The Cowboys will head to Los Angeles to take on the Rams Saturday in their second preseason game. Unlike the Hall of Fame game from last Thursday, we will likely see more of the starting roster this weekend.
In this matchup against the Rams we'll get a better understanding of the Cowboys' plans entering the season. I will touch on a few things today that I expect to see out of both the offensive and defensive game plans from Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli, respectively.
Offensive Game Plan
Last week was easy for Scott Linehan and the offense. Going into the game there wasn't much design or scheme fit to beat the Arizona Cardinals, instead the Cowboys went out and kept it simple.
Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush split the Hall of Fame game and both had pretty good outings. Both quarterbacks threw touchdowns and managed the game well. Dak Prescott didn't get any playing time, as most expected.
Prescott may get a series against the Rams, but I wouldn't count on many snaps where Prescott will put himself at risk.
Luke McCown will likely get some playing time on Sunday as well. The 14-year vet signed with the Cowboys just a few days before the Hall of Fame game and wasn't able to get any playing time.
McCown's snaps are important for him this preseason. If he doesn't outplay Kellen Moore the Cowboys will likely move on with Moore as the backup and try to get Cooper Rush to the practice squad.
Similar to Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott may get just a series on Saturday, if that.
The Cowboys know that Elliott is the MVP of the team and can't risk any kind of injury for the NFL's leading rusher. With plenty of depth behind him, look for Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, and Ronnie Hillman to get most of the work carrying the rock.
And look for Keith Smith to continue to be an excellent lead blocker and get more involved in the passing attack.
This week that should change. You will likely see the starting offensive line for at least a series come Saturday night. I'm very interested to see who will get the nod at starting left guard between Jonathan Cooper, Byron Bell, and Chaz Green--if he is back to full strength.
It has been a mystery all offseason who the Cowboys view as their starting left guard because of how often they have mixed it up and the injuries that have slowed down Chaz Green.
What I'm interested to see is what happens when they decide to spread things out and go four and five wide.
Brice Butler has had an excellent offseason so he is probably the next guy in line, but so has Andy Jones.
Both Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown need to prove what they can do on offense before they are both handed roster spots. I hope Switzer is healthy enough to receive some kind of work on offense and special teams.
This could potentially be the first we'll see of the GOAT, Jason Witten. Behind him is where all the confusion lies.
With Geoff Swaim and James Hanna seemingly back to full strength, Rico Gathers must prove his worth on the team by making plays similar to the touchdown he caught in the Hall of Fame game.
With Rico still learning the offense and his assignments, look for him to continue to play a lot this preseason. I also predict that Geoff Swaim and James Hanna will get some light work in as well to knock some rust off.
Defensive Game Plan
Surprisingly, the defense featured a few of its starters last week. Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, Jeff Heath, and Damien Wilson each received a nice chunk of snaps.
Damien Wilson really struggled early on, but settled down and made a few nice plays down the stretch. Heath and Jones did the best they could do with the second team defensive line and second and third team linebackers.
Like I mentioned above, the Cowboys featured a few starters in the secondary last week. Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie were the starting corners, and Leon McFadden got a lot of work in as well.
Anthony Brown suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and was held out of the rest of the game. I wouldn't expect Anthony Brown to play this week and maybe take next week's game off as well.
Nolan Carroll will likely make his debut wearing a Cowboys uniform and I would expect Marquez White to receive a higher workload as well.
The question everyone wants to know right now is when is Jaylon Smith going to play? And that's a great question, one that I don't think we'll get a clear answer for until this weekend.
Jaylon Smith has exceeded offseason expectations for me by a mile and, if he does put on the pads and play, that is a strong indication that come week one, Smith will be a full go.
Outside of Jaylon Smith, I liked what I saw from Keenan Gilchrist and Joe Jones. These guys are likely practice squad candidates, but they showed a lot of flashes.
Neither Anthony Hitchens or Sean Lee got into the Hall of Fame game, so I would expect a series or two from Hitchens and maybe a series from Lee.
This is where it gets tricky for the Cowboys. We saw a lot of Damontre Moore, Taco Charlton, and Charles Tapper the other night. While Moore and Tapper did some good things, Charlton continues to struggle. It's early so I won't look too much into it, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on.
Tapper has been dealing with some lower back/hip tightness early in the week and was held out of practice because of it. You will likely see his workload decrease.
