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DAL 19, NYG 3: Cowboys Defense Dominates Giants

Jess Haynie

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The Dallas Cowboys opened their 2017 season in style, slaying the New York Giants 19-3 in the most one-sided victory between the two rivals in several years.

The Cowboys defense was the real story of the night, sacking Eli Manning three times and rarely letting them even get close to the endzone. DeMarcus Lawrence had two of those sacks; a rare feat for a Dallas defender. In all of 2016, only Maliek Collins had a two-sack game for the Cowboys against the Cleveland Browns.

The other sack came from Charles Tapper, making his NFL debut after missing all of his rookie season with a spinal condition. 2016 classmate Jaylon Smith also debuted and was second on the team with seven tackles. Unsurprisingly, Sean Lee led the way with eight.

Ezekiel Elliott, Giants

RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

 

On offense, Ezekiel Elliott had 104 rushing yards and another 36 yards receiving. The Cowboys lone touchdown went from Dak Prescott to Jason Witten, who led the team with seven catches for 59 yards. Terrance Williams also had a nice night receiving; 68 yards on six catches.

Prescott wasn’t as sharp as we’re accustomed to but still made critical plays and never turned it over. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 268 yards, and also had 24 yards rushing. He was only sacked once and wasn’t pressured too often, which is a credit to new offensive line starters Chaz Green and La’el Collins.

The Giants were missing receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was deactivated as his preseason ankle injury hasn’t healed fully. Their offense was held to just 233 total yards and couldn’t find the endzone without its franchise player.

 

The Cowboys had lost three-straight games against the Giants, getting swept last year and losing their second meeting in 2015. Dallas leads the all-time series between the division rivals with a 63-46-2 record.

With only three points, the Giants scored the fewest points in the Cowboys-Giants rivalry since 2003. Ironically, that was also a 19-3 win by Dallas. Jason Witten was a rookie then and also had a touchdown catch in that game, thrown by the immortal Quincy Carter.

Other Notes

  • Dan Bailey started 2017 looking once again like one of the greatest kickers in NFL history, hitting 4-of-4 all right down the middle. His longest was a 48-yarder.
  • Jason Witten became the Cowboys all-time leader in receiving yards tonight. He also closed with one score of Michael Irvin for third in all-time receiving touchdowns.
  • CB Orlando Scandrick left the game early with a left hand injury. It has since been confirmed as a fracture and his return timetable is not yet known.
  • Speaking of cornerbacks, Anthony Brown made a key interception in the 4th quarter, all but killing the Giants’ hopes of a comeback and setting up the Cowboys’ final field goal. Brown’s one INT last season also came against the Giants.
  • Elsewhere in the NFC East today, the Philadelphia Eagles got a road win in Washington. The Cowboys won’t play another divisional opponent until Week 8 when they also head to the nation’s capitol.
  • Dallas’ next game will be on the road against the Broncos. Denver opens their season tomorrow night, hosting the Chargers.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I’ll be sure to respond!

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2 Comments
  • Russ_Te

    Linehan again called a questionable Giants game IMO. Too conservative playing for FG’s when in range, too many inside runs. The Giants defense is stout up front and are going to stuff most of the inside plays. If you didn’t have RB speed it would be a different matter. The one pitch to Elliott, went for about 10 yards.

    I think you are better off to wear them down with numerous outside runs. All the more reason it made no sense to have Morris as EE’s backup when you have McFadden & his speed. Twice on 2nd & 10, hand off to Morris, stuffed. Who would call that?

    Dak: rust early but got going

    Collins: Not a bad RT debut against JPP

    Chaz Green: Just stay healthy

    Lawrence: has a motor. If you could leave him at LDE, quality player

    Tapper: Saw the burst off the ball that some have mentioned. I don’t see why a DE who can do that falls to the 4th round, but maybe so. He needs to platoon at RDE with Taco & see who wins the job.

