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Dallas Cowboys Biggest Needs Remain On Defense

Sean Martin

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The Dallas Cowboys are sitting at home this Sunday, looking on at a week twelve schedule in the NFL full of teams that have passed them by following the Cowboys' 28-6 Thanksgiving loss.

Their third straight loss scoring less than ten points, Cowboys Nation has used every possible second finding potential solutions to the team's problems - which involves placing blame on players and coaches.

Failing to compete in all three of these recent embarrassments without RB Ezekiel Elliott or LB Sean Lee, calls for Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan to lose their jobs have been loud and frequent at 5-6.

As I slowly start to turn my attention to the 2018 NFL Draft with each Cowboys loss though, I can't help but see this team's biggest needs remaining on the defensive side of the ball.

Does Cowboys Defense Deserve Pass In Sean Lee's Absence? 1

Conversations can certainly be had about the offensive-minded Jason Garrett still leading this team or Scott Linehan still calling the offensive plays next season, but immediate panic about personnel on this side of the ball is overshadowing constant problems with Rod Marinelli's defense.

In his fourth season coordinating the Dallas defense, Rod Marinelli has done little to develop the talent he's been given - or not given - to work with. When Sean Lee is not leading the Cowboys defense, Marinelli's unit looks even more lost, as the organization has taken a lazy approach to adding talent alongside Lee at linebacker.

Where the Cowboys were not lazy this offseason was in their secondary, committing to a total youth movement in letting veteran players walk for draft picks Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods.

The success of the Cowboys' secondary was still going to be predicated on Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, and Anthony Brown this season - three players that have had varying levels of struggles. Marinelli's predictable alignments in the back end have done little to help any of these players utilize their strengths.

It may be hard to remember at the moment given the circumstances surrounding the Cowboys, but this offense is going to play football with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield again at some point.

When Elliott is on the field, the highly criticized Cowboys receivers can create more favorable match ups and beat single coverage. The logic that this past draft class for the Cowboys patched up a defense that is doing everything they can to support an offense in need of some fresh faces is far from the truth, as many more starting pieces are still needed on defense.

Whether it is Rod Marinelli or a new defensive coordinator ushering in the future of the Cowboys' defense, unexpected concerns at LB, DT, and S cannot be ignored if things are truly going to get back on track for a team that won 13 games a year ago with a defense mostly departed that spring.

"New toys" for Dak Prescott can come, as the talks of drafting a WR in the first round or another RB high have dominated early holiday conversations around the Cowboys, but an entire change of mindset on building defense is needed in Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Biggest Needs Remain On Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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3 Comments
  • John Williams

    I think it’s time to seriously look at Marinelli.

    Probably need to go move Byron Jones to CB, where he can put his athleticism and coverage skills to better use. Let’s take a look at Chido and Woods at Safety. Need to hit the LB group with draft picks and FA in 2018, like they did DB in 2017.

    Still think they need to go after an offensive playmaker, either TE or WR early in 2018 as well.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      John, thanks as always. I agree with all of this, and would prioritize LB over WR right now – although both are serious concerns.

    • Jeremiah

      I agree bro, the Tampa 2 is old and every team even the Browns can torch it. Wide open zones and everything is on the DL to make it work. These are 1st and 2nd year players. We cannot expect NFL type experience every down from guys that are learning a new system.

Star Blog

Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins

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Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins 1

Strange things happen when these two NFC East foes tangle and you can add Sunday’s latest chapter to that list. As Dallas was driving late in the fourth-quarter and looking to take their first lead of the game, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan which was "returned" for a touchdown. That gave the ‘Skins a 20-10 advantage and a lead they would never relinquish.

It didn’t help that in the waning moments Cowboys’ long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for moving the ball pre-snap. The attempt was moved back five yards, which certainly didn’t help kicker Brett Maher knock what would have been a game-tying field goal through the uprights.

He missed, Dallas lost, and here we are.

As the Cowboys ride off into the sunset for the next couple of weeks, it should be noted that this is a team that has been as good at home as they have been abysmal on the road. In Jerry’s World, the team is bathed in milk and honey winning all three games at home while on the road their slate stands at 0-4 after their Week 7 loss to Washington.

It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that will be scrutinized by players and coaching staff alike. But one thing the Cowboys have not done is fill the void vacated by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The latter retired voluntarily while the former was essentially made an offer he could most definitely refuse, a severe pay cut. As a result, Dak Prescott has yet to find an elite target to call his own.

Cole Beasley has done an admirable job stepping up but he checks in at No. 45 in receiving yards and is essentially a slot receiver as opposed to a speed merchant screaming down the sidelines. The Cowboys are ranked 29th in passing yards and 26th in points scored, which means something had to give - and it finally did.

Dallas swung a deal with Oakland for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper who is struggling through his most difficult season yet. The 24-year-old Alabama product had a stellar rookie and sophomore campaign but 2017 proved to be his first not eclipsing 1,000-yards receiving and this season is even less impressive with only 280 yards and one touchdown thus far.

In return, Dallas sent their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders who will now have three in the opening round next April.

If the Cowboys were going to make a deal for a skill player then they picked the perfect time. Cooper will have two weeks to get up to speed with the Dallas playbook and foster a relationship with Prescott. Without a legitimate deep threat, the Cowboys were going nowhere and this helps even the playing field.

