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Dallas Defense Braces for Bayou Shock & Awe

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Dallas Defense Braces for Bayou Shock & Awe

If you’re a Cowboys fan, you have to feel pretty good about your chances to claim the NFC East. The Giants have a generational running back in Saquon Barkley, a premier receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., but a fast-fading star in Eli Manning. No quarterback = no chance of success in today’s NFL.

The Philadelphia Eagles are struggling to reach .500 and the wheels of their Super Bowl wagon have fallen off so quickly they’re riding on axles. And lastly, the Washington Redskins are without their starting quarterback Alex Smith and instead will entrust their season to a serviceable journeyman in Colt McCoy – whose best target is a tight end – and a backfield led by a no-longer-elite Adrian Peterson.

So here they Cowboys sit at 6-5, tied atop the division and sharing space with the wounded Redskins.

The Cowboys have five more games, with four of them absolutely winnable (Eagles, Colts, Bucs, and Giants), but it’s the game this week against the New Orleans Saints that has us concerned. One of the best online sportsbooks, Sportsbetting ag, is dealing the visiting Saints as 7 ½ point favorites this Thursday night over Jerry Jones’ favorite toy. Drew Brees is running a wood chipper down on the bayou and every week their shock and awe campaign claims another victim. This week the Cowboys are the intended targets but could the hunted become the hunter?

The Dallas defense has been baring its fangs all season and entering Week 13 they're ranked third in points allowed (19.4), trailing only the Ravens and Bears. In terms of total yards allowed the Cowboys clock in at No. 7 (331.1) and are tied with the Vikings for fourth in rushing yards allowed. Only one other team has allowed fewer touchdowns passes (Minnesota) and Dallas ranks 12th in passing yards surrendered.

Yet, when fans around the league think defense, Dallas does not immediately leap to mind.

Perhaps that is due to the dearth of interceptions, just seven on the season and a decent, although unspectacular, sack attack that has produced 31 on the year, trailing eleven other teams. That seems to be just fine with Dallas, as they continue their bend-but-don’t-break defensive schemes which have allowed their offense to hang and bang with more prolific attacks. Kind of like the one they'll face when Drew Brees and his boys come to the Lone Star State.

The irony surrounding the Saints is that they are thought of as a pass-only offense yet they are hovering in the same neighborhood as the Cowboys in rushing, chewing up 133.1 yards per game (7th) versus the Cowboys 134.5/game (6th). Amazingly, the Saints trail only the Seahawks in rushing attempts this season despite being renowned for its air raid attack.

And here’s another nugget – the Saints are ranked sixth in passing yards per game, averaging 284, but are No. 3 in touchdown passes with 29 on the season.

The bottom line here is that although top-notch sportsbooks such as Sportsbetting.ag are favoring the Saints by more than a touchdown, we have to say that the Cowboys are more than up to the task. Let’s not forget that New Orleans is near the cellar defending the pass, allowing 286 yards per game, and is middling at best in points allowed, surrendering 23.3 per game.

If the 'Boys can contain Alvin Kamara in the backfield and Michael Thomas on the wing, their chances of winning this game, and virtually assuring themselves a postseason berth, increase exponentially. Dallas is the most underrated team in the league and a live underdog on Thursday night!



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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If Sean Lee’s the Cowboys Starting SAM LB, Who’s his Backup?

Brian Martin

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Do the Dallas Cowboys Have a Sean Lee Backup Plan?

If you believe the talk around the water cooler, Sean Lee is going to be the Dallas Cowboys starting strong side (SAM) linebacker in 2019.

On paper this looks like a brilliant move. It puts the Cowboys best three linebackers (Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee) on the field the same time when they are in their base defense. It should also help "General Lee" healthwise since the SAM LB over the last three years (Damien Wilson) never played more than 30% of the defensive snaps.

But, we all know No. 50 has struggled to remain healthy for an entire season pretty much his whole career. What happens if he once again succumbs to the injury bug? Who do the Dallas Cowboys plan on making his backup?

I think second-year LB Chris Covington, not to be confused with DT Christian Covington, could get the first crack at becoming Lee's backup. At 6'2", 245 pounds, he has the size to play SAM, but he's unproven and will have to prove himself in training camp and preseason to become a serious consideration.

There may be a dark course candidate to become Sean Lee's primary backup.

Luke Gifford

Dallas Cowboys LB Luke Gifford

Luke Gifford, an undrafted LB out of Nebraska, was supposedly pretty impressive in previous summer workouts. He's been spoken pretty highly of already, but like Covington needs to prove himself. Could he be another undrafted hidden gem?

Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer Bryan Broaddus seems to like what he's seen so far from Gifford.

"If there is a young linebacker to keep an eye on I have a sneaky feeling about Gifford. This kid has a nose for the ball. He plays well on the move and he's a finisher when he gets into position to make plays. Gifford can play both inside and out which gives him that flexibility coaches covet. Where Gifford is going to have to make his mark is in these padded practices and then in preseason games. I have already seen flashes of traits and instincts and range which makes me believe he could pull this off."

You can't help but like the way Broaddus talks about Luke Gifford. He sounds like the kind of depth player the Cowboys like due to his versatility and skill set, but he's going to have to continue to prove himself when the pads come on if he wants to stick around. That's the life of an undrafted free agent though.

It may seem a little odd to talk abbout backup players this early, but because of Sean Lee's inability to remain healthy it could be an important position battle to keep an eye on once training camp gets underway. I know I'm going to be keeping a close eye on Chris Covington (#59) and Luke Gifford (#57). What about you?

