It's here! It's here! It's here! The NFL 2015 Schedule is FINALLY upon us! Let's take a look at all of our matchups, how we've done against them most recently, and how we think we're going to do against them this year.
Week 1: Giants - September 13th @ 7:30pm CST on NBC
I’ve been waiting all February, March and April long for Sunday Night Football!
The New York Football Giants will be in town and on prime time as the Dallas Cowboys open the 2015 season. It’s no surprise to find the Cowboys on NBC’s Sunday Night Football; this will be the fifth time in the last ten seasons that the Cowboys begin their season in that time slot.
Last time we met…
The Cowboys and Giants last squared off at AT&T Stadium on October 19th, 2014. Gavin Escobar had a break-out day and snagged two TDs from Romo as the Cowboys cruised to a 31-21 win.
The Cowboys and Giants duo is no stranger to the Carrie Underwood anthem. They hit the field at Texas Stadium back in a 2007 season that began Romo’s first full year as the starter, and the Cowboys handled them 45-35.
In a rematch six years later - this time at Cowboys Stadium - the Cowboys rode six turnovers to a 36-31 win. Even though Odell Beckham Jr. might catch 10 amazing balls over Brandon Carr, I think the Cowboys’ offense will be too much for the “rebuilt” Giants secondary. 34-24, Cowboys.
Week 2: At Eagles - September 20th @ 3:25pm CST on Fox
Get ready for the barrage of DeMarco Murray talk. It will be EVERYWHERE.
This game is on September 20th, which is approximately five months from the time of my writing this, so Chip Kelly will probably have executed 48 more trades and signed 83 new quarterbacks. This will undoubtedly be Fox’s America’s Game of the Week and will feature the always dreadful combo of Troy and Buck on the call.
Last time we met…
The last time that the Dallas Cowboys traveled to Philadelphia (December 14th, 2014), a lot hung in the balance.
Two weeks prior the Eagles thumped the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and seven days after that the Cowboys traveled to Chicago for a nice Bears beat down. It was very obvious that the winner of that game would take an extreme advantage for the division crown into the final stretch of the season.
The Cowboys jumped out to a 21-0 lead, survived 24 straight points from Philly, and found a way to put the game away, winning it 38-27.
The Eagles will have a shorter week than the Cowboys as they play the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night to start the season. There is a lot of media drama that is contingent on that game. Should there be no cohesion between all of Chip’s new toys, it’ll be a rough week for the former Duck Commander.
The Cowboys will know how important two straight division games are to start the year, and as last year’s 8-0 road warriors they should have no problem going into Philadelphia and getting the win. 30-16, Cowboys.
Week 3: Falcons - September 27th @ 12:00pm CST on Fox
Back to back birds. The Cowboys will come home from Philly only to play the team that the Eagles played to start the year, Atlanta.
Matt Ryan & Co. have had a difficult past two seasons. The change at head coach to Dan Quinn and the health of Julio Jones/Roddy White will most likely make them a better team. Justin Durant will be facing his former team and he’ll want to make a statement.
Last time we met…
The Cowboys most recently played the Falcons on November 4th, 2012 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Falcons were undefeated at the time and, while the Cowboys looked to break that streak, they ultimately fell short near the end by a score of 19-13.
Julio Jones scares me. Roddy White does not. Orlando Scandrick has really come on and, while he’s currently not reporting to voluntary workouts, he’s a very strong leader on this team. He’ll take away Julio to some degree and Atlanta will be forced to rely on an aging Roddy White.
Dez will be empowered by the Julio talk and have a great game. Cowboys improve to 3-0 by a margin of 24-10.
Week 4: At Saints - October 4th @ 7:30pm CST on NBC
I hope you like crawfish because the first game in October features the Cowboys heading down to the Bayou!
Sunday Night Football against the Saints is starting to feel like home. It seems like these two teams always meet in such a contest and it’s always a touchdown palooza.
Last time we met…
The ‘Boys last played Payton & Brees on a Sunday Night back in Week 4 (September 28th, 2014) of the 2014 NFL season. It wasn’t close as the Cowboys got off to a super hot start and rode the wheels of DeMarco Murray to a 38-17 victory.
While Dallas’ last appearance in the Superdome was one of the more embarrassing ones in franchise history, I think that this time will be different. Jimmy Graham is gone. Kenny Stills is gone. The Saints are going to be forced to depend on Mark Ingram and Marques Colston.
