The Dallas Cowboys got their first win of 2016 a week ago, defeating the Miami Dolphins in convincing fashion 44-14 from AT&T Stadium. As they now prepare for their dress rehearsal game in Seattle tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to go back and take a look at the players that put a positive performance on the field in week 2, and break down how they can build on it against the Seahawks.
These could be players that had bounce back games, showed minor improvements, or took the world by fire. Let's talk some football!
Starting with the obvious only feels right here, as Dak Prescott has a ton to build off of after his first two preseason outings. After electrifying Cowboys Nation in Los Angeles during his debut, Prescott put on another show for the home fans - completing 12 passes on 15 attempts and tossing 2 touchdowns while rushing for a pair as well.
Prescott has now thrown more touchdowns than incomplete passes, an amazing accomplishment that will be hard to maintain against the Seattle secondary in hostile territory.
No matter how Prescott performs, Cowboys' fans have already embraced the journey of watching the young signal caller develop in front of their eyes. With that comes the highs that he has shown us, and some lows to be expected at some point.
Which will we see tomorrow from Prescott? Your move, quarterDAK.
Morris carried 13 times for 85 yards against the Dolphins, punishing defenders with his hard running style while cutting perfectly through the holes provided by Dallas' line.
Ezekiel Elliott will make his debut tomorrow, but Morris will still get his opportunities. What we will see from Morris should also closer resemble his actual role on this team during the regular season, as a compliment back to Elliott that can be just as dominant.
I'll be looking for Morris - a career model of consistency - to play with some extra burst to him when he first comes out on the field, and punish defenders for the rest of that time.
Sticking with the running back position, rookie Darius Jackson has two preseason games remaining to prove that he deserves a spot on this team. To do so, he won't need to be better than Alfred Morris or Ezekiel Elliott, but simply continue to provide an element in the speed rushing game that neither back excels at.
Jackson has shown the ability to do this, while also having to create a lot of plays on his own with backup offensive linemen in front of him, carrying the ball 26 times this preseason for 90 yards.
After leading the team in carries against the Dolphins, look for Jackson to get a lot more work tomorrow, and hopefully make the right reads on his way to some big plays.
I don't think that anybody on this football team was more excited about getting Tony Romo back on the field than slot receiver Cole Beasley. With a specific skill set, Beasley excels when Romo is his quarterback, able to work the middle of the field with ease.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been utilizing all of his weapons so far this preseason, moving guys around to create the best match ups. Against the Dolphins, you saw a tunnel screen to Beasley on the first drive that went for positive yards from Romo.
While it is unclear how much of Tony Romo we will see tomorrow, expect Beasley to be one of his main targets against a fierce Seahawks pass rush, and in the absence of Dez Bryant.
Speaking of the absence of Dez Bryant, the Cowboys will get a good look at Terrance Williams and Brice Butler in this game. Both players seem to still be competing for the second WR spot, although Williams hasn't done anything to warrant a significant loss of playing time.
One of the most memorable plays of Friday's win was Dak Prescott connecting with Brice Butler for a bomb down field, something that Butler was brought in here to do. Seeing him finally get vertical was refreshing, and he will make great strides in putting pressure on Terrance Williams if he can do it again against the Seahawks.
In watching his game against Miami for the second time, Chaz Green not only had the bounce back performance we all noticed in watching it live, but was actually really impressive in multiple aspects of the game.
Showing why he could be valuable as a tackle or a guard, Green played with a lot more consistent leverage and power on all of his sets.
On Alfred Morris' touchdown run, Green was able to slide and handle the speed rush - something he couldn't do against the Rams - clearing a lane for Morris to cut back and score.
Second-year player Byron Jones continues to be good at everything for the Dallas Cowboys. In watching him against the Dolphins, Jones excelled multiple times in run support, particularly in the red zone.
Of course, Jones was also able to use his length and speed to break up a pass that he had to come a long way for, displaying his full range of versatility.
We should expect more of the same on the West Coast from Byron tomorrow.
The confidence and attitude that we have seen from Claiborne throughout training camp carried over to his home opener, as he saw plenty of action and was able to get his hands on the ball multiple times.
