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David Irving Injury Creates Opportunity for Maliek Collins

John Williams

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Maliek Collins

David Irving is one of the premier interior defensive lineman in the NFL, when he's on the field. The problem is for various reasons over the last two seasons, David Irving has only been on the field for 10 games since the start of the 2017 season. His latest setback comes at a time when the Dallas Cowboys can't really afford an injury on the defensive side of the ball with the way the offense has played. David Irving out means increased opportunities for Maliek Collins. And the Dallas Cowboys are going to need big play from him.

In his third year in the NFL, Maliek Collins has shown he has the ability to rush the passer. In his rookie, season when they asked him to primarily play the 3-technique (or under tackle) in the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 defense, he was really good. He totaled six sacks while playing all 16 games. In his second season when he played 16 games, yet again, Collins only had 2.5 sacks, but was asked to play more of the 1-technique (or nose tackle) role.

The big difference in the two defensive tackle alignments is that the 1-tech is typically lined up over the center. His job is to attract the double team from the opposing offensive line's interior. Players aren't going to flash in the box score from this spot very often. The 3-tech lines up between the guard and the tackle and looks to just penetrate. The 3-tech in Rod Marinelli's scheme is asked to get quick up field penetration to attempt to disrupt the run or to force interior pressure on the quarterback.

Collins has done his job very well when playing either position, but obviously this team needs an interior rusher with David Irving out.

Antwaun Woods has become the Dallas Cowboys starting 1-tech and has been really good this season. He hasn't made a ton of stops but he's been the most effective at plugging the run game. With Woods solidifying the 1T, Collins can focus more on the position that he's best at, the 3T.

It remains to be seen how long David Irving could be out for, but I'd be surprised if he played Monday night against the Tennessee Titans after being carted off the practice field. Reports are that it's an ankle injury to Irving, which depending on severity, could leave him sidelined for more than a week. Maliek Collins is the Dallas Cowboys next best interior rusher.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving, who was carted off in practice, is believed to have suffered a high-ankle sprain, sources tell me and @SlaterNFL. X-Rays were negative. He'll still have tests, but the early returns are not as bad as they could've been.

Maliek Collins saw his snap count jump from 17% in the Jacksonville game to 42% against the Washington Redskins. Against both the Redskins and the Jaguars, Collins recorded two total pressures, including one sack against the Jaguars. In four games this season, he's nearly reached his 2017 sack total of 2.5.

With increased opportunities for Collins coming, I'd imagine him continuing to create havoc on the inside. Against the Tennessee Titans, Collins is going to have some chances to effect Quarterback Marcus Mariota.

According to Pro Football Focus, of the 56 pressures (sacks, hurries, and hits combined), allowed by the Titans' offensive lineman, 35 of those pressures have come from the guards or centers in 2018. That's 62.5% of the pressure allowed.

The Dallas Cowboys defense has been playing well as a unit, but they haven't been getting consistent play along the defensive line from anyone other than DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys need Maliek Collins to step up and return to his rookie season form where he was a disruptive interior player who was second on the team in sacks and third on the team in total pressures. Getting back to his more natural role as the penetrating tackle will help him and the Dallas Cowboys get more production out of their defensive line and make things easier on the back seven.

With as well as the Dallas Cowboys defense has played, it's downright scary how good they could be with a consistent pass rush to help them.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ethan Chazin

    November 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Remember a time when the Dallas cowboys would put 4 d linemen in and play them all season? Me neither unless you go back to the ‘70s with Jones, Martin, white and jeffcoat. I sure would love to see us stop jerking around with these retreads, drug bust teases and go out and draft guys you can plug in the d line and they just show up every week and get results. Gregory, Irving, Charlton, Armstrong, Dante Jones, Charles tapper…wtf? Now Malik Collins??? Please spare me. Turns out other tank tank only Tyrone Crawford has Ben reliable the past 3 years. So sad we can’t field a decent d line thank god for our LBs

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Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Next Day Rant: Cowboys Drafting LB Vander Esch Looks Pretty Smart Now

Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.

After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! → https://t.co/AYqEUy2tZx

The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.

Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.

But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.

Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.

The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.

Tell me what you think about "Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program

Jess Haynie

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Travis Frederick

Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.

After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire

While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.

Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.

That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.

But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.

Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.



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For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way

John Williams

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Playoff Scenarios Aim Towards Seahawks vs Cowboys in Wild Card

In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.

This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.

A few Rams Passing Game Notes

  • The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
  • The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
  • The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
  • The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
  • They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
  • The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.

Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.

On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.

The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.

NFL Research on Twitter

Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak

No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.

The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.

This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.



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