They struggled offensively last year and unless they get something huge in the draft, they won’t be who we’ve seen them be in seasons past. Cowboys win a shootout, 45-30.
Week 5: Patriots - October 11th @ 3:25pm CST on CBS
The World Champs are coming to town, and they’ll most likely be coming in 4-0 against an equally 4-0 Dallas Cowboys team.
This has actually happened before. The two teams faced off, each at 5-0, on October 14th, 2007 at Texas Stadium. They were the two hottest offenses in the league. Marion Barber had the most incredible 2-yard gain in NFL history and the Patriots trounced the Cowboys 48-27.
This will be Tom Brady’s first visit to AT&T Stadium and it’s going to be a huge battle on America’s Most Watched Network.
Last time we met…
America’s Team traveled to Gillette Stadium on October 16th, 2011 to take on the New England Patriots and in a rare occasion wore their Cowboy navy uniforms. It was a low scoring affair that saw the Patriots win, 20-16.
Look, these are the World Champs. They are coached by a future Hall of Famer. They are quarterbacked by a future Hall of Famer. More than anything they always find a way to win. Being completely realistic the Cowboys could drop this game, and in absolutely no shame, take their first loss of the season 28-24.
Week 6: Bye Week
Week 7: At Giants - October 25th @ 3:25pm CST on Fox
Raise your hand if you’re pumped to be finished with the Giants before November. Go ahead, raise it!
The Cowboys will travel to Met Life Stadium in what is always a great game against the G-Men. By Week 7 teams have started to find their groove so this will undoubtedly be one of those classic NFC East battles that we all know and love.
Last time we met…
The last time that this team traveled to the Meadowlands, Brandon Carr was a part of a highlight that would live on forever in NFL history.
On a Sunday Night affair, Odell Beckham Jr. introduced himself to Mr. Car - and to the rest of the world - with his ridiculous one-handed catch. As great as that was, it wasn’t enough.
Romo led the Cowboys on an incredible game winning drive, that featured a final play in which he had no less than seven seconds to throw, and won 31-28.
Coach Garrett will have done quite a bit of studying after the New England loss and through the bye week. He and the staff understand how pivotal these division games can be, and what a luxury it would be to sweep the Giants before November.
In a strong defensive game, the Cowboys will establish themselves among the contenders and win 27-14.
Week 8: Seahawks - November 1st @ 3:25pm CST on Fox
Alas, another America’s Game of the Week. Troy and Buck will be oh so anxious to remind the world that the Cowboys stormed into Seattle last year (a game that Joe Buck did not call due to his World Series conflicts) for an impressive and season-defining win.
The Seahawks will be hungry and looking to dispel the theory that the Cowboys have their number.
Last time we met…
Do I really need to remind you? Seriously, if you don’t know then throw away your computer right now. The Cowboys took it hard to the - at the time - defending World Champion Seahawks in THEIR HOUSE on October 12th, 2014 by a score of 30-23.
The victory put the Cowboys on the NFL map as a team that was to be taken seriously, and a team that could run the ball on anyone.
As much as I would love to believe that we do have Seattle’s number and that they are a different team on the road, they play with a ferocity that is very rare in the NFL. They will be very focused and determined to wax the Cowboys.
Even though the offense will score on their famed Legion of Boom, Seattle will edge us out 28-21.
Week 9: Eagles - November 8th @ 7:30pm CST on NBC
Prepare yourself. The DeMarco Murray & Chip Kelly - and potentially Tim Tebow - train is rolling into town. The story lines will be everywhere.
DeMarco Murray returning to face his former team, Chip Kelly’s new toys and how they’re jiving together, and if Tim Tebow is the quarterback, God have mercy on us all.
Last time we met…
We last hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving of 2014. It was a nightmare from start to finish as the Eagles steamrolled the Cowboys 33-10.
A lot of Cowboys fans like to give the team a pass on this game, as the players had a very short week. They played the Giants in New York on a Sunday night and had to turn around and play Philly less than four days later.
The Cowboys did very well on NBC’s Sunday Night Football last year, going 3-0. We’re a team that does well under the lights and the DeMarco Murray factor will help get the team hyped for the game. Cowboys win decisively 38-20.
Week 10: At Buccaneers - November 15th @ 12:00pm CST on Fox
This game will feature the Cowboys traveling to Tampa Bay to play what will - in all likelihood - be this year’s number one overall draft selection, Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium is one of the most iconic throughout the NFL, featuring a wooden ship that fires off cannons when the Bucs score. They go relatively unused...
