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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers: Tale of the Tape

John Williams

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Is Dallas Cowboys Reunion with Guard Jonathan Cooper A Possibility?

The Dallas Cowboys week one matchup with the Carolina Panthers is the first of 16 opportunities that the Dallas Cowboys have to prove that they belong in the NFC playoff discussion. In almost every matchup there are areas where each team has an advantage over the other. This week is no different.

Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Carolina Panthers will have a game plan and path to success. The one that is able to execute their plan and win their matchups with greater regularity is going to be the team that comes out on top.

Who has the advantage at each position group? Well, to decide, let's go to the Tale of the Tape.

Also, be sure to check out this week's Inside The Numbers as I breakdown the stats that will have an impact on this week one matchup.

Quarterback: Push

Generally speaking, I don't think that Cam Newton is a great quarterback. He's an average passer at best, but is made better by the work he does with his legs. Despite my opinion of Cam, he has been to the Super Bowl and won a lot of games. He isn't as accurate of a passer as Dak Prescott, but a lot of weeks he finds ways to win the football game.

Through his first 24 games, Dak Prescott was playing really well and was showing signs of developing into one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. The last eight games of 2017 seriously hindered that development as Dak was under pressure a lot and had a hard time going through his progressions. Obviously he still has some things to work on.

In 2017, they had identical passing touchdown and rushing touchdown numbers (22 and 6). Dak has a better career completion percentage and quarterback rating, but Cam Newton has more experience and some playoff success to lean on.

Cowboys, Elliott Should Be Keeping Close Tabs on Le'Veon's Situation

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) dances into the end zone ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell (23) for a game-winning touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. The Cowboys won 35-30. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Running Back: Dallas Cowboys

Christian McCaffrey is a good running back with some potential to be a really good to great running back. He's got a dual threat ability that is reminiscent of Marshall Faulk. Problem is the Carolina Panthers never give their best running back a full workload. They love to split carries and they won't be any different this year when they give CJ Anderson a good amount of snaps and touches as well.

Ezekiel Elliott, on the other hand, is one of the four best running backs in the NFL. I don't care how you rank Elliott, the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley, the Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson, or the Pittsburgh Steelers' Le'Veon Bell, Elliott is in the conversation.

Ezekiel Elliott averages nearly 130 total yards and a touchdown per game over the course of his 25 career games. He has the tools to take any handoff to the end zone on any play. His combination of size, speed, elusiveness, and patience make for one of the most entertaining players in the NFL. If there is one are where the Dallas Cowboys could get him even more involved, it's in the passing game. Despite averaging more than 10 yards per reception for his career, he's only caught on average 2.3 passes per game.

Wide Receiver: Push

I think the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers are going to be good enough to win games this year. They are a solid group of players that have a variety of skills, which, if used correctly, can make Dak look really good in 2018. Despite how I feel, there is still a bit of a question about how they'll do when the ball gets snapped. The don't have much name value, but there is some talent there.

Cole Beasley is the guy to watch for the Dallas Cowboys. He had a career year in Dak Prescott's rookie season. How teams play him could decide how effective the Dallas Cowboys offense is in 2018. In 2017, Beasley saw a lot of double coverage, which disrupted a lot of what Dak Prescott wanted to do on offense with quick efficient passes and Cole Beasley saw his numbers take a tumble.

The Carolina Panthers wide receiver group seems very similar to the Dallas Cowboys. Devin Funchess and Allen Hurns seem like very similar players. Solid number two receivers.

Torrey Smith was once a good player who is at his best with a big armed quarterback who can throw him open down the field. The problem is, as I outlined in this week's Inside The Numbers, Cam Newton isn't very good at throwing downfield.

The guy for Carolina to keep an eye on is first round draft pick from 2018, Wide Receiver DJ Moore from Maryland. He is a talented wide receiver who can win with route running and athleticism and ball skills. He was on the draft radar for Cowboys Nation this offseason and there was some gnashing of teeth when they passed on him for Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.

Overall, I feel like both teams have wide receiver groups that are good enough to win, but aren't going to blow anyone away on paper.

Tight End: Carolina Panthers

This one is simple.

In 139 games started, Greg Olsen has 639 career receptions for 7,556 yards receiving, and 53 touchdowns.

