As a young Dallas Cowboys fan, last season's loss to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round has been one of the most painful moments for me. And I'm sure a big portion of Cowboys Nation feels the same way.
This Sunday, the 'Boys host Aaron Rodgers and company for what promises to be one hell of a matchup.
We all want Dallas to beat Green Bay and avoid a dreaded 2-3 opening to the season. This is not a team that should have such a record. This team is better than that. Thus, we want them to win.
But we would also like to see a few other things. Because... well, we love football. Here is this week's Cowboys Wishlist!
Wish #1: David Irving Returns With 2 Sacks or More
To start the season, DeMarcus Lawrence has had an impressive performance with 7.5 sacks through four games. And this week, the pass rush for this team gets another weapon.
DL David Irving is back on the Cowboys after serving a four-game suspension that kept him out of the first quarter of the season.
Irving's 2016 breakout game came against the Packers last year, when the Cowboys traveled to Green Bay to pull an awesome upset on the road. Even though he sacked Rodgers just once, he forced a fumble and pressured the QB consistently.
After his long awaited return, my first wish of the week is seeing 95 sack Rodgers twice or more.
Wish #2: Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer Combine For 10 Receptions
When you root for the Dallas Cowboys, and when you just saw your team had the success it had a season ago, it's hard to realize they are sitting at 2-2. A lot of things have gone wrong for this football team and there's a lot to work at.
Earlier this week, I've written about the lack of involvement Cole Beasley has had to start the season, as well as how the Cowboys have misused rookie WR Ryan Switzer.
This team should go back to what made this offense work last year, and explore the possibility of having Switzer and Beasley on the field at the same time.
Wish #3: Byron Jones Has a Big-Time Interception
The dramatic playoff game between Dak Prescott's team and Aaron Rodger's team was decided with one play by the Packers quarterback. One can't say much, except it was a very good play.
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Awesome throw, awesome catch. And the Cowboys player beaten on that play was Byron Jones. Personally, I think Jones is a very good football player and that he is very important for this defense.
I wish Byron gets back at Rodgers by picking him off in a big moment of the game this Sunday. How epic would it be?
Wish #4: Ezekiel Elliott Runs For 150+ Yards
Ezekiel Elliott has faced the Packers twice in his NFL career. The first time, the Cowboys won after he ran for 157 yards. The second, Dallas was eliminated from the playoffs even though he ran for 125.
Zeke dominated Green Bay's defense and he might do it again. The Packers are 19th in the league on rushing defense.
I want the Cowboys to not only feed Ezekiel Elliott but to keep feeding him in the second half.
Give Dak Prescott the chance to make it work for the entire 60 minutes of playing time. But let the running back win this game for us. Let's go.
Wish #5: Xavier Woods Starts At Safety
The Dallas Cowboys defense will face a challenge this Sunday. Against Aaron Rodgers, there's always a challenge. And Jason Garrett's squad knows this.
This team's secondary features a group of young, talented defensive backs and they should all probably be starting. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods are players who will be very important for this football team down the road.
Problem is, Jeff Heath is the starting safety for the Cowboys. I really believe they should change that up.
Xavier Woods has proven to be a better player than Heath, and if Woods starts this Sunday, Dallas will have a bigger chance to stop Aaron Rodgers.
If the Cowboys lose today, the season could get very ugly. Starting 2-3 with a schedule that doesn't seem to get any easier can get you in trouble. Dallas should be very careful.
However, the 'Boys are looking to go out there to give a statement. They will be out there showing us that all that there was... was a slow start. Nothing else. And that the 2017 Dallas Cowboys are still for real.
That is, by far, my main wish for this week.
Cowboys Nation Bonus Wishlist!
We’ll be doing this weekly here on Inside The Star, so if you have any wishes you’d like to see on this series, make sure to tweet them at me!
@PepoR99 @InsideTheStarDC @CowboysNation 2 defensive scores, 6 sacks of Aaron Rodgers, Zeke gets 35 touches, Dez with 10 catches 200 yards #CowboysNation
Donny here knows what's up. The boldness is there, but this NFL season has been crazy. I'm 100% certain that if all of those wishes come true, the Cowboys will walk away victorious.