Last time we met…
America’s Team hosted Greg Schiano’s version of the Buccaneers on September 23rd, 2012 at Cowboys Stadium. It was a sub par game in terms of excitement, although the Cowboys did win 16-10.
The biggest storyline surrounding this game was that Greg Schiano was one week off of his infamous attack-the-knee strategy against the New York Giants.
Assuming this team will be led by Jameis Winston, their offense isn’t exactly a pushover.
He’ll have huge targets in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to choose from. Let’s not forget that Gerald McCoy will be rushing Romo at will. I think this game will catch the Cowboys off guard and with the team coming off of a huge win against Philly, they might get lackadaisical and drop this one.
Tampa takes advantage of an emotionally spent Cowboys team, 24-21.
Week 11: At Dolphins - November 22nd @ 12:00pm CST on Fox
Back to back trips to the Sunshine State! The Cowboys will come home after a so-so performance in Tampa and begin preparation for Ndamukong Suh.
This game is also a rematch of Super Bowl VI (the first one that the Cowboys won) and a game against a former high-profile Texas high school quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.
Last time we met…
The last Super Bowl VI rematch happened on Thanksgiving 2011. It was a very different Dolphins team than we have today. Matt Moore hitting Brandon Marshall for a TD while Terrence Newman interfered with him is enough proof of that.
While the Dolphins weren’t an exceptional team in 2011, they gave the Cowboys a run for their money. In the end it wasn’t enough and the Cowboys beat them on a last second field goal (in Dan Bailey’s rookie year, I might add) to get the win 20-19.
This is the game before Thanksgiving. The Cowboys have made it a habit of making this game exciting. In 2011 they kicked a field goal (Dan Bailey the rookie again!) in overtime to beat the Redskins in Washington 27-14.
In 2012 they went to overtime again, this time at home against backup QB Brandon Weeden’s lowly Browns team, and Dan Bailey kicked us to a 23-20 victory.
2013 didn’t go to overtime, but it was a stressful finish as Tony Romo summoned all energy in New York and led a game winning drive that Dan Bailey finished to give us the 24-21 win.
2014 saw us in New York before Thanksgiving again - and Odell Beckham Jr. blow up again - but it was déjà vu as Tony Romo led an amazing fourth quarter comeback drive that he finished with a touchdown to Dez Bryant to seal the 31-28.
The Dolphins will be contenders in 2015 and, if history is any indicator, this will be a close Cowboys win decided by three points. Give me a 34-31 Cowboys win and stretchy pants to get ready for Thanksgiving!
Week 12: Panthers - November 26th @ 3:25pm CST on CBS
This will be the Carolina Panthers’ first appearance on Thanksgiving in their franchise’s history. It will be Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Kelvin Benjamin facing off against the Thanksgiving veterans.
It’s always great to get a bit of a throwback feel on Thanksgiving and see an NFC matchup on CBS. The navy Cowboys uniforms against the Panthers whites aren’t the greatest uniform matchup, but it’ll be a nice deviation from the norm.
Last time we met…
The last time we played the Panthers actually did feature Cowboys navy uniforms against their whites. It was October 21st, 2012 and a pretty snooze fest of a game. Ultimately the Cowboys won, with an awkward score, 19-14.
Two things stand out to me about this game:
- Morris Claiborne got his first career interception in this game. It was a tipped pass that sort of fell in his lap. Hopefully he can return to some sort of prominence in his 2015 campaign.
- I watched this game with some family and one person foolishly said that the Cowboys needed to trade Dez Bryant. Thank God we didn’t! Ha!
The Panthers will possess a high level of moxie as they step out under the Thanksgiving lights. The Cowboys will do all that they can to survive a short week, off of a big win in Miami.
Cam Newton is going to be a lot to contain, but Greg Hardy will be out to prove himself against his former team. The Cowboys have historically had a tough little window around this time of year and I think that they’ll drop this game. A game that Most will attribute to the short week syndrome.
Panthers take this one 27-17.
Week 13: At Redskins - December 7th @ 7:30pm CST on ESPN
DUN DUN DUN DUN! Monday. Night. FOOTBALL.
It’s always exciting to get under the Monday Night anthem and play some pigskin. As much as I can’t stand the Redskins, there is nothing like a prime time game there; it’s got that classic NFC East vibe to it and always makes for a great game.
