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Game Notes

Cowboys at 49ers Staff Picks

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The bye week is over. Sean Lee is healthy. Ezekiel Elliott will play. Oh, and the Dallas Cowboys are in California this week to play the San Francisco 49ers. A lot has been said all week about this game, and mostly about how the Cowboys can right the ship by beating the 49ers, but is it really that simple?

Through five weeks of Dallas football, the Cowboys have struggled to get the ground game going. They've fielded an unspectacular defense that, at times, looks totally lost on plays, and generally can't tackle. And they've consistently failed to close out games.

In spite of little turnover among the front seven, opposing running backs have marched at will. The secondary is mostly new, save for Byron Jones, yet the familiar sight of ill-prepared players failing to effectuate Rod Marinelli's cover defense continues.

I think beating the 49ers, while a step in the right direction, is just the beginning for these Cowboys.

The San Francisco 49ers might be an 0-6 team right now, and they've recently named a very young quarterback as their starter, but a winless team is a hungry team.

A winless team is one with little to lose and much to gain. Teams like that can be creative and fierce, and they can turn a virtually guaranteed route into an upset before anyone can figure out how. And these 49ers have suffered some very close losses this year.

Now, with that said, the Dallas Cowboys have a key member of their defense back this week. Sean Lee was sorely missed. He's the captain of the defense, the general on the field, and having him back should help the Cowboys contain the 49ers. It should also give Jaylon Smith a spell, which we all know is needed.

Ezekiel Elliott was given temporary relief from the league's impending suspension and gets another chance to help this team win a ball game. Is it enough?

The offensive line hasn't been what we know they can be and Zeke's success has floundered as a result. He's turned some sure losses into gains by just being Zeke, but we're going to need more than that.

We're going to need the league's best offensive line to make an appearance.

You might say that's all terribly negative. Indeed, there's a bitter undertone to my words that I think can be detected even through plain text. It's not negative or pessimistic, though. It's just knowing what happens if the 49ers get their first win of the season tomorrow. Stuff starts hitting the fan.

It's also a little realism. These Cowboys haven't been dominant this year. If only week one could have lasted the whole season, right?

But enough with all of that. The game must be played for us to know exactly which Cowboys team is going to show up, so let's get down to the writer's analyses. As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.

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Dallas Defense Dominates

The Dallas Cowboys defense gets back on track against newly named starter C.J. Beathard. DeMarcus Lawrence adds to his league leading sack total and David Irving continues his strong start to the 2017 season. John Williams – @john9williams

Cowboys 31 – 49ers 17

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Cowboys Defense Comes Up Big After Shaky Finish

A lot of fans think this game is going to be a cake walk for the Cowboys. That’s not the case. The 49ers are obviously 0-6 but have played tight in every game so far this season. Dallas will jump out to an early lead, but continue to struggle in the second half. Dallas wins this one by the skin of their teeth with the help from a late strip-sack by DeMarcus Lawrence. Connor Livesay – @Connorx147

Cowboys 28 – 49ers 23

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Beat-down by the Bay

The Cowboys have had two weeks to stew over tough losses to the Rams and Packers. They are going to come out as fired up as we may have ever seen them, and that's bad news for the hapless 49ers. Jess Haynie – @CowboysAddicts

Cowboys 34 – 49ers 16

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Cowboys Get Back to Blueprint of Past Success

Is it overly optimistic to think the Dallas Cowboys can put four quarters of football together to finally defeat an NFL team? I don't think so, and I believe this is the week they do it. I'm predicting we see a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott to control the game clock and help hide the defense. It's a blueprint that has worked for them in the past and something I think they want to get back to. Brian Martin – @BrianMartinNFL

Cowboys 34 – 49ers 24

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Everything Is All Right

For the second time in the season, the Cowboys need to make an "everything is alright" kind of statement. It's been a tough start, but the Cowboys start turning things around with a comfortable win versus San Francisco. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99

Cowboys 30 – 49ers 20

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Back to Dak-ction

Seeing so many in Cowboys Nation refer to the Cowboys' return to the field as a "get well game" on Sunday is, to be completely honest, worrisome. The Cowboys have found new ways to keep opponents in games each week, and that will get you beat more times than not in this league. The 49ers have done everything they can to get their first win, and while I expect them to put up another fight at home, this game will be all about the Dallas offense dominating off the bye. The difference this time - Marinelli's defense responds with Sean Lee back on the field against a rookie QB, and the Cowboys get a needed win. Sean Martin – @SeanMartinNFL

Cowboys 38 – 49ers 17

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Turn This Season Around

To be honest, I just think the Cowboys are a better team than the 49ers. While the 49ers' record is a bit fraudulent (they should have a couple wins), they still cannot match up talent-wise with the Cowboys for four quarters. Let's hope that the "real" Cowboys show up Sunday looking hungry after their bye week. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88

Cowboys 27 – 49ers 17

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Take Nothing for Granted

The Cowboys are in a tough spot right now. The 49ers are in a tougher spot. This game has season long implications for both teams, and I expect the game plans from both head coaches to include "fight for every inch" somewhere. The 49ers have a knack for losing nail-biters this season, and I expect Dallas to do just enough to give them their seventh nail-biter loss. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece

Cowboys 31 – 49ers 27

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Looks like we're all in agreement here, on everything except the margin of victory, but I'd like to know what you think of the coming matchup between the Cowboys and Niners. Comment below. As always, Go Cowboys!



This is the General Staff account for Inside The Star, a blog for Dallas Cowboys news, scores, schedule, rumors, and analysis. We are the official home for @CowboysNation on Twitter. Follow us today for new content updates straight from our timeline. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Staff listing.

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2 Comments
  • James Howerton

    This game could be dangerous for Dallas. This kind of reminds me of the first game of the season; I think Dallas spent the whole off-season preparing for their first opponent, the team they hate the most, the N.Y. Giants. They came out prepared for that game but after they won it was like they forgot they had the rest of the season to play. After that game they looked completely lost compared to what I was expecting. We all know they have plenty of talent on Offense and after the first game it looked like the Defense was going to be OK. Unlike a lot of what I’ve read, I still believe in this coaching staff especially the DC. I hope the Cowboys come out strong, drive the length of the field and put 7 on the board. Then I hope our D looks confident, tackles well and forces some sacks and turnovers and a lot of 3 and outs. Then we need to continue in this manner for the full 60 minutes and finish the game STRONG. We need it after starting so well by defeating the Division rival who has given us so much trouble in the past, beating them and falling back into that familiar yo-yo pattern of the last few years that we’re all so familiar with. This 49ers team will play us like this game is their Super Bowl like all teams play us, which is why we ALWAYS have to be at our best. Go Big D!

  • Russ_Te

    Dallas 28-17
    SF 28-17

    One of those… ;^)

    I think a lot of shakeups may emerge tomorrow – maybe Butler starting, Heath not starting, more pass to establish run. But they must improve in the secondary if this is to be a contending season, and with Awuzie unable to get healthy it’s time to see how much Lewis and Woods can impact the unit.

    I don’t know what the fortunes are for this defense. I think I can get more consistent pressure now by setting Irving up inside next to Lawrence. It would help a fledgling secondary, and Lee helps everything – but there is no way to project whether they get better short term and start contributing to wins, or if this is effectively a rebuild year for the unit.

    While the last thing the defense needs to be more of a help is more field minutes, I think the Cowboys have to start making defenses pay for loaded boxes. Get a long hit to Butler early in single coverage, now they go back to 2 deep and can’t rotate over as much on Dez. Pass-to-run straps the offense to Dak more, but I like his chances with less pressure on 1st down.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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