    Jaylon Smith: It seems rushed to start him but the guy was active. Looks quicker than I expected at this point. Had 2 wicked shots on Shepard. A lot of intensity and will to win with this player. At least he is off the field on long downs, that may help him get back to 100%

    Young secondary: Got a big break with Beckham sitting, did what is expected in that situation – get the rest covered.

    Giants: Years now without a quality OL or RB, never seem to get it fixed. Long year for Eli, great to see the Cowboys send him to it on the wrong foot… ;^)

    • Jess Haynie

      Good stuff, Russ. I think the reason Tapper fell in the draft was that he played 3-4 DE at Oklahoma and there wasn’t enough tape of him really getting after the QB. Nice to see him being used the right way now.

Player News

Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

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

 

The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

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

 

These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

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

 

Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

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

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who’s The Cowboys Real RB1?

Brian Martin

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who's Cowboys' Real RB1?

The Dallas Cowboys are less than a week away from welcoming back their talented Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but until then they still have a game to play against the Oakland Raiders. That means we will have one more week of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith handling the workload, but which RB is sitting at the top of the Cowboys depth chart?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that can end up winning or losing a game. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have had their moments during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, but neither one of them have really distanced themselves from the other. So, should Rod Smith or Alfred Morris receive the majority of the workload against the Raiders Sunday?

A Case for Rod Smith

RB Rod Smith and QB Dak PrescottRod Smith might just have had is coming out party last week against the New York Giants. Against their divisional rival, in what was a must win game for the Cowboys, Smith rushed for 47 yards on six carries and added another 113 yards through the air on five catches. He also found himself in the end zone twice, once on a rushing touchdown and the other on a receiving touchdown.

You may or may not agree, but I believe that “Lightning” Rod Smith was largely responsible for igniting the Cowboys offense and helping them pull away from the Giants last Sunday. He accounted for over 160 total yards and two touchdowns by himself and didn’t receive the majority of his playing time until later in the game.

Rod Smith certainly has traits that make him a more desirable RB over Alfred Morris. First off, he is a more complete back. He is better in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield. But, he is also starting to show up in the running game and is averaging 4.5 yards a carry this season. His size (6’3″, 235) also makes him a better short yardage back, although I wish he would deliver more of a blow at the end of his runs.

A Case for Alfred Morris

RB Alfred MorrisAlthough there’s nothing particularly special that stands out about Alfred Morris, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of carrying the workload. He has received the majority of the workload during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and has performed pretty well. In fact, he is averaging 5 yards a carry this season, which is better than any other RB on the Cowboys roster, including Elliott.

Alfred Morris has looked pretty good this season and is playing with more of a spring in his step than I have seen from him in probably his entire career. Last Sunday against the Giants he received the the majority of the workload and finished the game with 19 carries for 62 yards. Not particularly spectacular, but the week prior he did rush for 127 yards on 27 carries in the victory over the Washington Redskins.

Like I mentioned earlier, Morris is a tried-and-true RB in the NFL and is at his best when he can continue to pound the rock and wear down opposing defenses. That is what he did against the Redskins, but he has his limitations as well. Despite his years in the league, he still struggles in pass protection and is limited in what he can do in the passing game. But, he does seem to have the trust of the Cowboys coaching staff.

✭✭✭✭✭

Personally, I would like to see more of Rod Smith this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. I really like what I’ve seen from him in both the running game and in the passing game. I just think he is a more dangerous and versatile weapon then Alfred Morris. His presence on the field really opens up what the Cowboys can do offensively.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Alfred Morris at all. I just think that Rod Smith has proven he is a more dangerous offensive weapon of the two. I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will agree or not, but I truly believe Rod Smith could once again be the X factor against the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, both Rod Smith and Alfred Morris will have to take the back seat once Ezekiel Elliott returns. So, this discussion really only has any credibility for this week in yet another must win situation against the Oakland Raiders.

Who do you like better… Rod Smith or Alfred Morris?

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Player News

La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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