Cowboys Defense Stands Out in Blowout Win over Jaguars
The Dallas Cowboys defense has found different ways to get the job done at different times during the 2018 season. They're a big reason the team is 3-3 and sits only a half game back of the first place Washington Redskins.
Even last week, I was critical of the defense for giving up a ton of yards and felt like they were very fortunate to only lose by three in overtime to the Houston Texans. They were amazing when the Texans got inside the five yard line forcing a turnover on downs on four first and goal attempts inside the five last week.
After giving up 462 total yards to Deshaun Watson and the Texans in week five, the Dallas Cowboys' defense only allowed 204 to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. They held Jacksonville to 4 of 11 on third downs. The Cowboys forced four three and outs during the game and only allowed three drives to cross midfield.
The Cowboys' defense was led by Leighton Vander Esch with 11 total tackles (7 solo) and Jaylon Smith with nine total tackles (6 solo) and a forced fumble. Jourdan Lewis made an excellent hustle play along the sideline late in the third quarter to recover that Smith fumble.
Byron Jones was excellent in coverage yet again on Sunday and if this were hockey, would get a primary assist for his pass deflection that led to the Jeff Heath interception in the third quarter. The Cowboys were able to turn both turnovers into field goals.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line blocked the Dallas Cowboys front seven pretty well and Quarterback Blake Bortles was really good at avoiding pressure. Bortles was only sacked three times during the game. Randy Gregory and Maliek Collins each had a sack, while Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford combined for the other sack.
Though he didn't register a tackle or a sack on the stat sheet, it was awesome to see Defensive Lineman David Irving on the field for the first time since the middle of the season last year. He had an impact early in the game. Irving had a pressure on Blake Bortles and forced a hold on a punt in the first half of the game. His presence was definitely felt.
As a defense they held Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback Blake Bortles to 149 yards passing and a 70.8 passer rating. Even as the Jaguars were down 20 points at halftime, they never could get much offense going in the second half. The Cowboys kept Bortles and the Jaguars passing game in check for most of the night, only allowing a touchdown when Anthony Brown fell down when he released his receiver to try to get to the intended target, Dede Westbrook. Westbrook went relatively untouched into the end zone for the Jaguars score of the day. That play aside, the Cowboys did a really good job limiting big plays against a receiving corp with a lot of speed.
Even with Bortles scrambling, the Cowboys were able to hold the Jaguars as a team to 3.6 yards per carry on the day. The Jaguars' T.J. Yeldon was able to come up with some decent runs, but the defense kept those positive gains from having much of an impact on the game.
The Dallas Cowboys' defense isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a unit that has played really good football for much of the 2018 season. On Sunday, the Cowboys did an excellent job getting off the field on third downs and forcing turnovers and other errors, which were created by the Cowboys pressure.
Everything seems to be coming together for Dallas with David Irving and Maliek Collins getting back into the lineup. If Sean Lee and Chidobe Awuzie are able to go for the Cowboys next week, this defense is going to make life extremely difficult for Alex Smith and the Washington Redskins next Sunday.
After allowing a ton of yards last week, the Cowboys defense rebounded with a dominant performance against a Jaguars team that played for the AFC Championship last season. For the Cowboys to get to the playoffs in 2018, they're going to have to play at a high level like they did on Sunday.
I, for one, don't doubt that they can.
Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Win Big On the Ground, In Trenches With Rout of Jaguars
On paper, the Dallas Cowboys were going to struggle generating any offense against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The league's top defense matched up against a Cowboys team that came in ranked 30th in pass yards per game, with the defensive front to slow down Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys seemed destined for a 2-4 start through the end of six weeks.
Thankfully, NFL games are not played on paper, and the action on the field at AT&T Stadium would tell an entirely different -- albeit unforeseen -- story of the Cowboys dominance. With a season high 206 rushing yards, the Cowboys ran wild on the Jaguars, making this win look remarkably easy behind a defense up to the task of defending the lead from the opening drive.
The Cowboys improved their home record to 3-0 this season. Now coming off their most impressive effort of 2018, the team earned a shot at first place as they travel to the Washington Redskins in week seven - searching for their first road win of the season.