Who knows what the status will be with their quarterback situation at the time? Will it be RGIII? Kirk Cousins? Colt McCoy? Or will they actually make a move for Marcus Mariota?
Last time we met…
The Cowboys traveled to FedEx Field (Who am I kidding, it’ll always be RFK) for the 2014 regular season finale. It was an exciting game that saw two Cowboys records broken.
- DeMarco Murray broke Emmitt Smith’s record for most yards rushed for in a single season and,
- Dez Bryant broke Terrell Owens’ record for most touchdown receptions in a single season.
The 44-17 victory marked the Cowboys 12th win of the regular season and their 8th on the road, giving them a perfect road record for 2014.
The Cowboys will have a nice little mini bye after Thanksgiving that will give them 11 full days of rest before they have to lace them up again.
They have shown that they have the ability to win on the road, and Washington has shown that they will always implode. The Cowboys will start December off on the right foot and get a nice win, 38-16.
Week 14: At Packers - December 13th @ 3:25pm CST on Fox
Lambeau Field. It is the holy grail of professional football.
This game has everything you could possibly want. Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Mike McCarthy, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Garrett; and a rematch of one of the more exciting playoff games in recent memory.
This will challenge the record books as one of the most viewed games in history as its only competition for the day is a Broncos/Raiders matchup. Troy and Buck will be on the call and they’ll be talking about one thing all week… Dez Bryant’s catch (uh huh, I said catch).
Last time we met…
The Cowboys made the trek to the Frozen Tundra for last year’s Divisional Round of the Playoffs. While many gave the Packers a free pass to the NFC Championship game, the Cowboys would have none of it.
They withstood the injured Aaron Rodgers and were in line to put the game away before DeMarco Murray fumbled at the Cowboys 41 yard line early in the third quarter. The battle went back and forth and eventually saw the Packers take a 26-21 lead. Tony Romo mounted a comeback drive and on 4th and 2 from the Green Bay 32, launched a deep pass to the direction of Dez Bryant.
You all know what happened. An atrocious rule took precedence over what would have been one of the greater catches in NFL history, and the Packers booked their ticket to Seattle.
Dez Bryant will go off. I’m talking 200+ yards. He is going to be out to make a statement in this game. Yes, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will score some points; but Dez and the Cowboys are going to approach this game the way they approached Seattle in 2014.
It’s theirs and they’re going to take it in what will be one of the greater games of the 2015 NFL season, 45-41.
Week 15: Jets - December 19th @ 7:25pm CST on NFL Network
The Rex Ryan-less J-E-T-S will make their way to AT&T Stadium in one of the two Saturday night games of the 2015 season. These games are always so much fun as college football has reached a standstill so Saturdays are available for our perusal.
The Jets have a newly rebuffed secondary (Revis and Cromartie back for round two) that will be a big talk all week, but the Cowboys' win over Green Bay will be the bigger story as the Cowboys begin their run at securing a first round bye.
Last time we met…
These two teams last squared off on the ten-year anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies in American history, September 11th, 2011.
The Cowboys kicked off the Sunday Night Football game to begin the 2011 season in New York and the Ryan brothers (Rex and Rob) got a whole bunch of love. It was a really unorganized game for the Cowboys that saw some fourth quarter mistakes result in a 27-24 Jets win.
The Cowboys will have begun to catch fire by this point in the season. They will have the division and a first round bye well in sight and look to take advantage of a Jets team that has been fairly weak for the last few years.
It’ll be great to get this win locked up on a Saturday night and enjoy the Christmas decorations as Dem Boyz cruise to an easy 41-17 victory.
Week 16: At Bills - December 27th @ 12:00pm CST on Fox
You thought you dodged Rex Ryan when we played the Jets, didn’t you? Rex is going to talk his way all the way up to the sidelines all week-long before this matchup.
The Cowboys will have to face LeSean McCoy for the last time for four years (barring ANOTHER Cowboys and Bills Super Bowl in that time span) and all of Buffalo’s other offseason acquisitions: Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Matt Cassel.
Last time we met…
The Cowboys and Bills squared off on November 13th, 2011 in a game that was never close. The Cowboys scored quick and early and often riding Laurent Robinson (two touchdowns that day) to an easy 44-7 win.
One of the more notable moments was when Bills receiver David Nelson caught a touchdown and handed the ball to his girlfriend Kelsi Reich… who was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader! The story was everywhere and was a lot of fun.
