The 2015 season for the Dallas Cowboys was a complete disaster and the majority of the blame can be placed squarely on the backup quarterback situation. Once Tony Romo went down not once, but twice with a broken clavicle, we pretty much knew that the season was on the line.
Who was actually comfortable knowing that Brandon Weeden was a backup behind Romo heading into the 2015 season? I know I wasn't. I thought it was an absolute mistake by the organization.
As it turns out, I was right. They did however try to remedy their failure and traded for Matt Cassel, but again that didn't work out either.
Finally, they turned to Kellen Moore, but only after the season was all but finished and they really had nothing left to play for.
Again, I'm getting that feeling like I had last year when I found out Weeden was the backup QB. Are the Cowboys really going to rely on Kellen Moore to back up Tony Romo?
Well, according to Rob Phillips, a Senior Writer for the Dallas Cowboys, that is exactly the plan so far.
Jerry Jones on @1053thefan about his confidence in Kellen Moore backing up Romo at QB: "He's got the instincts. He's got the anticipation.
I can't say that I really agree or disagree at this point, but it does leave me a little worried considering the fact that Romo has had a hard time remaining healthy.
There is still a lot of time to analyze this position throughout the remainder of the off-season and I for one will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the QBs on the roster to see who is best suited to step in if needed.
Here is how I think the Cowboys see things right now…
Kellen Moore, QB (6'0", 200)
In 2015, Moore played in three games and started two of those contests. He completed 61 of 104 passes for a completions percentage of 58.7. He threw for 779 passing yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.
His best game was against the Washington Redskins, the final game of the season, where he completed 33 of 48 passes for 435 yards. He also threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions.
A lot of the belief that Moore is capable of being the backup QB is based on the Washington game and that is understandable after suffering through porous play from the position the majority of the year.
I however am worried that it's a mistake. I'm not a big fan, even though he knows the offense having been with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan since entering a league.
He is a pocket passer with very limited mobility and limited arm strength to make all the throws. His size or lack of size, is worrisome. If he takes a big hit will he to be lost due to injury?
Despite my concerns though, it looks as if the Cowboys are willing to gamble that he is the best option at this time, but I don't think for a second that they won't be looking for a better option at some point.
Jameill Showers, QB (6'1", 230)
Showers is someone that I'm really intrigued by. I think he showed a lot of poise last year during the preseason when he got the opportunity to play and I would like to see what he's able to do after a year of development in the Cowboys system.
In all honesty, I really wanted to see him get the chance to play at the end of the season last year when the Cowboys didn't have much to play for any more.
As of right now, I think the Cowboys have him third on the depth chart, but I think I actually like him just as much as Kellen Moore, if not a little more.
Showers showed during the preseason last year that he not only as the arm strength to make all the throws, but he has the poise to stand in the pocket and make a throw despite pressure being applied by the defense. He also shows the mobility to move the pocket and buy time to make a pass downfield and can also be a threat as a scrambling QB.
There are a lot of things that I like about Showers game and I hope that he gets the opportunity to display how much he has improved in a years time.
Dak Prescott, QB (6'2", 226)
Dak Prescott is probably the low man on the totem pole right now despite being drafted in the fourth round. That's not to say that it will remain that way once he is able to learn the playbook and get up to speed with the way things are done in the NFL.
Prescott has all of the physical traits that you look for in a QB. He has the prototypical size that NFL teams look for in their QBs. He has the arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL and has the ability to extend plays, while also being a threat to scramble when things break down.
However, he needs to get through his reads more quickly and like many other rookie QBs entering the NFL he needs to work on his mechanics. Cleaning up his mechanics might help with his accuracy for those intermediate and deep passes, which might be a concern if not addressed. He also needs to work on his anticipation. He tends to throw to a target instead of throwing a receiver open.
All in all, there are a lot of things to like about Prescott's game and his future with the Cowboys, but I don't think he's the answer to back up Romo yet.
