The Dallas Cowboys have already officially played two games, but the rest of the NFL is entering preseason week 2. The Cowboys will be squaring off against the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday afternoon (August 19) and there are certainly no shortage of storylines for Cowboys Nation to watch.
There is no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys have had their ups and downs so far in their first two contests, but now that it is the third preseason game for them maybe the can find some kind of consistency. Continue reading below to see the five Cowboys storylines I will be personally paying close attention to, but that doesn't mean there aren't any others. There is a lot they need to clean up, but thankfully that's what preseason is for
Darren McFadden vs. Alfred Morris
Odds are Ezekiel Elliott is looking at some kind of suspension. But, as of yet the number of games he will miss has yet to be determined. This makes the backup running back position for the Dallas Cowboys all that more important, which in turn means Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris' offensive role becomes more prominent.
McFadden and Morris haven't really inspired a lot of confidence with their play so for the first couple of preseason games for the Cowboys, which means they really need a good showing against the Colts. McFadden is probably the favorite to take over if Zeke is suspended, but Morris is arguably the better fit in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme.
Both players really need to step up their game, because neither is as talented as Zeke Elliott. Maybe the Cowboys will give Rod Smith a chance to work a little bit more with the first team to see what he's capable of.
Kellen Moore vs. Cooper Rush
After two preseason games, I don't know how anyone can claim that Kellen Moore is deserving of the title of backup QB behind Dak Prescott. He may have the advantage of knowing the offense and supposedly being "one of the best" college QBs to play the game, but his play so far leaves much to be desired.
In fact, the argument could be made that undrafted free agent Cooper Rush has played just as well, if not better than Moore. Rush hasn't performed much like a rookie QB and has looked comfortable in the pocket. He is throwing with accuracy and has shown more arm strength than expected. If he is able to put together another strong showing against the Colts, he could just earn himself a roster spot and possibly unseat Kellen Moore.
It is unlikely the Cowboys coaching staff would choose keep Cooper Rush over Kellen Moore as Prescott's backup this season, but stranger things have happened in the past. Moore really needs to step up his game and prove to everyone why he has the coaching staff's confidence.
Will Noah Brown continue to impress?
It's only been two preseason games for the Dallas Cowboys, but their seventh round draft pick Noah Brown has showed up in both as a wide receiver. He has only had three catches for 41 yards, but he has also drawn a pass interference call.
Noah Brown hasn't gotten as many chances as I would like in the passing game, but he has done a lot of dirty work that goes unnoticed. He is an excellent blocker and can be used in that capacity as a split WR and as a situational tight end. Brown could possibly be the best blocking WR currently on the roster.
Noah Brown has already shown enough through two games for the Cowboys to consider keeping him around, but he still needs time to refine his skill set. These next two preseason games could help determine if he makes the active roster or if the Cowboys are willing to try to slip through waivers and add him to the practice squad.
Can Lewis Neal continue to be disruptive?
I don't know about you, but I've been paying a lot of attention to the Dallas Cowboys defensive line play through these first two preseason contests. There really hasn't been very much to inspire a lot of confidence or excitement, but undrafted free agent Lewis Neal is the one player who has seemed to continuously make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
In this preseason week 2 contest against the Indianapolis Colts, Lewis Neal really needs to continue to be disruptive if he wants to gain more playing time and earn himself a defensive role in 2017. Right now I think he could be the favorite to backup Maliek Collins at the 3-technique, but he will have to continue to show up.
If Lewis Neal can put together another impressive/disruptive performance against the Colts, he could go from an unknown undrafted free agent, to a key role player this season.
Jaylon Smith & Jourdan Lewis' NFL debut
The Dallas Cowboys have two players that will be making their NFL debut against the Indianapolis Colts in preseason week 2, Jaylon Smith and Jourdan Lewis. Both players are expected to be key contributors in 2017 and Saturday will be the first chance the majority of us will have to see them in action.
Jaylon Smith's NFL debut might be just the most anticipated debut for an NFL player in the history of the league. There are endless amounts of fans who want to see the talented linebacker back on the field to finally see how he has progressed from his knee injury. We may not get to see a lot of him, but any playing time he does receive is encouraging for not only his future, but for the Cowboys defense.
Jourdan Lewis' NFL debut won't receive as much hype as Smith's, but that doesn't mean it's not nearly as important. Lewis is one of the defensive backs brought in to make over the Cowboys secondary and could possibly have a huge role on defense in 2017. He is a little bit undersized, which could regulate him to the slot, but he possesses undeniable talent.
What Cowboys storylines will you be watching in preseason week 2?
Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?
The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.
On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.
Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.
Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.
Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.
Jared Cook - Tight End
You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."
That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.
Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.
That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.
Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.
Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.
At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.
No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.
Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.
Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver
I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.
At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.
His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.
Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.
Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.
Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson
Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.
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Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.
The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.
What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?
Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race
Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"
The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.
This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.
So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.
Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.
The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.
As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.
Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.
Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.
The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.
Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?
If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.
T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.
Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.
He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.
He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.
Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:
- Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
- 11th in receiving yards.
- 14th in reception percentage.
- Eighth in targets
- 10th in receptions
- Fourth in yards per reception
- Seventh in yards after catch
- Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
- Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
- Second in drops.
- He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.
T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.
The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.
Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.
If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.
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