The Cowboys last traveled to Orchard Park for a Monday Night game in early October of 2007. It was one of Tony Romo’s more memorable performances as he threw five interceptions and fumbled once… and still led the Cowboys to a 25-24 win.
There will most likely be some type of clinch scenario at this point (assuming I’m a prophet and everything that I’ve said comes true). The Cowboys will likely be able to clinch the division and/or a first round bye with this victory.
They’ll come out strong, but so will the Bills. Rex will absolutely get his team up to play America’s Team and The Ralph is an underrated place to play. I think it’ll be close and low scoring, but the Cowboys will pull it off 20-13.
Week 17: Redskins - January 3rd @ 12:00pm CST on Fox
Happy New Year! Hopefully you got Cowboys gear for Christmas and are excited to see us finish the regular season against Dan Snyder and his band of misfits.
In all likelihood this game will (hopefully) be meaningless, as we have secured enough to make us feel comfortable heading into the playoffs. The Cowboys and Redskins matchups are never boring, though, so this will surely be exciting… and not just because it’s your fantasy football Super Bowl.
Last time we met…
The last time that Washington visited AT&T Stadium is hard to truly evaluate. Tony Romo was infamously knocked out of the game, and later returned, while Brandon Weeden was unable to do much and we got a very scary look at what life without Romo looks like.
The Cowboys lost in overtime 20-17 to a Colt McCoy led team and had to deal with a very long week of sadness and unknown.
Coach Garrett showed last season in Washington that he will play his guys no matter what we’ve secured. I think that we’ll play the guys for a bit, but the Redskins will have too much pride on the line and win a low scoring affair 20-16, while we smile and get ready for the playoffs.
Obviously there is a lot yet to be determined about the 2015 NFL season. The NFL Draft is quickly approaching and that will drastically influence the composition of all of these teams.
Unfortunately, injuries will happen. As will the most improbable and unforeseen things… this is the NFL, right? The important thing is that the NFL Schedule is here, which can only mean one thing: the 2015 NFL Season is quickly approaching and trying to get to us as fast as it can!
5 Biggest X-Factors for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
As the Dallas Cowboys have put together this 2019 team, they have a mix of constants and variables that will hopefully produce a winner. Today, we're going to look at those x-factors; the players or other circumstances who have a wide range for potential impact. How could these potentially swing the results for this season?
Constants are guys like Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott. If they're on the field then they're some of the best at what they do. I also believe that we'll continue to get Pro Bowl play from the likes of Dak Prescott, Byron Jones, Leighton Vander Esch, and other studs from last season.
As for the x-factors, the biggest every year, for every team, is health. One bad injury can take a 12-4 contender down to a 4-12 weakling, as the Cowboys experienced in 2015.
We're not talking about health issues or suspensions today. Assuming all of our projected players are present and playing, whose impact on the field could create the biggest swing from 2018 to this season?
Our list contains two new additions from free agency who could cause some big ripples. There are also two returning players whose continued development could work wonders. And then there's also a change in Dallas' coaching staff, which you likely have just guessed, that could have the biggest impact of all.
In fact, let's start there.
Kellen Moore, Offensive Coordinator
Will the Cowboys' change at OC lead to a more explosive, less predictable offense? They must think so, having handed the job to Moore despite his having only one year of experience in a coaching role.
Scott Linehan's run was far from bad. Over his five seasons the Cowboys won three division titles and two playoff games. The only losing season was when they lost Tony Romo in 2015 and didn't have a Dak Prescott to replace him.
But Linehan's tenure was also marked by an offense that every armchair coach in Cowboys Nation could predict. There was little razzle and even less dazzle; Dallas ground out wins on the strength of the run game and offensive line.
The old school approach works up to a point, as we've seen with four winning seasons out of the last five, but is it really the best way to go? The fact that all four teams in conference title games last year, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New England, and New Orleans, have more modern-styled offenses should tell you something.
It seemed to tell the Cowboys something, leading to the switch from Linehan to Moore. Will Kellen get more creative with the versatile skills that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott offer? Will he actually throw some passes to a fullback with receiving ability like Jamize Olawale? What about gimmick players like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard?
If Moore is the real deal as an offensive guru, this Dallas offense could do some special stuff in 2019. It would be the biggest personnel change of the offseason, on or off the field.
