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Does Cowboys Defense Deserve Pass In Sean Lee’s Absence?

Sean Martin

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Sean Lee

If one thing is constant for a Cowboys defense that came into this 2017 season with an abundance of new faces, it is that LB Sean Lee will always be critical to this unit's success. A day removed from allowing 412 total yards and 6.37 yards per carry in the second half to the Rams at home, dropping to 2-2 with the 35-30 loss, the Cowboys went through these defensive growing pains for the first time without Lee this season.

As Jared Goff and Todd Gurley got going, this disappointment from AT&T Stadium felt inevitable for a Cowboys team that was so thin at LB on the afternoon. Sean McVay may be the youngest head coach in the NFL, but the Cowboys should be at the forefront in understanding his offensive prowess - joining Los Angeles by way of the Washington Redskins after helping Kirk Cousins and Washington consistently challenge Dallas since 2014 (when he took over as offensive coordinator).

McVay's Rams attacked the middle of the field tirelessly against the Cowboys' defense, where not even Jaylon Smith was up for the challenge of running with the likes of Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley.

Sean Lee has made a Pro Bowl career out of effortlessly carrying running backs in the pattern, scraping on blockers to stop the run, and ultimately keeping Rod Marinelli's defense together.

Is LB Sean Lee Already In Mid-Season Form?

Dallas Cowboys linebackers Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith.

Without him, Marinelli had no answers for a Los Angeles attack that was never knocked off of their schedule - comfortably rushing the football against soft boxes and slinging it against bigger fronts with no speed at linebacker on the field to support them.

Myself included, you would be hard-pressed to find a draft scout that did not have Jared Goff as the best quarterback in the 2016 class. Beginning to hit his potential in an offense that suits him, while paired with a dynamic back in Gurley who foreshadowed his own success against the Cowboys yesterday, Goff's Rams should be taken seriously as a threat in the NFC West - something the Cowboys understood in the first half.

Does Cowboys Defense Deserve Pass In Sean Lee's Absence? 3

A bad half of football without Sean Lee does not nearly define the 2017 Dallas Cowboys or this defense, and it would be foolish for Cowboys Nation to say that flaws on this side of the ball were not expected at this point in the season - if not the entirety of it.

Before digging into the tape, these issues outside of the linebacker position once again included the pass rush off the edge and the Cowboys' rotation of safeties.

While the secondary was likely put in the toughest spot yesterday in Lee's absence, the lack of pressure generated from the defensive line remains inexcusable.

Does Cowboys Defense Deserve Pass In Sean Lee's Absence? 2

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Fresh off of a Thursday night victory, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers roll into town next Sunday to face a Cowboys defense that will need Sean Lee to have a chance.

At the very least, lining up with #50 on the field will give the Cowboys an opportunity to properly evaluate their defense moving through the second quarter of this season. Through one quarter, there are more questions than answers on both sides of the ball for the Dallas Cowboys - with nothing but a first place schedule ahead of them.

Assuming "The General" is ready to lead the Cowboys defense once again, will anybody else on the front seven step up, and will any of it really matter in week five?

Tell us what you think about "Does Cowboys Defense Deserve Pass In Sean Lee’s Absence?" 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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4 Comments
  • dallas1966

    Agree. But the Broncos took this defense to the woodshed with Lee on the field back on September 17th. Marinell needs to be more creative with what he has, regardless of Lee’s status. I noticed he doesn’t like to disrupt the opposition quarterback with unexpected blitzing, especially in the playoffs game against the Packers, maybe will see the defense NOT be so predictable in schemes.

    Goff, looked like the second coming of Joe Montana, in the 2nd half, had a clean pocket, with no fear of the Cowboys keeping the Rams offense on their heels.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Marinelli is never going to be big on using pressure packages, but I think (hope) he is waiting until all of these DBs are back on the field to start changing up some looks and slowly working in more blitzes. Getting Chidobe Awuzie back will be huge, hard to understate his potential as a match up piece back there.

  • Travis Diggs

    Sorry Sean but a stupid article on your part, this defense isnt good with him So why give them a pass ?? They get payed to play too right??

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Thanks for reading Travis. We’ve seen this defense perform much better with Lee on the field, and more times than not directly because of Lee. Held the Giants to three points with him flying all over the field. Was big against the Cardinals. Even still, it was an uninspiring performance all around. I get the frustration.

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Jaguars

El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.

Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?

De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.

Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin  más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.

Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.

Sean's Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory's Potential Impact on Cowboys Defense

Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.

A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.

Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.

Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.

Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y  ganando a la otra.

Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.

Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?" 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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Star Blog

Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?

Brian Martin

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Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.

I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.

As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.

I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.

Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.

Jamize Olawale

Dallas Cowboys FB Jamize Olawale

Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.

I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.

Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.

Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.

Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?

Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?



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Star Blog

Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Jaguars 1

What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.

Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.

It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.

Dak Prescott, Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.

We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.

Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.

Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1  WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.

Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?



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