Here are my initial thoughts on the Cowboys drubbing of the Jaguars, a wonderfully unexpected result that keeps plenty of postseason dreams alive for Dallas.
- Jerry Jones caught a lot of heat this week for his comments on Head Coach Jason Garrett's job security, but certainly deserves a lot of credit for wanting to see more of Quarterback Dak Prescott as a runner.
Jones called Garrett the "real deal", a sentiment better reserved for Prescott when he's able to take matters into his own hands and run the football. With 82 yards on the ground, Dak was eight yards shy of doubling his previous career high, sprinting down the sideline for the Cowboys first touchdown of the game.
Prescott's rushing ability takes advantage of the Cowboys offensive line's ability to get out in space and block. A fearless runner that can keep defenses honest on his own before unleashing Elliott on the ground, Prescott's legs are the key to the Cowboys repeating a performance like this later in the season.
- Without Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars are not built to play from behind, and the Cowboys defensive line made sure of this.
The "Hot Boyz" were at full strength with David Irving back on the field for the first time this season. Rushing with DeMarcus Lawrence, Maliek Collins, and Randy Gregory on the Jaguars' third down attempt following Brett Maher's first FG, Irving was able to chase after Bortles and force an incomplete pass out of bounds as he recorded the QB hit.
With Jaylon Smith also blitzing on the play, this had to be an incredibly proud moment for Garrett, Rod Marinelli, and the Jones' upstairs, as their trust in both Irving and Gregory paid off to create a fearsome pass rush.
Knowing they had interior defenders that could get off blocks and finish plays, the Cowboys defensive ends in this game were aggressive rushing up the field and collapsing the pocket on Bortles.
- Michael Gallup is slowly emerging as this team's number one wide receiver, thanks to his ability to make plays on contested balls.
Look no further than Allen Hurns' stat line from this win to see why rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup is going to be crucial to the Cowboys passing offense as this season progresses. Hurns was the only receiver targeted that failed to bring in a catch, as Prescott has struggled to find any rhythm with the big-bodied free agent signing.
On the other side of the field, Gallup has flashed similar 'above the rim' abilities to Hurns, while also being a more reliable route runner with big play potential after the catch. Cole Beasley was open all afternoon against the Jaguars secondary, but early in the game when Prescott needed a play he was able to fit some great passes into Gallup.
I include Gallup's touchdown catch that was called back, since it was a safe strike from Dak. Putting the ball where only Gallup could make the incredible catch, Gallup was inches away from scoring his first NFL touchdown.
Instead, with the Cowboys rotation at WR trimmed down due to injury, Gallup staked his claim for a larger share of the snaps in the Cowboys 40-point performance.
- This was another good game for rookie Left Guard Connor Williams, but I thought he had a chance to prevent the Calais Campbell sack that forced the Cowboys to settle for three points on their first possession.
As Prescott stepped up in the pocket, Campbell was able to change directions and cut across the face of Williams. With nobody else in front of him, it looked like Williams was in prime position to deliver a shot to Campbell, but was unable to get a hand on the Jaguars top pass rusher.
Reacting late to the whole play, Campbell finished the play for his only sack, a stat the Cowboys will certainly take when evaluating a fairly dominant day for their entire offensive line.
- The rate at which Linebackers Jaylon Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch are making open field tackles is easily the best thing going for the Cowboys defense right now.
Whenever Jaylon Smith appears in the vicinity of an opposing receiver or running back, they better brace for impact. Where Smith has been the enforcer of the Cowboys defense at MIKE, Vander Esch is playing off him perfectly as the second starter with range and athleticism to cover from sideline to sideline.
The Cowboys have allowed an average of 16.67 points over their last three games without Sean Lee, a full point better than the three games Lee's played against the Panthers, Giants, and Seahawks. This is exactly the reason why Dallas was so comfortable drafting Vander Esch.
Even still, having the Boise State product rising to the occasion so early in his Cowboys career alongside Smith gives the Cowboys a LB pairing they can trust for years to come. This is more than they ever signed up for when drafting both players to ideally play with Lee, something they'll still get the chance to do in the coming weeks.