DE Robert Quinn
It's been a long time since Dallas had two true studs at defensive end; DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were the last pair that could consistently threaten from both sides. By signing veteran Robert Quinn to be DeMarcus Lawrence's new wingman, the Cowboys are hoping to restore that dynamic.
Still just 29 years old, Quinn should have plenty offer. He's been a double-digit sack man three times in his career and has averaged 7.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
Last year, Dallas got solid play from Tyrone Crawford and Randy Gregory at times but they weren't consistent enough. Quinn not only bring a greater track record for pass rushing, but he doesn't present any of the current problems that Crawford or Gregory have with legal issues and/or possible suspensions.
That said, Quinn does have plenty of NFL mileage at this point. He has shown some decline the last few years, and if that continues then he may not make the impact we're hoping for. In that case, Dallas pass rush may look the same as it has the last few years.
Lawrence has been great, but we saw the Cowboys' inability to get to Jared Goff in their playoff loss to the Rams. There were zero sacks that day for Dallas, and only one QB hit (Jaylon Smith) the entire game.
If the Cowboys want to get back to the NFC Title game then they need more. Hopefully Robert Quinn can bring it.
WR Randall Cobb
As I said before, Amari Cooper should be as good as ever now that he gets an offseason to work with the team. Michael Gallup's progress from a strong rookie season is already reportedly on point. That leaves Cobb, the free agent replacement for Cole Beasley, as a major x-factor on offense.
Losing Beasley has the potential to hurt this team far more than we want to admit. He was Dak Prescott's security blanket for three years; his favorite receiver when the going got tough. No player was more trusted to get open, make the catch, and fight for the needed yards.
That sort of pressure won't be put all on Randall Cobb's shoulders. Cooper and Gallup will be a better pair to work with than any Beasley ever had. They will help mitigate the risk that Cobb has lingering injury issues, or doesn't acclimate quickly to his new offense.
But as the Cowboys hopefully shift to a more modern and innovative offense, Cobb brings valuable experience from his time with the Packers. He was part of six playoffs teams, and made many key plays to help Green Bay have sustained success during most of his time there.
If healthy, Cobb has the skills to replace Cole Beasley and perhaps even eclipse him. He was once a 1,200-yard receiver as the second option behind Jordy Nelson.
If he still has that gear in him, the combination of Cobb, Cooper and Gallup may give Dallas the most dangerous trio of receivers it's seen in decades.
CB Chidobe Awuzie
Switching Byron Jones back to CB last year proved a strong move, helping Dallas get to the playoffs and getting Jones to his first Pro Bowl. The Cowboys are hoping that Awuzie, entering his third season, will emerge as another standout performer at cornerback.
Awuzie, the Cowboys' second-round pick in 2017, had a slow start in his sophomore year but improved as the season went along. He should compete with Anthony Brown for the starting job, and at the least be Dallas' nickel CB this season.
With the Saints, Packers, Patriots, and Rams all on the 2019 schedule, plus two games with the Eagles, the Cowboys need a solid secondary. They need to make opposing QBs think twice about which side of the field they want to try and throw to.
Awuzie has flashed his potential these first two seasons, but now it's time to keep it on full display. Year Three is when most guys, and especially one taken in the second round, should be blossoming into the players they're going to be for the long haul.
If Chidobe takes that next big step forward then Dallas' defense could be the best in the league. The compound effect of improved coverage and a stronger pass rush would have exponential benefits.
TE Blake Jarwin
If Jarwin can do anything close to his Week 17 performance over the course of an entire year, he'd be one of the top tight ends in the game. That's the excitement level some have around the assumed 2019 starter.
Blake's not going to have those kind games often. The Giants were barely playing in that finale, likely already focused on how to screw up their draft. But it did give us our first full taste of Jarwin's receiving skills and athletic potential.
The Cowboys and Jason Witten swear that the returning legend is only here to support and help, and that the majority of snaps will still go to the young talent. If Jarwin can build on last year, and learn some things from one of the all-time greats, he could be a major new weapon in the 2019 offense.
Also helping could be the switch Kellen Moore as coordinator, who will hopefully find more creative ways to utilize all players. Perhaps we'll see Jarwin line up in spots that Scott Linehan never thought of, or was just never able to use while he still had Jason Witten in his twilight years.
Whether it's Jarwin or Dalton Schultz, Dallas will hopefully get some more firepower out of the TE position this year. As teams hopefully focus on stopping guys like Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, we could see huge plays by the tight ends if they're able to take advantage.