Geoff Swaim is the only Dallas Cowboys tight end who has recorded a catch in the NFL. He has nine catches for 94 yards and no touchdowns.

Olsen is one of the 10 best tight ends in the NFL at the moment and will be an important guy for the Dallas Cowboys to neutralize to secure a victory this Sunday.

Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick

Offensive Line: Dallas Cowboys

Despite Travis Frederick being highly unlikely to suit up on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is still vastly superior to what the Carolina Panthers will be trotting out there on Sunday. The Dallas Cowboys will be starting two players who haven't started a game for the Dallas Cowboys on the offensive line; Center Joe Looney, who steps in for Frederick and rookie Guard Connor Williams who will start at left guard. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are arguably the best at their positions in the NFL. La'el Collins is an improving talent at right tackle and has the strength and athleticism to continue to improve. He along with Tyron Smith provide excellent bookends along the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.

The Carolina Panthers have already lost two tackles to IR and have a guard and two tackle listed as questionable on this week's injury report. To say that the Carolina Panthers are struggling with health along the offensive line is an understatement. Ryan Kalil is a good center who will likely win his matchups with the Dallas Cowboys interior defensive lineman.

All that said, the edge here goes to the Dallas Cowboys.

Defensive Line: Carolina Panthers

DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Randy Gregory has a lot of talent on the EDGE as well. They have really good depth along the edge with Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, and Dorance Armstrong, but their interior defensive line has question marks. Maliek Collins is the best defensive tackle on the roster, but has some questions to answer after only securing 2.5 sacks in his second season after a five sack season his rookie year.

But overall along the defensive line, the Carolina Panthers have the edge. Kawann Short and Dontari Poe make up a really formidable interior defensive line. Julius Peppers and Mario Addison may not have the upside that Lawrence and Gregory have, but they did both have 11 sacks in 2017. Short's 7.5 sacks, per Pro Football Reference, were the forth most in the NFL among interior defense line players.

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line and the Carolina Panthers defensive line is the matchup to watch this week. 

Linebackers: Dallas Cowboys

The Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the NFL. That is a fact. Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys is also one of the best linebackers in the NFL. That is also a fact.

The Carolina Panthers will start David Mayo at weakside linebacker in place of Linebacker Thomas Davis (suspended four games for violating the league's policy on PEDs). Mayo has only started one game in his four year NFL career. Shaq Thompson is a capable strong side linebacker, but he only played about 67% of the Carolina Panthers defensive snaps in 2017. Outside of Kuechly, the Panthers don't have a player that can play every down.

Where the Dallas Cowboys have the edge at linebacker is in their depth with linebackers Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Joe Thomas, and Damien Wilson. All are capable of starting a game for you or playing meaningful snaps. A starting lineup of Lee, Smith, and Vander Esch could be one of the best 4-3 trios in the NFL.

 

Jon Machota on Twitter

Panthers QB Cam Newton on what he's seen from the Cowboys' secondary: "Very talented, rangy guys. And they're not afraid to come up and challenge you. ... They are helped by a very cerebral-esque linebacker corps.

Defensive Backs: Dallas Cowboys

In 2017, Pro Football Focus ranked the Dallas Cowboys defense as the 15th best coverage unit. The Carolina Panthers graded out as the 27th ranked coverage defense.

In passing yards allowed, the Dallas Cowboys ranked 11th and the Carolina Panthers ranked 18th.

The depth chart for the Panthers is very similar to 2017.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive back group is pretty much the same as well, but the addition of Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard will bring a hole new mentality to a talented group of players.

His aggressive approach is only going to help Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie excel in this scheme. No longer will we be watching the Dallas cornerbacks sitting back with eight yard cushions on 3rd and 5. I expect them to be improved even off of a pretty solid 2017 season.

Aside from Xavier Woods sitting out, they're going into week one healthy and ready to roll.

Special Teams: Push

Based solely on history, Graham Gano, kicker for the Carolina Panthers, has the advantage over Brett Maher. He's got a career 81% field goal percentage. Maher has yet to attempt a kick in his NFL career. He's got some leg, but regular season attempts are different than the preseason.

On the flip side, Chris Jones punter for the Dallas Cowboys has a massive advantage over Michael Palardy of the Carolina Panthers. Jones is one of the best punters in the NFL. His tackling and ability to run fakes make him the most exciting punter in the NFL.