If the Cowboys' coaches want tomorrow's game to feel like a legitimate regular season game, they should want Morris Claiborne to repeat his performance and continue to make plays - something he has never consistently done, while dealing with his fair share of injuries.
Staying on the field has been his biggest issue in this league for Terrell McClain, but the defensive tackle has shown what he can do at full strength with the Cowboys this summer. Against the Dolphins, it was refreshing to see yet another interior defensive linemen on this team that can play with a great first step and get up the field to make plays.
Cedric Thornton drew attention to himself by putting in similar plays back in Los Angeles, and again against the Dolphins. Now, with Maliek Collins set to return, we could get a look at an absolutely dominant rotation of DTs for the Cowboys tomorrow - hopefully featuring a steady dose of McClain.
It may have been some minor progress, but Ryan Russell finally put together some snaps to feel good about after being held in check against the Rams. Russell was able to get up the field numerous times around the edge, drawing a personal foul for a hit on Ryan Tannehill where he exploded around the right side.
Russell also generated pressure on the stunt with Shaniel Jenkins that resulted in Jenkins forcing a fumble, and ultimately giving the Cowboys a chance to add to their lead before the half.
Chasing after Russell Wilson will be an even tougher task for Russell, who could make Rod Marinelli feel a lot better about his rotation at defensive end should he finally put together all of his traits to have an impact on the game.
Some roster decisions are going to have to be made after this game for the Dallas Cowboys, and special teams is always a key denominator when it comes to deciding who makes the cut.
Most special teams snaps for Cowboys on Friday: LB Keith Smith 16, TE Swaim 15, LB James Morris 15, TE Austin Traylor 14, WR Andy Jones 13.
Depending on how much of James Morris we see in the dress rehearsal, it will be evident that this team wants him to make the team based on the chances he has gotten on special teams.
As a linebacker, I also thought that he had some snaps on Friday where he was able to read his blocks incredibly well, and avoid getting taken out of the play before rallying to the football.
What players are you keeping an eye on against the Seahawks? Who else stood out to you in the win over the Dolphins? Let us know! Comment below to start the conversation, or email Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.
Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense
The Dallas Cowboys are not only breathing in playoff contention, but they're now the favorites to crown themselves as the NFC East champions in 2018. It's pretty impressive how the tables can turn so quickly in the NFL. Dallas played very well against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday and we learned quite a bit from them as they bounced back to .500. Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday! Enjoy it as much as you did Brett Maher's game winning field goal a couple of days ago.
Cowboys Have a Championship Defense
Despite taking steps in the right direction, it's impossible to compare this offense to units like the Chiefs, Saints and Rams. However, it's the Cowboys' defense that could be labeled as a championship unit. Facing an offense with such a strong WR core, allowing only one touchdown on the road is impressive.
The Cowboys sacked Matt Ryan three times and were constantly causing pressures. Byron Jones was great once again, allowing only two catches in passes thrown in his direction. And of course, the kid who's been impressing us all, Leighton Vander Esch continued to play out of his mind. He should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner at this point.
The Cowboys' defense is one of the best in the NFL right now, and any offense will have a tough time facing them. It'll be intriguing to see if they can take the next step and stop a high-powered unit like the Saints in a few days.
Offensive Line Woes Are Gone
The offense has improved a lot the last couple of games. Although there is still a lot to work on, they're not struggling as they were in the first half of the season. The offensive line is a huge part of this. With Marc Colombo at OL coach, things have looked very different in Dallas.
Ezekiel Elliott: "I feel great. I feel fast. I feel physical. I feel very comfortable with the running schemes. We just got to keep rolling. That's what's important. We just got to keep rolling.
Ezekiel Elliott has been on a roll the past two weeks and his comments regarding how he feels about the running schemes shouldn't go unnoticed. The offensive line wasn't playing as well as they are right now earlier in the year. Dak Prescott is noticeably more comfortable in the pocket.
It's intriguing to know what will happen at left guard for the Cowboys. With Connor Williams injured, Xavier Su'a-Filo has done a good job filling in for him. Williams has the upside, but should Dallas mess up the mojo this OL has lately?
