent completion in the first half, Lewis was also sound as a tackler and sticky in coverage once again this week. Lewis looks to be playing at the highest level we've seen from him yet, but once Byron Jones comes back he may not be getting the playing time he'd easily earn elsewhere. Dallas has a bit of an embarrassment of riches at cornerback right now, and Lewis just needs to keep competing every week.
- Lewis' Michigan teammate Taco Charlton had a decent night himself. While Dorance Armstrong has been the talk of the town at defensive end, Charlton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and was credited with 2 quarterback hits against the Rams. He wasn't creating the level of pressure you'd hope to see out of a former first round pick playing that deep into a preseason game, but you can tell he's looking a bit better as of late. Still, there's a whole heap of defensive ends on this roster who are flat out better than him right now.
- The Cowboys linebackers showed up to play on Saturday night. Of course, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch are who they are, but Justin March-Lillard led the team in tackles with 6, and Justin Phillips came away with an exceptional interception in the third quarter. He made a play on the ball that you don't expect to see from any linebacker, let alone someone of his roster status. This is a really deep linebacker room, and there's a strong chance the Cowboys will have to let go of a good player.
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