Former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Bill Parcells used to break up each 16 game season into four quarters with a goal of winning each quarter. The idea that if you win each quarter, you'll put yourself in position to make the playoffs and have a home game.
Well, the Dallas Cowboys finished the first quarter of the season 2-2 and have another huge road test this Sunday as they travel to face Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.
Before we get to what's coming, let's take a look back and hand out some first quarter of the season awards to your Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys offense has struggled for the most part, and if it weren't for the efforts of Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line in the running game, this offense would be the worst in the league.
It's gone hot and cold at times, but the running game has been really stinking good. Ezekiel Elliott is leading the NFL in rushing while averaging 106.5 yards per game as well as 31.3 yards receiving per game.
Those numbers are above his career averages to start the season, which is very impressive given how much focus the running game gets from opposing defenses. Through three weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys passing game hadn't really been effective, yet the running game was still able to pick up yards on the ground through the first four weeks.
Elliott's play on Sunday vs the Detroit Lions shows just how much of an impact he can make week-to-week. He set a career high in total yards with 240 yards and caught a touchdown pass. He's the first player in the NFL in 2018 to go over 200 yards from scrimmage.
A big blow to the offense in the preseason was Travis Frederick being sidelined with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. In stepped backup Joe Looney and he's held up really well on the offensive line. Unlike the backups did in 2017.
When the Dallas Cowboys were down offensive lineman in 2017, the performances from the backup offensive lineman were awful. So, to see Looney step in without having played much in the two seasons prior, is a big relief. Much of the reason the Dallas Cowboys are running the ball so well is because Joe Looney hasn't allowed much of a drop off from All-Pro Travis Frederick.
The time-table on Frederick remains unknown and so having Looney playing as well as he has, is a huge boost for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.
Who else would we give it to but the guy who has the biggest impact on the defensive side of the field every play; DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence is leading the NFL in sacks with 5.5, is second in the NFL among EDGE players in tackles with 14, and second in the NFL in "stops," which are defined by Pro Football Focus as "tackles that constitute a "loss" for the offense."
There's a reason that Lawrence is going to get paid a lot of money this offseason. He's one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL.
The Detroit Lions came into the game on Sunday having allowed only three sacks as a team in 2018 and DeMarcus Lawrence doubled that with his one epic performance. He's the best player on the defense and has played as the best player on the defense through the first four games of the season.
The only player on defense that has been as good as DeMarcus Lawrence has been is corner back Byron Jones. Only two regular corner backs in the NFL have allowed fewer receptions than Byron Jones; San Francisco 49ers' Corner Back Richard Sherman and Washington Redskins Corner Back Fabian Moreau.
On Sunday against the Detroit Lions, he wasn't even targeted after allowing only three receptions for 10 yards week three against the Seattle Seahawks.
Respect is growing for the fourth-year player and he's been one of the best corners in the NFL in 2018. That's huge considering the clear holes throughout the rest of the secondary.
PFF's initial grade of DAL-DET says that they did not identify either of the two passes towards Byron Jones side as passes targeting him in coverage. He played 54 snaps, 34 in coverage and was not officially tested a single time. As I said last week during 1st half... he's CB1.
Rookie of the Quarter
Leighton Vander Esch
Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has only played 49.61% of the defensive snaps and yet is tied for 16th in the NFL in solo tackles. Pro Football Focus has credited him with nine stops on the season and he hasn't missed a tackle yet. He's leading the Dallas Cowboys in tackles through the first four games of the year.
Filling in for injured All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee, Vander Esch was excellent and earned himself a place in Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week for week four.
After much gnashing of teeth after the draft about taking Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick, he's been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for. Yes, they could have made other picks that would have worked out well, but this guy is -- to steal some Jason Garrett speak -- going to be a good player in this league for a long time.
Leighton Vander Esch is the truth and he's not only the future at WILL linebacker, but he's the now.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Yes, there are 16 games to go this season, but some Dallas Cowboys have already made a big impact on the 2018 NFL season.
Who would you give the above awards to through the first quarter of the season?
The Cowboys Blueprint for Success has been Set
The Cowboys victory against the Jaguars was a reminder to everyone just how good Dak Prescott & Co. can be. They ran and threw all over the Jaguars defense like they were high school level. It was a one-sided, lambs to the slaughter type of game.
At the end of the game, it left all of us wondering, "where has this team been all year?"
Throughout the season, the Cowboys showed both dominance and incompetence on the offensive side of the football. One game the team moves the ball up and down the field with ease, the next game the offense looks inept. Last Sunday’s game versus Jacksonville shows that Dallas can be successful the rest of the season, if they continue to play as such.
Run the ball
This team was built to run the football. Look at the offensive line, their type of tight ends, their quarterback, and of course Ezekiel Elliott.
The line is full of first round talent, the tight ends are block-first types (sans Rico Gathers), Dak Prescott gives them another dimension with the mobile ability in and out of the pocket, and Elliott is one of if not the best running back in the league.
The concept of running the football should not be lost on this team.
If they let Elliott run 20 or more times per game, allow Prescott to run outside of the pocket and not just be a stand-still passer, and mix in some of Rod Smith and Tavon Austin (when healthy) to give their main runner a break, they can run on anyone.
Let Dak Move Around
What makes Dak Prescott so special to this team isn’t just his leadership, but also his ability to extend plays. He stays in the pocket if he has to but he’s so skilled outside with his legs. Zone read, play action, tuck and run, throw on the run, etc., any excuse to get Dak Prescott on the move is a plus. Defenses respect his ability to move so much that the Cowboys receivers get open more as a result.
The worst thing a coaching staff can do to a mobile quarterback is to keep him standing still when he can do so much more with his feet. Don’t buy a Corvette and keep it locked up in the garage. The best way for Dak Prescott to stay consistent and succeed as a passer is to let Dak be Dak.
The Cowboys have found a serious advantage that they’ve lacked in years past. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys have 18 sacks through the first six games of the season.
Throw in the contributions of players like Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford, and Randy Gregory, among others, and you’ve got the deepest pass rush the Cowboys have had in years.
The team is 7th in the league in sacks and there seems to be no sign of stopping and no shortage of players who can get to the quarterback. These numbers look like they’ll only go up from here and with the amount of players the Cowboys have to do so, Jacksonville looks like it was only a taste of what’s to come.
Creative Play Calling
A little more than a week ago Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys offense looked similar to the L.A. Rams - a hilarious notion by most accounts, right?
The Cowboys offensive scheme had been mocked all season for being both predictable and out of date. I’m not sure how many times you can run a three tight end set and expect success when it hadn't happened yet.
The team would run then throw on first and second downs, and depending on yardage, would set up a predictable third down attempt.
Against Jacksonville, we saw more read option than we’ve seen all year. Dak Prescott was vintage. His ability to move the ball with his legs made the secondary shaky against the Cowboys receivers - especially Cole Beasley - and that opened up the playbook.
Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t be stopped and just about every receiver got in on the action. Even rookie receiver Michael Gallup got in and showed some of what Cowboy fans had been waiting for.
Hopefully, that game showed just how dangerous the Cowboys can be when they are unpredictable and let their quarterback be himself. If they game planned for today the same as they did against the Jaguars, the rest of the season will be much more winnable.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?
El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.
Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?
De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.
Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.
Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.
Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.
A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.
Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.
Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.
Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y ganando a la otra.
Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.
Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
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