Dak Prescott: Clutch QB
Dak Prescott continues to be criticized by fans while he keeps proving us why it's not that easy to move on from him. The guy is far from the perfect passer, yet he's been clutch time and time again. This time he did so on the road on an impressive two minute drill.
With 1:46 on the clock, Prescott marched his team down to the Falcons' 24 yard line. He managed to give his team another game winning drive in consecutive weeks. The Cowboys' young quarterback needed a confidence boost and this is perfect for him. He needs to keep it up if the team is going to finish the season as the NFC East champions.
Since entering the NFL, Dak has 12 game winning drives. As frustrating as his play is at times, he will not be easy to replace if the Cowboys decide to move on from this guy down the road. Hopefully, they don't have to. I, for one, believe Dak can be way better with a proper coaching staff. But that's a discussion for another day.
Now, it's time to celebrate the Cowboys' victory and get ready for a short week as the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on Thursday.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Excellence Elevates Cowboys in Road Win
For the first time this season the Dallas Cowboys have won back to back games moving to 5-5 on the year with a 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons in a game that they had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The defense was the story for most of the game, forcing the Atlanta Falcons to kick four field goals before allowing the game-tying touchdown with less than two minutes to play. The offense had trouble getting going until they leaned heavily on their star running back, Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott, who went over the 200 total yard mark for the second time this season and the fourth time in his career was dominant in the second half, getting hard-fought yards en route to his fifth 100 yard game of the season.
Elliott averaged 5.3 yards per carry, on 23 carries, but was also the leading receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott on the day caught seven passes on eight targets for 79 yards as well.
The Cowboys first touchdown drive was reminiscent of who the Dallas Cowboys were in 2016. That season, and seemingly rarely since, the Cowboys would go on these long 10-15 play drives in the second half of games and take control of the game.
On Sunday in Atlanta, they did it again.
Trailing 6-3 in the second half with the defense playing an excellent game, the Cowboys went on a 14 play drive for 75 yards that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. It was a huge drive to give the Cowboys a lead and to give their defense a much deserved rest.
On that drive, Ezekiel Elliott saw the ball seven times and set the tone picking up several first downs that helped set up Dak Prescott's four yard touchdown run that took the lead. After Leighton Vander Esch's interception on the ensuing drive, Elliott once again made a huge impact taking the ball twice for 31 yards including the 28 yard touchdown run that put the Cowboys up 19-9 with a little more than 12 minutes to play in the game. And on the final drive of the game, Ezekiel Elliott caught a pass and picked up a first down just inside Falcons territory.
Over the last two weeks, you can see a big difference in the effectiveness of the run game. Elliott spoke about Amari Cooper being one reason they've had more success in the run game.
Ezekiel Elliott on Amari Cooper: "It's just one more guy they have to worry about. It seems like he kind of was the missing piece, just because when he got here this offense started rolling. It's great having him. He's a phenomenal player. He's going to have a great future here.
Amari Cooper's presence is a big reason for the offense and you can tell they've been a more complete offense the last two weeks. The addition of Cooper puts more stress on a defense in the passing game. Like Elliott said, he's a player that has to be accounted for, making his and the offensive line's jobs easier.
The play of the offensive line has also been really good the last two weeks since Marc Colombo took over as offensive line coach and coincidentally Xavier Su'a-Filo was inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Connor Williams.
Whatever the reason, Ezekiel Elliott seems to be on an upward trajectory.
Ezekiel Elliott is now averaging 129.4 total yards per game, which sits right at his career average heading into the 2018 season. He's on pace for 1,524 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 545 receiving yards, and 3 receiving touchdowns. The touchdown totals are down from his career pace, but he's still on pace for 2,000 total yards this season. If the last two weeks are any indications, that pace could see a huge bump in the second half of the season.
Since entering the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott has: * 17 games with 100+ rush yards * 24 games with 100+ scrimmage yards * 4 games with 200+ scrimmage yards * 3,567 rush yards The one similarity between these numbers? Elliott leads the NFL in each since 2016 #Cowboys
If you needed a singular note to tell you how great Elliott's been for the Dallas Cowboys, that's the one. It's amazing that Elliott leads the league in all of those categories including rushing yards considering he sat out six games last season and had a game where he rushed for only eight yards against the Denver Broncos in week two of 2017.