Coaching: Carolina Panthers

Ron Rivera is three more games over .500 than Jason Garrett is. Rivera's won more games in the playoffs and has a better regular season winning percentage than Garrett.

Before taking the head coaching mantle, Rivera was considered one of the better defensive coaches in the NFL. Oh, and he's been to a Super Bowl.

I like Jason Garrett as a head coach, but Rivera has had more success in his seven years coaching the Panthers than Garrett has for the Dallas Cowboys.

It seems like a fairly even matchup, but I think the area where the Dallas Cowboys will be able to take advantage is the Cowboys defensive line vs the Panthers offensive line. That matchup is going to dictate the game and I think the Dallas Cowboys are much better in that matchup.

My Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 27 - Carolina Panthers 16. 

Who you got?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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2 Comments
  • Steve

    John I agree with alot of your assessments of each group and I believe that our Boyz will win tomm as long as we contain Cam and keep him uncomfortable! IMO Dak will start out with short throws and try to get everyone involved because let’s face it we WILL run and they know it and it’s a matter of how much they slow us down vs we slam it down their throat! Dak will have to keep them honest if we want to be successful!

  • Spoonydawg

    If Panthers Start out with 8 in the Box..and have success with man cover on the outsides… we could be in trouble if the WR’s can get open…

Game Notes

Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.

The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.

What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?

Dallas Cowboys

  • C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
  • WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
  • S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable

Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.

Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.

You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.

Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.

With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.

Seattle Seahawks

  • WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
  • C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
  • LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
  • C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
  • LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
  • S Earl Thomas (???) - ???

Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.

The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.

If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.

Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.

And lastly, Earl Thomas.

No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.

What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.

We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome

It's week 3 of the 2018 NFL season and this match-up already feels like one of the most important ones the Dallas Cowboys will play in the season. The reason why is they need to prove they're good enough to win consistently and that they won't have another year that feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses like 2017 did. As they travel to Seattle to face the 0-2 Seahawks, the 1-1 Cowboys can't miss a perfect opportunity versus one of the weakest units in football: the Seahawks' offensive line.

As every gameday, here is my Cowboys Wishlist for this week's action. As always, I encourage you to share your wishes with me in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Meet Brett Maher, the Cowboys Kicker Replacing Dan Bailey for 2018

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher (Shanna Lockwood / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Brett Maher Kicks a 50+ yard FG.

Dan Bailey recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboys Nation will experience a very odd feeling when they see their former kicker wear purple. If there's something that can make fans feel better is watching the guy who replaced Bailey nail a long field goal in Seattle.

Brett Maher showed he could kick a 47-yard FG in preseason, but we want to see him pull it off in a kick that will actually go down in the books. The decision to release Dan Bailey won't leave our minds until we see Maher do his job.

Wish #2: Rico Gathers Scores His First Career TD.

It felt like forever, but tight end Rico Gathers was activated for the first time in his career last Sunday. Rico didn't get his first catch even though he was targeted twice by Dak Prescott. The most notable moment was when Gathers seemed to be open in the endzone but Dak missed him.

Although Prescott's pass could've been better, Gathers did stumble a little bit and wasn't where he should've been to catch that touchdown. No worries, Rico's career is only beginning. I wish his first touchdown ever finally comes this week.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth)

Wish #3: Defense Gets Its First Interception of the Year.

Through two weeks of NFL action, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been one of the most impressive units. Ranking as the third best in total points in the league, the Cowboys' defense might begin being the team's best side of the ball. At least, it has been for the first two weeks.

Last week, they limited Odell Beckham Jr. to only 51 yards. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie have played pretty well so far, but I wish they're able to get their first interception of the year. Dallas has one takeaway from week 1 versus the Panthers, but it came in form of a fumble.

Let's get that interception from Russell Wilson, who will be pressured most of the day by a very productive Cowboys' front seven.

Wish #4: 20+ Point Performance

Despite a very exciting first drive versus the Giants last week, the Cowboys' offense still needs to prove it can be successful enough to win games. Scott Linehan's unit had some good drives but it also failed to maintain a consistent attack all game. That may seem okay, but the Cowboys will have to win against some pretty tough defenses.

Seahawks will present the team with a very interesting challenge and one that I wish they pass. As good as the defense is playing, the offense needs to show up in order to win later games.