Kellen Moore on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp Reveals Offensive Philosophy
When Kellen Moore left Boise State for the NFL, he was the winningest quarterback in college football history with 50 wins in four seasons as the Broncos signal caller. Moore was a great college quarterback and was a part of an offense that took advantage of the things that he did really well; reading the defense and throwing with accuracy and anticipation.
Jon Gruden when he was with ESPN brought quarterbacks in from each draft class for a film session and to work out on the field.
Boise State Quarterback, Kellen Moore went on Jon Gruden's QB Camp show. Watch the full episode here.
Since Kellen Moore was promoted to offensive coordinator from quarterbacks coach, we've been trying to decipher what his philosophy might be. Moore himself gave us some insight when he talked about wanting to be "multiple" on offense. Basically, Moore wants to present similar concepts throughout the game plan but use formations and personnel groupings to provide variation and to keep defenses off balance.
If you have the time, go watch Moore's segment from Jon Gruden's Quarterback camp. It is pretty enlightening.
Here are a few highlights from the segment.
Multiple is a word we heard Kellen Moore use last week when asked to describe his offensive philosophy and he used it again in his interview with Jon Gruden.
The goal is to make the offense look as confusing as possible to the defense. Of their offense at Boise, Moore said, "it's a lot of the same concepts, a lot of ways of doing the same thing." Meaning they might run the same concepts out of 12 personnel that they run out of 11 or 21 personnel. The play concepts don't get diverse or complicated, the formations and personnel groupings are what gets diverse and complicated. Regardless of the formation, the offense will look similar. All in the hopes of keeping the defense guessing.
"Anticipation is built Monday through Friday."
Jon Gruden highlighted a play where Kellen Moore through a shallow post to a wide receiver that wasn't yet on the screen yet. Moore saw from the defensive alignment that the player would be open and was able to get the ball to the spot where the wide receiver could run under it and get the ball.
If there's one thing that's been a bit of a knock against Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott is that he struggles with anticipation. More often than not, he has to see it open before he throws it. This is an area that Kellen Moore and even new Quarterbacks Coach Jon Kitna can help Dak.
If Dak can starting seeing receivers open before their open and throwing it before they come open it would be a huge step in his development as a quarterback. Moore's use of pre-snap motion and formation variation will help Dak to diagnose the defense and know where to go with the ball before the ball is snapped more often.
Use of Pre-snap Motion
During the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, it looked like the Rams were using presnap motion on just about every play. With Moore on board, it looks like the Cowboys are going to be taking a similar approach, and for Moore and for offenses that use a lot of pre-snap motion, there's a purpose.
Moore described that each motion is designed for a specific purpose on each play. They used motion to try and gain an advantage. One way they could gain an advantage by using presnap motion is to force the defense to show a tell on the coverage they're in. Using pre-snap motion also helps them find more favorable matchups.
One thing that I found interesting is that then Boise State Head Coach Chris Peterson put the team through a shift and motion period at the beginning of each practice so that everyone would know their motions and the purposes behind them.
Another purpose in using presnap motion was as Gruden noted, "when there's communication, there's miscommunication." Sometimes players get the right checks when a player goes in motion, but sometimes the motion can leave a player wide open for a big play because of miscommunication.
Expect the Dallas Cowboys to use a lot of pre-snap motion with all of their personnel. The wide receivers and tight ends will be coming across the formation and you'll see the running backs motioning in and out of the backfield.
All in the hopes of finding a favorable look.
In the Red Zone
Gruden asked Kellen Moore, "How come at Boise State you have so many gadget plays in the red zone?" Moore responded to be "creative, open to different ideas, concepts" and they "do a great job of game planning."
If there's an area where the Dallas Cowboys struggled consistently throughout the 2018 season it was in the red zone. They were one of the worst teams in the NFL at scoring points inside the 20-yard line.
Getting creative with their play calling in the red zone can help keep teams off balance and not just honing in on Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. Trick plays or gadget plays can help open things up in the middle of the field for the running game by forcing teams to think about the boundary and the passing game.
One thing I noted from watching some Kellen Moore highlights recently was how many touchdowns they scored using play action. It wasn't every play, but it felt like it. With the run game that the Dallas Cowboys have, play action can be an incredible weapon if they were to open it up and use it more frequently.
In the red zone in particular, when teams are so concerned with Ezekiel Elliott, using play action to pass could lead to some easy scores.