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Alternating wins and losses through their first six games, the 2018 Cowboys remain an enigma that (again, on paper) have a lot to build on after defeating the Jaguars soundly. The ease at which the Cowboys moved the ball should at least partially be attributed to how difficult it was for the Cowboys to manage any offense in their three road losses.
With a defense that's shows up each week to keep Dallas in any game, the time is now for the offense to travel away from AT&T Stadium and earn the Cowboys first winning streak at Washington. In doing so, the Cowboys would claim first place in the NFC East.
Given the expectations set on this team before the year, this feels like the only surefire way for the Cowboys to put their tumultuous start behind them, serving as a reminder that the NFL is the ultimate week-to-week league.
Keeping that in mind, this team deserves a day to enjoy their decisive win from Sunday. Welcome back to Victory Monday, Cowboys Nation.
Dallas Cowboys Beat Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7: Who are the 3 Stars?
What a way to bounce back after a disappointing loss on the road in week five against the Houston Texans. As frustrating as that outcome was against the Texans, this victory was equally as sweet, as the Dallas Cowboys bounced back with a dominating 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That was a much needed win for a team that hopes to be contending for the NFC East title in 2018. And you better believe that at 3-3 on the season, they are still in the thick of that divisional race.
There were a few stand out performances in the blowout victory, but to make this a more difficult exercise for myself, I'm not including any honorable mentions. That's just cheating.
Make sure to let us know who your 3 Stars are in the comment section.
If there was ever a time and ever a moment in which Dak Prescott needed to have a career defining performance, this was the week that he needed to do that.
The virtual boo birds were out in full force this week following another poor performance for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback in the last 13 games. Prescott responded in a huge way with big time throws on third downs and looking extremely poised and confident.
The final passing line isn't all that extraordinary as he went 17/27 for 183 yards, two passing touchdowns, and a passer rating of 107.5, per NFL.com. Sure, if you just look at passing stats, you can argue it's not that impressive, but when you include his rushing numbers in the discussion, even the staunchest realist or Dak-hater has to admit that Dak Prescott had a great day on Sunday.
Dak Prescott set career highs in carries (11) and rushing yards (82) while adding a touchdown on the ground. It was his first rushing touchdown since week 15 of 2017. For a quarterback to end up only 18 yards shy of a hundred yards rushing is huge for your offense.
They weren't all designed runs either.
Dak Prescott in games past tried to force passes when running lanes were available to him on the outside. On Sunday against the Jaguars, he took his opportunities to run the ball when he was flushed from the pocket and the Jaguars paid dearly.
He looked like the Dak Prescott that took the NFL by storm his rookie season and for eight games in the 2017 season. He was poised in the pocket, confident in his arm and his receivers, and was seeing the field better than he had in the previous 13 games.
All against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys needed a big game from a wide receiver in a bad way and Cole Beasley stepped up. After a week of being asked questions about the play and production of the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group Beasley had answers all day on Sunday against a variety of coverages and players when Jacksonville went man-to-man.
After posting nine catches for 101 yards and both of Dak Prescott's two passing touchdowns, Beasley silenced the "wide receivers are the problem" critics with a performance reminiscent of his 2016 career year.
Cole Beasley was getting open at will against man coverage and finding soft spots in the zone matchups often. Beasley's been so vocal about his wish to be compensated as one of the best slot wide receivers in the NFL, and against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he looked like one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.
There are several players, as well as the offensive line, who could have been the third star from Sunday's victory over the Jaguars, but I think Randy Gregory deserves mention here.
We all know Gregory's story at this point.
Randy Gregory had a really good game. He was third on the team in tackles with three, had two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and his first sack since January 1st 2017. A total of 651 days. That was week 17 of the 2016 season. Only Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith had more tackles than Gregory did Sunday.
It's only his second career sack, but what a confidence boost for Gregory who has worked really hard on his sobriety to get himself in a position to play in the NFL.
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After a tremendous win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Dallas Cowboys remain only a half game back in the NFC East divisional race. They'll have a chance to take the lead in the division next week as they travel to Washington to play the divisional leading Redskins next Sunday afternoon.
There's no better way to start a Monday than with a Dallas Cowboys victory Monday. Did I leave someone off this 3 Stars list who deserved to be there? Let us know.
Who were your 3 Stars of the Game?
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