Unfortunately, Tyrone Crawford went down with a nasty ankle injury in Tuesday's practice and it's looking like he will miss some time. Thankfully both David Irving and Maliek Collins returned to practice on Tuesday and should get some playing time against the Rams.
With Crawford's injury, look for Lenny Jones and Lewis Neal to get even more playing time. Both Jones and Neal have a fair chance to make the roster if they play at a high level in the preseason.
DeMarcus Lawrence may also make his 2017 debut after a strong start to camp. Lawrence looks great in what we have seen from him so far this offseason, and he's someone the Cowboys desperately need in order to succeed.
I was extremely impressed with how Sam Irwin-Hill played against the Cardinals. He finished the night making both of his attempted field goals, drilling one from 43 yards out with ease. Irwin-Hill also made both of his extra points and punted the ball extremely well.
I touched on it earlier how I'm hoping Ryan Switzer gets a shot to return in this game. Switzer's return ability could be a huge upgrade for a team that had so much success last year with so little help in the return game.
Remember, technically this is the Cowboys first real preseason game so don't look too far into players starting or not starting. But from this point on we should definitely start to get an idea of what the coaching staff is leaning towards for week one's matchup against the New York Giants.
I am an hour away from landing in Los Angeles and will be heading to Oxnard, California for a few days of Cowboys Training Camp. Follow me on Twitter for camp updates, pictures, and videos - @connorx147!
Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Dominate Jaguars Top-Ranked Defense
After watching the Houston Texans defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the Week 5, I decided to lower my expectations heading into this week's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After all, the Cowboys offense has been one of the worst in the league this season and they were going up against the top-ranked Jaguars defense. Boy was I surprised at what took place Sunday afternoon.
I don't know how you started off your football Sunday, but I decided to watch the Texans take on the Buffalo Bills. I didn't have much of a choice since I live in the Houston area and it was the only game on TV, but I still wanted to see how they played after beating my Cowboys in overtime a week prior. I was disgusted at what I saw and unfortunately took it out on my cold beverage.
The Texans looked nothing like the team we saw against the Cowboys. They were pretty much dominated by the Buffalo Bills, which I'm ashamed to say put me in a rather foul mood ahead of kickoff time in Dallas. I was expecting another sloppy performance, but what we all witnessed was anything but that.
The Dallas Cowboys offense pretty much moved the ball at will against the Jacksonville Jaguars top-ranked defense. I don't think anyone could have predicted that, especially considering the Jaguars were the best overall defense in the league and where the top-ranked in the passing game as well. I thought if the Cowboys were going to have any kind of chance it was against their 14th ranked run defense.
Well, the Cowboys ended up dominating on the offensive side of the ball and completely exploited the Jaguars defense both on the ground and through the air. Quarterback Dak Prescott, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, and Wide Receiver Cole Beasley all raised the level of their game and were big contributors to the 40 points the offense put on the board.
Prescott may have thrown for little less than 200 yards, but he was able to connect with Beasley nine times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. With all of the struggles in the passing game for the Cowboys, these two need to continue to connect like this.
Where Prescott was the most impactful against the Jaguars was with his feet. He was really close to being the Cowboys leading rusher with 82 yards and a TD on just 11 carries, but Zeke ended up surpassing him in the end with 106 yards and a TD on 24 carries. Regardless, the Jaguars defense didn't have an answer for Prescott's feet Sunday afternoon.
I have hope once again that this offense is clicking, but I've gone down this road once before. The Dallas Cowboys are still right in the mix of things in the NFC East division and will have a chance to distance themselves next week when they take on the Washington Redskins.
Now, here's the difficult part of all of this. The Cowboys now need to carry over this impressive offensive performance against the Jaguars into next week against the rival Redskins. We've all seen them riding on a high before this season, only to crash back down to earth the following week. They can't afford to do that with a division foe up next on the schedule.
What did you think about the Dallas Cowboys offense against the Jaguars?
DAL 40, JAX 7: Cowboys Answer The Bell In Dominant Win
It seems like a pattern is developing here during the 2018 Dallas Cowboys season.
For a team and an offense which has looked absolutely horrid on the road, the Cowboys appear to be one of the better teams in the conference when playing at home.
That trend continued today as the Cowboys dominated the now 3-3 Jacksonville Jaguars from start to finish, en route to a 40-7 home victory over last year's AFC semi-finalist.