And then there’s this one.
@dallascowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott had 201 scrimmage yards and a TD in the team's Week 11 victory. Elliott (4,540 scrimmage yards & 32 TDs) became the third player in @NFL history with 4,500+ scrimmage yards & 30+ TDs in their first 35 career games.
The two other players to accomplish that feat were Eric Dickerson and Edgerin James. That’s some legendary company.
Ezekiel Elliott is a big-time player for the Dallas Cowboys and someone who they can lean on the rest of the season. If the Cowboys are going to make the playoffs it will be because the run game continued to play at a high level, which opened everything else up for the offense. While many people will tell you that running backs don't matter, Ezekiel Elliott certainly proved on Sunday that he matters.
And if you watch opposing defenses on Sunday's, they act like Elliott matters. Like Sunday, Ezekiel Elliott will continue to be a threat each week and big things are coming for him and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Atlanta
It may not have been very pretty, but the Dallas Cowboys were able to keep their playoff hopes alive by defeating the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday afternoon. It's a place that wasn't kind to them a season ago, but they were able to overcome their demons and secure a much-needed victory.
This is a game that ended up being a lot closer than it probably needed to be. Missed opportunities and mental mistakes once again plagued this Cowboys team, but they continued to scratch and claw their way in a hostile environment to put another "W" in the win column.
With the game still fresh in our minds, I thought it would be a good time to share with you what I believed was The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys yesterday against the Atlanta Falcons. As always, please feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comment section located at the end of the article.
It should come to no surprise after the way he's played these last couple weeks, but I decided to go with Running Back Ezekiel Elliott for the good this week for the Dallas Cowboys. I could have easily gone with Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch because he was definitely deserving as well, but for me Zeke edged him out by a narrow margin.
Ezekiel Elliott put the team on his back Sunday afternoon and led them to a victory, just like he did a week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles. He pretty much was the Cowboys offense yesterday, accounting for more than 200 total yards by himself. He not only finished the game as the leading rusher with 122 yards on the ground and a touchdown, but the leading receiver as well with seven catches for 79 yards.
Zeke has been absolutely dominating here recently and hopefully he can keep it up with the division rival Washington Redskins coming to town on Thanksgiving. It's a game that will likely determine the outcome of the NFC East division.
He may have made the game-winning field goal, but Kicker Brett Maher's inconsistency here lately is the bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys in my opinion. His missed extra point attempt against the Falcons came very close to costing them the victory, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a few kickers brought in Monday on a tryout basis.
Over the past several years we've kind of been spoiled by having Dan Bailey, one of the most accurate kickers to ever play the game. I believe the Cowboys made the right decision to move on from Bailey earlier this year, especially after seeing the way he's struggled with inconsistency himself in Minnesota. But, Maher's recent struggles is starting to become more and more of a concern.
We've seen too many instances this season where a missed or made field-goal impacts the outcome of the game one way or another. This week they were fortunate enough to come out on top, but just imagine how the NFC division race would look if Maher would've made the one in Washington instead of clanking it on the upright.
I could've easily went with the penalties or mental mistakes in this section this week for the Dallas Cowboys, but I ultimately decided the ugly against the Falcons was Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie being victimized once again. Opposing quarterbacks continue to throw his direction and unfortunately they're finding quite a bit of success.
I hear a lot of fans around Cowboys Nation wanting to see Jourdan Lewis get a shot at starting on the outside over Awuzie, but I don't think that's the right move at this time. I still think Awuzie is playing at a high level, but unfortunately he's just been the victim of some really good catches by receivers he's covering at the time.
Both this week against the Falcons and last week against the Eagles we saw Awuzie with tight coverage on Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffrey, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to prevent the completion from happening. That's just been the way things have gone for him this season. If he can learn to get his head around and locate the ball, he would find much more success and not be targeted as much.
What is your Good, Bad, and Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Falcons?
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