The question is whether Cooper is a supernova whose time in the league was brief but spectacular or if he merely needed a change of scenery to reignite what was once a promising career. The Cowboys will learn one way or the other and have paid a fairly steep price to find out. However, if this move does bear fruit, it could mean the difference between an early vacation and a postseason invitation. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

As we often do when we turn the chapter on another week in the NFL, we look ahead to see what awaits and there is no better indicator as to which way the wind is blowing than our friends at Bovada, the sports betting industry’s mainstay that is always chief among the best online sportsbooks in the world. Bovada, as well as many other top-rated sportsbooks can be found all in one place, Sportsbook Review, so when in doubt, check them out.

When the Cowboys get back to work they will welcome the Tennessee Titans into AT&T Stadium (it will always be Cowboys Stadium to us) where we will see what the oddsmakers post in terms of the opening point spread. But until then, we will hope that our 'Boys return healthy and ready to roll with a brand-new weapon named Amari Cooper stretching the field and giving Prescott a deep threat… finally!



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Star Blog

Dak Prescott: A+ Leader, But “C” Level QB Play

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott

Let me start by saying this: as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I love Dak Prescott.

Prescott is everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He's a leader the players seem to respond to, he says all the "right" things in the media and, most importantly, he competes like hell every Sunday. Never, not even when Chaz Green failed him to the tune of 6 Adrian Clayborn sacks, has Dak Prescott quit on the Dallas Cowboys.

But in the National Football League that simply isn't enough, and never was that more clear than during last Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.

On the surface, Sunday looks like one of Prescott's better games in 2018. He threw for over 250 yards for just the second time this year, he brought the Cowboys back from down 10 late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance at overtime, and he battled back from a vicious head shot which Tony Romo immediately said would sideline him the remainder of the game.

As usual Dak Prescott did not quit, and he helped to give the Cowboys a chance to win.

But when you look a bit deeper than just the surface narrative you see that Prescott is more of a reason the team lost Sunday than nearly won.

Repeatedly Prescott made the same types of mistakes he's been making since his miracle rookie season came to an end, and once again they were the downfall of this Cowboys offense. Too often he holds onto the ball longer than he should, fails to recognize open receivers, doesn't trust himself to make tight window throws, and abandons clean pockets when he has seemingly no reason to do so.

The two plays which really lost the Cowboys the game on Sunday occurred back to back. And, ironically, they represent Dak Prescott and his Cowboys career in a nut shell.

The first play was third and medium late in the 4th quarter. Prescott and the Cowboys were down 3 and needed the first down to keep a potential game changing drive alive. Prescott stood firm in the pocket, trusted Cole Beasley, and delivered a strike for a huge first down. The problem? Holding was called on Connor Williams and the play was brought back.

Then came third and long, with Prescott backed up near his own goal line. Despite the longer distance, Dak Prescott had at least one if not two open options down the field to convert the first down, and enough time in the pocket to make the play. Instead, Prescott felt phantom pressure and spun out of a clean pocket, getting disoriented and fumbling the ball in the end zone.

It went from 13-10 first down Cowboys, to 20-10 game over in a split second. And while, of course, the holding was not his fault, that sack fumble was absolutely egregious. Especially in their own end zone and especially as Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott were both open for potential first downs.

While the Cowboys skill position players haven't been particularly good this season, the front office went out and tried to make a change to that this week by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. There's no more excuses left for this passing offense.

The Cowboys need to be able to play modern offense in the NFL, and to do so their quarterback has to play better than he has for most of 2018. Now that they are without a first round pick in 2019 Dak probably has another uncontested year ahead as the starter. But beyond that Prescott will need prove that he belongs and deserves franchise quarterback type money.

For the Cowboys sake, I hope he raises his play to that level soon.



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Star Blog

The Cowboys Are What They’ve Been Since ’96: Average

Kevin Brady

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Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett Disagree on Overtime Decision

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trafficking in overzealous fan hope for quite some time. For much of the past 20 years they have spent their offseasons making minor roster tweaks, maintaining the same core and swearing they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL.

If we just got one call... If Tony Romo stays heathy...If Sean Lee stays healthy...If Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended...

A whole lot of "ifs." That's what the Dallas Cowboys have been characterized by since they last held the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1996. And even in the more recent years, where Jerry Jones has pulled back a bit of his control and allowed Stephen and company to make the roster decisions, the Cowboys have stayed the same average franchise.

So last Sunday when Dak Prescott took an inexcusable sack in the end zone, missing multiple open receivers and handing a key divisional game over to Washington, I wasn't surprised. When Jason Garrett coached scared down the stretch, settling for a 47 yard field goal in the cold and windy weather to tie, I wasn't surprised. And when the Cowboys were called for a snap infraction to back that field goal attempt up over 50 yards, well, that's the same old Cowboys that I have always known.

If there's a way to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of the last two decades will find it.

Sure there's a couple of 13-3 and 12-4 seasons in there, but there are also multiple 4-12 years to offset that. Sure there have been years where the Cowboys seemed to be just a play or two away from taking that next step, but the bottom line is they haven't.

Yes the Cowboys finally attempted to turn over their roster in recent years, but they rode "the hot hand" right into the ground at quarterback. And at this point, there's simply no denying it.

We are the Bengals. We are the Dolphins. We are the Lions. We are every average, middling, quarterback-purgatory-living franchise in the NFL. And, as usual, it starts at the top. If things are going to change and the Cowboys are going to become the Cowboys ever again, I highly doubt Jason Garrett will be the one to do it.

Ironically, all is not lost this season. The Cowboys will probably win their next game against the Titans and get back to .500 before a big game with the Eagles. And they'll probably hang around 7-9 or 8-8 this season, falsely believing they are "in the hunt" all year because that's who they are.

And unless massive, franchise changing decisions are made this offseason, that's who they'll stay.



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