Tony Romo's health is a big concern and if he does indeed have to miss extended time again the backup QB situation leaves much to be desired.
The fact that Kellen Moore is the most experienced QB on the roster is concerning and his size indicates that he could be one hit away from a major injury himself.
Showers as a year in the system and should be up to speed with the playbook. To me, I think he has more upside than Moore and provides a skill set more similar to Romo's.
Prescott is a rookie and has to first learn the playbook, while also figuring out the speed of the NFL. It could be a huge cultural shock, resulting in him needing more time to be a valuable option as a backup QB.
Overall, the backup QB situation is still a concern and could possibly need to be addressed at some point.
Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?
Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.
Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire
In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.
But in reality, is there?
For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.
The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.
First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.
The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.
In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.
Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?
Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.
That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.
Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.
Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support
Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.
According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.
A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:
“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”
Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.
As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:
“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”
While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.
The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.
Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.
Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion
The Dallas Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to the NFL Draft. Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, the Cowboys brought the 2018 Draft to AT&T Stadium, marking the first time the event's been held in an NFL stadium. This made Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch the first player to be drafted on the field he now calls home. Returning home this week after two straight interceptions against the Eagles and Falcons, Vander Esch is far from the controversial pick that drew jeers inside AT&T Stadium on draft night and every bit the star the Cowboys projected him to be.
The ascension of Leighton "Wolf Hunter" Vander Esch as one of the best young linebackers in the game has happened rapidly. LVE played eight man football in high school, tasked to do everything on both sides of the ball before settling into defense as a walk onto the blue turf.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys have more than just a plan to play defense without Sean Lee. Thanks to their 19th overall pick they're thriving as one of the best units in the league, making Lee an afterthought.
Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have changed the entire makeup of the Cowboys defense, two young and athletic linebackers that should be roaming the middle of the field for a long time in Dallas.
This is exactly what LVE was able to do on his interceptions of both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Vander Esch defending well against the pass is probably the least surprising part of his development, as his coverage skills always overshadowed his strength against the run in college.
It just so happens that Vander Esch tallied 63 tackles in eight games before recording his first career interception, establishing himself as an all-around linebacker with no true weakness. Vander Esch has played with the power and block shedding ability that matches his sideline to sideline range and instincts, as opposing offenses have done little to slow the Cowboys new leader on defense.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is Vander Esch's first interception, which set up a Cowboys field goal against the Eagles. Watch as Leighton reads the eyes of Wentz through the play, first angling towards his check down throw and then gaining depth to intercept the pass.
The subtle yet effective movements from Vander Esch to undercut Wentz's throw is a fine example of how quickly LVE has picked up on Kris Richard's defense, as well as the next level game speed.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Sunday's interception from Vander Esch was the type of game breaking play the Cowboys needed to separate from the Falcons in hostile territory. Although the Falcons would rally to tie the game after this point, the Cowboys defense became the first to hold Atlanta under 20 points at home this season, thanks in large part to LVE as always.
The smoothness from Vander Esch on this play is exceptional, stepping up into coverage against the running back before sprinting back in position for the turnover. Calvin Ridley, drafted seven picks after Vander Esch, helps Leighton by letting Ryan's pass go through his hands.
Give Vander Esch credit for being in the right place at the right time and finishing the play. Every week, the rookie finds a way to do something memorable, and in helping the Cowboys earn their first two road wins of 2018 he finally flashed in pass coverage.
The next challenge for the Cowboys defense comes on a short week, against the division leading Washington Redskins. Though they lost starting Quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday, expected to start Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, it was Running Back Adrian Peterson that gashed the Cowboys for 4.13 yards a carry and 99 total yards in the Redskins week six win over Dallas.
Given what not only Leighton Vander Esch but the rest of the Cowboys defense has shown against the run in recent weeks, all without David Irving and most recently without either Antwaun Woods or Daniel Ross, the Cowboys should certainly be prepared to play for first place in the NFC East on Thursday.
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