If the Dallas Cowboys want to get back to the playoffs with hopes of making a run at the Super Bowl, they have to get much better in the red zone. You can't settle for field goals as frequently as they did in 2018 and expect to win a lot of games.
Other Interesting Notes
Gruden highlights it on the show, and I found it fascinating that Boise State would flex out their left tackle into the slot and sometimes out wide beyond the hash mark.
When asked about it, Moore said, "his job is to occupy space." What it does is create misdirection by getting the defense to think about what that left tackle is doing out there. On one play in particular, it led to an all-out blitz by the defense and Moore hit them for a touchdown on a vertical route.
I don't imagine we're going to be seeing Tyron Smith lined up in the slot, but it's a sign of the potential creativity that comes with Kellen Moore. Even Gruden admitted he'd never seen that formation before.
One of the other notes that I found particularly interesting was the way they used silent counts. Often we see quarterbacks use their leg to signal to the center that they're ready for the ball. Sometimes, it's the center turning his head that indicates the snap is coming. At Boise State, they used leg kicks, one hand, two hands, and the center head bob to keep the defensive line from guessing the snap count.
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It remains to be seen if Kellen Moore is going to be a good offensive play caller in the NFL, but from what we know about him to this point, it's going to be exciting and fun to find out. The goals of his offense appear to be to find mismatches, create confusion, use misdirection, and be able to anticipate where to go with the football.
Moore's greatest strengths as a quarterback were his football I.Q., his preparation, his ability to communicate with the offensive coordinator and the rest of the offense, and their ability to make in-game adjustments. If he's able to help Dak Prescott see the game better, anticipate where to go with the ball better, make quicker decisions, and help the offense be better in the red zone, the Dallas Cowboys could have an unstoppable offense in 2019.
We don't know if they'll be able to do those things, but after hearing Moore talk about offensive football, I'm ready for the Dallas Cowboys to line up in September so we can find out.
How Does DT Christian Covington Factor in Cowboys 2019 Plans?
In what's become an almost forgotten move from this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys signed free agent Christian Covington in March to add depth at defensive tackle. After four years with Houston, Covington joins the Cowboys as they work to find consistency and increased solidity in the middle of the line. Can Christian help them do that in 2019?
Dallas gave Covington just a one-year, $1.5 million contract as 2019 free agency began. He is being asked to convert to a 4-3 DT after playing DE in the Texans' 3-4 defense.
In four years as a backup, Covington amassed 7.5 sacks and 65 tackles. He's coming off a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2018 in just 12 games. That's solid production for a 3-4 DE, and especially one whose job is to help set up guys like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to get to the quarterback.
The Cowboys have seen the transition work before. In 2013, Jason Hatcher had a breakout year with 11 sacks after converting to a 4-3 DT. That was Rod Marinelli's first year coaching in Dallas.
Marinelli must think he can do something with Covington as well. Dallas signed Christian just one day after free agency opened, clearly having targeted him ahead of time.
No, I don't think Covington is going to break out the way Hatcher did. And the Cowboys clearly felt they needed more help when they drafted DT Trysten Hill in April.
But the Covington addition shouldn't be ignored as we project who makes Dallas' 53-man roster this season.
Right now Dallas has Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Daniel Ross returning from last year's team. They've added Covington and Hill this offseason, and also still have Tyrone Crawford who can play on the inside.
Basic roster math offers little chance that all six of these players make the team. So who's most in danger?
Crawford has the bad contract and the potential for a suspension with his current legal issue. But he's also valuable for veteran leadership, as a previous team captain, and his versatility as a DE option.
Maliek Collins is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and the drafting of Trysten Hill suggests that he probably doesn't return in 2020. Dallas can save about $2 million by trading or releasing Maliek this year.
Dallas brought back Daniel Ross because it was easy; an Exclusive Rights Free Agent with a minimal contract. That said, he has flashed some ability and is more than just a camp body.
The only locks are the rookie Hill and Antwaun Woods, who was looking like the team's best DT by the end of last season. The rest of the depth chart will be some combination of Collins, Covington, Crawford, or Ross, and that's if undrafted rookie Daniel Wise doesn't also push for a roster spot.
It'd be easy dismiss Covington given his minor contract and lack of time in the system. But Dallas signed him for a reason, and they made it their very first move when free agency began.
If I had to put money on who does and doesn't make the team in 2019, I'd bet on Christian Covington before Maliek Collins or Tyrone Crawford. All three could make it, but I'm less confident in the other two.
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