Wish #5: Contain Russell Wilson

Wilson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. His agility might be the best among every other signal caller in the game, becoming a very tough guy to defend. He can hurt you with his arms and legs and can throw on the run pretty well. All week we've been talking about how sacking the Seahawks' QB is a key to the victory, but it's more than that.

Wilson is good in the pocket, but when he starts scrambling or running out of the pocket only to throw the ball once the defense is out of position, he becomes a pretty painful headache. The Cowboys need to put him on the ground, but they also need to contain him all day long. He's basically his team's entire offense.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle

Sean Martin

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Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle 1

Through just two games, the Dallas Cowboys addition of Kris Richard to their revamped coaching staff appears to be the team's best move of the offseason. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli revealed that Richard is calling the team's plays on defense, which explains their attacking style of play so far.

It was the Cowboys blitzes that disrupted the Giants offense enough for Dallas to earn their first win a week ago. With the schedule set up favorably for the Cowboys to build off this win, Richard must lead his defense past his old team in Seattle for Sunday's week three match up.

On paper, the Cowboys defense should be able to limit the Seahawks thanks to their strong pass rush and lengthy secondary. Welcoming back Xavier Woods at safety, the Cowboys are getting even better in the back end against the Seahawks, allowing Richard to throw even more looks at Seattle with his front seven.

Starting wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard Ethan Pocic will both miss this game for the Seahawks.

With an offense still trying to find its footing though, Richard' profound impact on the Cowboys staff has extended past the defensive side of the ball this week. Perhaps the most criticized Cowboys coach this season, Offensive Coordiator Scott Linehan has sat down with Richard to study the Seahawks defense - coordinated by Richard against the Cowboys specifically.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Scott Linehan and Kris Richard have been spending a good chunk of time together this week dissecting Seattle's approach. Richard obviously knows Seahawks well. Linehan said Richard has great recall, taking him through each play of teams' previous games.

At 1-1, the Cowboys are still looking to put a complete game on the field and prove they deserve to sit atop the NFC East. The defense being their strongest unit through an ugly loss in Carolina and grind-it-out win against the Giants, Linehan's offense creating some explosive plays against the Seahawks could be all the Cowboys need to exit CenturyLink field as winners on Sunday.

Since Linehan officially took over as the Cowboys OC, he is 0-2 against Seahawks defenses coordinated by Richard. When Kris left Seattle, it was believed that he got out at the right time, with the Seahawks defense declining in talent ever since 2015 (his first year as DC).

The NFL's top scoring defense in 2015, the Seahawks were a full point per game worse in 2016, and nearly 2.5 points worse than that in 2017. So far this season, the Seahawks have allowed 27 points to Case Keenum's Broncos and 24 to the Mitch Trubisky lead Chicago Bears.

Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle

The Cowboys biggest problem against Richard's defenses had been finishing drives, something they improved on against the Giants last week. Both Cowboys losses coming at home, the Seahawks kept Dallas out of the end zone in both week eight of 2015 and week 17 a year ago.

Last year's loss to the Seahawks should still sting those at The Star who saw a desperate push for the playoffs hit a wall against Seattle's defense - holding the Cowboys to 282 yards in Ezekiel Elliott's return from suspension.

Not having to rely solely on motivation for revenge while sitting back and trusting Elliott to carry them, Richard could be the key to the Cowboys passing game finding some rhythm. After all, his official title beyond "offseason steal" is Passing Game Coordinator - a position occupied previously by Linehan himself back in 2014.

With a win, similarly to 2014 when the Cowboys came out of Seattle victorious, Dallas would go a long way in earning respect around the league.

This goes for both the offense, where the Cowboys will remain a work in progress regardless of result, and on defense where Dallas can expect Maliek Collins (knee) and David Irving (suspension) to return in the coming weeks.

Kris Richard's focus has been on bettering the Cowboys since they added him to the organization with a clear path up the ranks. Just how far Richard ascends, and how quickly, will depend on the Cowboys performance - expecting to be more than ready for the challenge ahead this week thanks to the coach responsible for building the "Legion of Boom".

The Cowboys kickoff in Seattle being FOX's game of the week, this team has never been one to back away from the spotlight, and winning under it with Richard on the sideline would give the Cowboys all the momentum they need returning home for week four.

Tell us what you think about "Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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