The Dallas Cowboys were embarrassed by the Colts last Sunday. There was not one area that wasn’t shown up in Indianapolis. However, it’s that sort of game that good teams sometimes need because it helps them come back to Earth and realize they’re not unstoppable. So now they need to learn from the past and move on to Tampa Bay.
This game is important not just because a win would clinch the NFC East for Dallas but losing two in a row and then going to New York to play the Giants, who are riding high, would set a bad tone for the end of the regular season. Playoffs or not.
Tampa Bay is eliminated from the playoffs, their coach is on the hot seat and there’s doubt about Jameis Winston as the future quarterback of the team. They have nothing to lose, which makes them dangerous.
Don’t get it twisted, the Cowboys are by far the better team, but on any given Sunday, anything can happen. And with a team with everything to gain and a team with nothing to lose, the Cowboys better cover all their bases.
The Cowboys have the personnel to win this game, but these players have a huge ability to change the outcome of the game, for better or worse.
Tampa Bay Right Tackle Demar Dotson is not 100% and is not for sure going to play. Regardless of who the right tackle is, DeMarcus Lawrence needs to play in this game the same way that made him a Pro Bowl defensive end.
The Cowboys were unable to take down Andrew Luck last week, and this week they go up against a Tampa team whose quarterback is not near as mobile as Luck, and has given up 37 sacks all season.
Whether it’s Dotson or someone else, Tank has the edge.
There’s no excuses this week. The Buccaneers don’t have close to as strong of an offensive line as the Colts had. The Cowboys need Lawrence to get to the backfield and make Jameis Winston uncomfortable if they want to win this game.
DeSean Jackson has played the Cowboys many times in his career, and has always been public enemy number one for the Dallas secondary. He’s freaky fast and can make a big play at any moment. The only thing stopping him? Xavier woods.
Xavier Woods has had a nice sophomore season, and part of that is because of his ability to stop the big play from happening.
He’s got two interceptions, eight pass break ups, 47 tackles and a forced fumble on the season, but faces an underrated challenge in the league's top passing offense.
Woods wont be alone. He’s got Pro Bowl corner Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and (the G.O.A.T.) Jeff Heath in the secondary to help but he will be essential in stopping the deep passes. DeSean Jackson is the obvious deep threat but this Buccaneers receiving corp is full of big-play receivers and Woods will need to bring his A-game.
He’ll be depended on heavily to stop any passes from getting behind him.
It’s not yet a forgone conclusion as to whether Zack Martin will play or not but it might be best to save him for another week and allow him to get healthier. Connor Williams did a good job last week filling in for the injured Martin and might make the decision to allow him some rest a bit easier.
This time around, they’ll face Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on the interior and while Zack Martin would make that matchup more noteworthy, Connor Williams might not be in too much trouble.
Gerald McCoy has been nursing a shoulder injury and isn’t certain if he’s playing this week. Given that the season is a wash for Tampa, it would make sense to sit the All-Star. However, should he play, he won’t be 100% and would help the rookie guard immensely. This may be a moot point if Zack Martin is active but Cowboys fans shouldn’t worry if Connor Williams is called on again.
This is a game that could help set up Connor Williams’ career and allow their All-Pro guard more time to heal.
This one should be obvious but the Cowboys need to feed Zeke. The league's leading rusher was just invited to his second Pro Bowl and is the Cowboys' best offensive weapon. Not only does Tampa Bay have the 27th worst run defense in the NFL (allowing 128.1 rush yards per game), but they are the worst red zone defense in the league as well. This game is primed to be one that Elliott should have a field day with.
I can understand the desire to get Dak Prescott going and use Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup but the team needs to focus and let Elliott break down this Buccaneer defense. Once that’s done, it can be the rest of the offense's turn to eat, including letting this last player run the ball as well.
Unfortunately for Dak Prescott, being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys has him in a position in which he’ll be scrutinized for every bad game or play, two or three times harsher than the quarterback for the Dolphins or Bengals.
He’ll only get credit when he puts up numbers reminiscent of Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman or Tony Romo. Even though he was not the main reason for the shut out against the Colts, he needs to have another big game like he did against the Eagles the week before to remind everyone how great he can be.
It’s ironic that this week's game is Tampa Bay. Not only do they allow the 27th most passing yards in the league, but quarterbacks who’ve played them complete 72.2% of their passes and have a passer rating of 111.1 (both highest in the NFL). Dak Prescott’s best career completion percentage in a game is 88.9, which was against the Buccaneers in 2016.
This is Prescott’s golden opportunity.
Every week the chatter will be different but the pressure is on Prescott to ball out. He’s got the skills and receivers around him to do so but he needs to make it happen for people to change their tune. For at least one more week.
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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