Today is one of those days in which hope springs eternal. The Dallas Cowboys will host this week's Thursday Night Football versus a New Orleans Saints' team that is currently the best in the NFL. Led by Drew Brees and a high-powered offense, they haven't lost a single game since week 1. For the Cowboys, a three-game winning streak lies at risk. A winning streak that has led them to become the NFC East division leaders.
This is a huge game for America's Team. With the game kicking off on primetime, this could be one of those days in which the lesser team becomes the amazing surprise. One of those days that makes people love sports. Who doesn't like an underdog?
Here's to hoping the Cowboys shock the world like they did back in 2009, when they spoiled the Saints' hopes of an undefeated season. Here's this week's edition of "Cowboys Wishlist." Make sure to share your wishes with us on the comments section below or tweet them at me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Contain Saints' Two-Headed Monster
Much has been said about the Dallas Cowboys' secondary squaring off against a receiving core featuring Michael Thomas. It's an amazing passing game with Drew Brees throwing that football, but I'd be more concerned about the two-headed monster at RB the Saints are working with.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have had amazing seasons and have been a headache for every opposing defense they've faced. The Cowboys' key to winning the game will be containing both. Even if Michael Thomas has an attractive stat line towards the end of the game, look for the running backs to set the tone for New Orleans' offense.
Wish #2: Give Ezekiel Elliott Heavy Workload
I don't mean any kind of disrespect towards NFC Offensive Player of the Week Amari Cooper, but Ezekiel Elliott has been the Dallas Cowboys' MVP these last three games. Finally, the team has been able to utilize him properly. The offensive line has improved greatly since Marc Colombo took over as the OL coach.
In the last three games, Zeke has accounted for:
- 394 rushing yards.
- 137 receiving yards.
- 531 total yards (Why let you do the math when you're reading about the Cowboys?).
- 4 touchdowns.
Tonight, the Cowboys should give Elliott tons of touches. If they want a chance at beating the best team in the league right now, they better rely heavily on their best player. With this defense, if the Cowboys can control the time of possession, they'll have a shot.
Wish #3: Randy Gregory Has a Big Day
Back in 2009, as the Saints lined up at the 43 yard-line, trying to engineer a last-second comeback, DeMarcus Ware ended their hopes by sacking Drew Brees and forcing a fumble. Many things have changed since then, including the guy wearing #94 for the Cowboys.
Drew Brees doesn't care that there are only 32 teams in the NFL, he's only been sacked ten times this season, ranking as the 36th among quarterbacks in the league. Hopefully, the Cowboys bring their A-game in pass rush and put Brees in uncomfortable positions.
I wish this is a big day for Randy Gregory, including at least a sack. Maybe he even brings back memories from good old DeMarcus Ware.
Wish #4: Hold Saints Under 30
It's been more than a month since the New Orleans Saints have scored less than 30 points. That happened versus the Baltimore Ravens and an impressive defense of theirs. If one thing is true for the Cowboys, is that the defense is pretty impressive as well.
Sure, the Saints are a scoring machine. As I've mentioned, I think they're the best team in the league. But I'm confident they won't be scoring 40 or 50 against this defense. They rank third on scoring defense allowing 19 points per game. I wish the defense has a great day and even if the game results in a loss, that they prove they could keep the team in the game come the playoffs.
#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.
DAL 14, LAR 10; Tony Pollard, Cooper Rush Standouts in Preseason Win
The Dallas Cowboys' second preseason game wound up being the first victory of 2019. But more important than the irrelevant standings in August, the game helped us further see who deserves to make the roster this season. The 14-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Hawaii helped to reinforce things we saw in last week's game versus the 49ers.
Rookie Tony Pollard, starting at running back again due to Ezekiel Elliott's holdout, scored the first Cowboys touchdown of the preseason with a 14-yard redzone scamper on the team's initial drive.
Pollard had 42 rushing yards on just five carries, plus a nine-yard reception, on that one drive. It was an even more productive game than last week, and an encouraging sign if Zeke's absence were to linger beyond the preseason.
Also building on last week was backup QB Cooper Rush, who left no doubt that he's the superior player to Mike White with his play tonight. Coming in with the third-team offense, Rush completed 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
White, who got a chance to come in after Dak Prescott this game, managed just 30 yards on 7/13 pass attempts. He threw a horrible interception on the first drive of the second half, at which point Dallas sent in Rush and ended Mike's night.
At this point, it looks like White's bid to compete for the backup QB job and perhaps even a roster spot have ended as well.
- Dak Prescott remains perfect this preseason, completing 5/5 passes for 64 yards on his one drive. He was 4/4 last week against San Francisco. Tonight's throws were highlighted by a 31-yard pass on third down to Michael Gallup to move the chains and help set up Pollard's touchdown run.
- Speaking of continued trends, Brett Maher remains suspect with a bad miss on a 52-yard field goal. Maher went wide left from the right hashmark, albeit from long range and dealing with windy conditions. But he also barely made one of the extra point attempts; still cause for concern after some bad signs a week ago.
- Trending upward is WR Devin Smith, who caught Cooper Rush's TD pass with an athletic leaping grab in the endzone. Smith is starting to remind us why he was a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 Draft, and is standing out over hyped prospects like Jon'Vea Johnson and Reggie Davis in recent days.
- Johnson had two more drops tonight to continue his own storyline from a week ago. Last week it was Cedrick Wilson who outclassed him, and this week it was Devin Smith. Either way, the Jon'Vea stock is now moving in the wrong direction.
- The stock is going up on LB Justin Phillips, who looked good last week and even better tonight with an interception and seven tackles. While small at just 6'0" and 230 lbs., Phillips has been much more visible in these games than Chris Covington and other linebackers prospects.
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