Quarterback Dak Prescott had possibly his best game of the season, making up for his poor performance in Houston a week ago. While Prescott only threw for 183 yards on 17 completions, it was his 82 rushing yards on 11 carries which put this offense over the top. Plus, the Cowboys were in "kill the clock" mode for basically the entire second half.
The real story here was the offensive line, however. The o-line which has been heavily criticized by the fan base during the season, and has shouldered a heavy amount of the blame for the poor offensive production, finally stepped up and played to their standards this afternoon. Prescott had great pass protection all day, which was evident in his passing numbers and Cole Beasley's receiving performance.
Dallas is now 3-3 on the season, tied with the defending champ Eagles and a half game behind Washington for first place in the NFC East. Next week the Cowboys have a huge game in Washington with first place on the line.
- Cole Beasley proved once again why he's worthy of the pay day he'll get (probably somewhere else) this offseason. Beasley caught 9 balls for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns, dominating man coverage all game long.
- These linebackers are legit. Both Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were all over the field today, anchoring a group which was impressive yet again.
- Brett Maher simply can't miss, going 4 for 4 on field goal attempts including a 55 yarder in the second half.
- Ezekiel Elliott went over 100 yards rushing again this week, and it was somehow still a quiet day for him in the grand scheme of things.
- Byron Jones was the best cornerback on either team today, deflecting 3 passes and staying sticky to the Jacksonville wide outs all day. He's been incredible this season and Sunday's game was no different.
- Oh, and Randy Gregory sack alert! Party!
Cowboys Wishlist: Win The Turnover Battle
The Dallas Cowboys have a very difficult task ahead of them as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars and one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Inconsistency on offense has led the Cowboys to a 2-3 record and it seems like they will be playing catch-up for a while.
For now, they face yet another "must win" game. Can they get it done against Jalen Ramsey and company? It's certainly possible, but it won't be easy. Aside from desperately wishing they win this football game, I have a few other things written down on my Cowboys Wishlist... I hope you enjoy!
Wish #1: Convert a 4th & 1
Oh... too soon? I apologize.
In all seriousness, though, this will probably be a low scoring game just like last week's matchup against the Houston Texans. If it is, I don't doubt there will probably come a time when the Cowboys need to make a tough decision.
After being criticized all week long, Jason Garrett and the rest of the coaching staff must be aggressive. Falling to a 2-4 record would greatly complicate playoff hopes, even in a struggling NFC East. Since some people on this staff might be coaching for their jobs, they'll probably approach this game with a more aggressive tone.
Even if it means going for it in fourth and one hell of a long yard.
Wish #2: Dak Prescott Outplays Blake Bortles
Another guy who could be on the hot seat if his play doesn't improve is QB Dak Prescott. Two struggling offenses will take the field today and it'll be interesting to see which quarterback walks away victorious and with the better play on the field.
Dak Prescott is facing what could be the best cornerback duo in the league right now. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye will complicate things for the third-year signal caller and a group of wide receivers that haven't really stepped up.
Wish #3: Get 4+ Sacks
Last week, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to exploit a weak Texans' offensive line but didn't match those expectations. They get another shot at shining today, this time versus a banged up Jaguars' OL.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the fourth player with most sacks in 2018 and has a nice change of adding more to his name versus Blake Bortles. If this game is to be defined on defense rather than offense, then Dallas needs to get sacks... plenty of them.
Wish #4: Play David Irving More than 15 Snaps
Cowboys' DT David Irving is set to return to the field today, but we don't know exactly how much he'll be used. Coming from a four week suspension, Irving had something to say about his playing time.
Irving said the coaches want to play him 10-15 snaps Sunday. "That's what they say now but if it's a close game, I know good and well Marinelli is going to be sending me out there & putting me through the ringer. I'm ready for it.
I hope he's right. This would only mean that he's in shape and ready to play some real football, a sport in which, all off-field issues aside, the kid is pretty good at. We'll have to wait and see how much snaps he gets, but if the Cowboys want to pressure Bortles, #95 better be on the field just about every passing down.
Wish #5: Win The Turnover Battle
As it has been discussed all week, these offenses haven't played well through five weeks of the season. In a game as close as this one is expected to be, turnovers might be the name of the game. This is an area where the Cowboys' haven't shined very much, but they have what it takes to win this aspect of the game.
First of all, the offense takes care of the ball. even with four interceptions under his name, all of these have bounced off the hands or chests of wide receivers. Plus, the defense has proven to be efficient. If they are able to rush the passer, they could be able to force Bortles into making mistakes.
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