Who do you think will become Sean Lee's primary backup at SAM LB?



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Trysten Hill Could Make the Interior Defensive Line Complete

Matthew Lenix

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Trysten Hill Could Make the Interior Defensive Line Dominant

Confusion. Probably the first word that came to minds of Dallas Cowboys fans worldwide when the 58th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft was announced, considering the glaring need at safety. Nonetheless, the team decided to buffer its defensive line by selecting Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill out of Central Florida.

Reports say there was a decision to be made between Hill and Virginia Safety Juan Thornhill at 58, with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard ultimately convincing everyone Hill was the guy. Looking back on the Cowboys playoff loss to the Rams, it isn't hard to understand why this particular decision was made. They were gashed for 273 rushing yards that night, after holding the league's top rushing attack under 80 yards between four ball carriers in their win against Seattle.

Trysten is excellent against the run, racking up 20 career tackles for loss, including an unreal 10.5 in 2018. Even though the NFL is more of a passing league now, stopping the run is a formula that will always work, you want to make teams one-dimensional.

Character concerns were one of the major sticking points against the selection of Hill. He went from a starter in 2017 to a rotation guy in 2018. Even though he played a lot of football, and played well, why was his role reduced? Head Coach Jason Garrett quickly dispelled any questions about Hill's character, after talking with former UCF Head Coach Scott Frost.

"The staff who was there before, Scott Frost and his group, we spent a lot of time with them, talked to them, and they endorsed him highly, both as a player and as a person. He did a good job in that environment. And even though he wasn't a starter this past year, he did play a lot of football for them and played a lot of football for them in critical times," Garret said.

Not only was he one of the 30 guys that came into the team's facility for pre-draft visits, but he also had a sit-down with the Cowboys at the combine in Indianapolis. To top it all off, he had a workout lead by his future Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli at UCF's pro day, where he received high praise.

With that praise came a "Work Ethic" contract signed by Hill between himself and Marinelli. Explaining what is expected of him day in and day out in terms of hard work, preparation and dedication. A very unique approach by Marinelli, and one that Hill is more than willing to honor.

"I can't put into words how important our relationship is with each other. He wants the best out of me and I want to give him everything I've got. Him really taking hold of me this whole process, and me being able to call him and chat with him and hear his voice was huge in this whole ordeal," Hill said.

If that doesn't give you goosebumps I don't know what will.

Antwaun Woods is the starter at the 1-technique defensive tackle position. He was a big reason the Cowboys finished fifth against the run last season. Hill will have to battle it out in camp with Maliek Collins to see who will put his name at the top of the depth chart as the team's starter at the 3-technique. Hill could edge out Collins, but being that he's in a contract year he definitely won't make it easy on the rookie. Throw in Tyrone Crawford, Daniel Ross, and Christian Covington this group can be productive where quarterbacks hate getting pressure from the most, straight up the middle.

He's young, raw and full of potential. A close bond has already been formed with Marinelli, which can only boost the confidence of a 21-year-old kid ready to take the NFL by storm. The lights shine the brightest in Big D, it's all there for him, now it's up to him to become "King of the Hill" so to speak.



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The Ringer Names Byron Jones, La’el Collins As Potential Trade Bait

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones, #31

The Ringer's Robert Mays published a piece this week discussing the most realistic blockbuster type trades which could go down in the NFL this summer.

And, as tends to be the case, there were Dallas Cowboys all over his list.

Mays named both cornerback Byron Jones and right tackle La'el Collins as players which could potentially be on the move prior to the season starting.

The reasoning? (You've probably heard) the Cowboys have a lot of players to pay these next two offseasons, both Collins and Jones being on the list, and they have a good amount of talent at their position groups already.

"Dallas is slated to have about $75 million in cap space in 2020, according to Over The Cap, but that number is a bit misleading. A new contract for Dak Prescott is imminent, and even if the Cowboys manage to keep his cap figure relatively low in the deal’s first year, he will probably still cost at least $15 million against the cap next season. Combine that with the fact that Jones, Collins, and linebacker Jaylon Smith all have deals that expire this year, and Dallas’s robust cap space starts to shrink quickly."

The reasoning makes logical sense, though I don't see the trades actually happening. The Cowboys are going for it this year, looking to win their sixth Super Bowl and first in over two decades. Whether or not it'll happen is, of course, up in the air, but their roster is good enough to make you believe they have a real shot at contending. Trading away one, or two, of their returning starters would likely take them farther from their ultimate goal in 2019.

Robert Mays also put the Cowboys in discussions to trade with the Raiders again, this time for safety Karl Joseph.

"Dallas signed George Iloka this spring to bolster its safety depth, but the position remains the biggest weakness on an otherwise strong roster. Dallas has more than $19 million in cap space, so it would have no issue taking on Joseph’s relatively modest deal. Players selected by a departed GM are often excellent trade targets, and it seems like the Cowboys could land Joseph for the right price."

Now this is a deal I could get behind.

Dallas still likely has a hole at safety, though there is reason to be hopeful about the prospects for George Iloka in 2019. If by the middle of the season Dallas is still looking for a suitable starter and upgrade over Jeff Heath, maybe they'll toss a day two or three pick at the Raiders and see if they can snag Karl Joseph.

Trading with the Raiders in 2018 worked out pretty well, after all.



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