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!
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis
In a game we all hoped would clinch the NFC East division, the Dallas Cowboys instead got shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in one of their worst performances of the season. It was a deplorable performance in every aspect of the game and something we hope to never see again.
I knew sooner or later the Dallas Cowboys self-inflicted wounds would catch up to them, and that's exactly what happened against the Colts. They had far too many penalties and mental mistakes once again and it allowed Indianapolis to take over the game. The Cowboys beat themselves plain and simple.
Before I get on a rant about yesterday's game, I better stick to the topic at hand and share with you what I believe to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
In a game where just about everything went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys it sometimes a little difficult to find any kind of silver lining. That was the case this week after the Cowboys were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. But, the good for me is that Dallas still holds their playoff fate in their hands, despite the embarrassing loss.
Any thoughts of sitting any of the starters for the Cowboys has now gone out the window. They absolutely have to play to win to close out the 2018 regular-season, because they failed to do what needed to be done against the Colts to secure the NFC East division title. Luckily though, it didn't close the door on their playoff aspirations.
With the Buccaneers and Giants left remaining on their schedule, the Cowboys will have to find some way to get back to their winning ways. Hopefully this was just the slap in the face they needed in order to put things in perspective. They simply can't afford another showing like they had against Indianapolis at any point moving forward.
I knew exactly what I was going to put in the section as soon as it happened during the game. The bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts for me was without a doubt their banged up, patched together offensive line.
The Cowboys were forced to go with a patchwork offensive line for the majority of the game against the Colts yesterday afternoon after Xavier Su'a-flio left the game after an eye injury, forcing the Cowboys to go with their third string offensive guard Adam Redmond. Su'a-flio immediately had to leave the stadium to have his eye examined by an optometrist, suggesting that it was a pretty significant injury.
Unfortunately, another injury on the OL for the Cowboys leaves them severely thin depth wise at the most inopportune time. Hopefully a week of rest has done Zack Martin's injured knee some good and he will be able to return to the lineup as soon as possible. That would allow Connor Williams to move back to LG and hopefully solidify the offensive line once again.
Maybe I underestimated the Indianapolis Colts offense or maybe I just overrated the Dallas Cowboys defense, but something was clearly off yesterday afternoon on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. After being so good nearly all season, they were just plain ugly against Indianapolis.
The Cowboys defense didn't have an answer for the Colts offense, especially in the running game. Marlon Mack, a solid runner although not spectacular, completely gashed the Cowboys usually stout run defense. He ran for 139 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, something that's been unheard of against Dallas' run D.
I was honestly completely shocked he had so much success. There were far too many missed tackles and blown assignments to my liking and I believe the coaching staff will make sure to focus on clearing that up moving forward. This team can't afford to let opposing offenses control the clock with their rushing attack. That's the Cowboys MO.
What's your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against Indianapolis?
IND 23, DAL 0: Cowboys Get Shut Out, Embarrassed by Colts
The Dallas Cowboys must think they've already won the NFC East, because they looked like a team with nothing to play for today. The result was an embarrassing 23-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since the 2003 season, which was Jason Witten's rookie year.
Dallas squandered a major time-of-possession advantage in the first half, finishing three drives with a blocked field goal, punt, and a failed 4th-and-1 play near the Colts' goal line. Indianapolis capitalized on their own drives and took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
The Colts got the ball back to start the third quarter and drove down for another touchdown. Down 17-0, Dallas responded with a weak drive and a punt. The game felt out of reach even then, with the Cowboys just looking flat from that point forward.
Ezekiel Elliott had 87 rushing yards 41 receiving for some empty production. Amari Cooper won't be winning any awards this week, held to just four catches for 32 yards.
Dak Prescott completed 62% of his passes for 206 yards. He was sacked three times and threw a late interception; an overthrown ball got tipped by the receiver and picked off on the team's final offensive series.
While the offense was especially bad today, the defense wasn't much better. Dallas surrendered 139 yards rushing yards and two touchdown to Colts RB Marlon Mack, who hadn't had a 100-yard game since October. Andrew Luck wasn't sacked and went virtually untouched the entire day.
The Cowboys could have taken the NFC East with a win, but they didn't come close. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call with the postseason only a few weeks away.
- With the Redskins defeating the Jaguars today, Dallas will have to wait until next week to try to clinch the NFC East. The Cowboys needed losses by both Washington and Philadelphia if they didn't win themselves. The Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
- The Cowboys will get some softer competition to finish the year, hosting the Buccaneers next week and then going to play the Giants in Week 17.
- With the Bears defeating the Packers today and moving to 10-4, they will likely stay the #3 seed in the playoffs. That means Dallas, assuming they do win the NFC East, will almost certainly be hosting the 5th-seeded Seahawks in the first round.
- Jaylon Smith led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, but neither he or Leighton Vander Esch were making the big plays that we've grown accustomed to.
- Xavier Woods had the highlight play on defense, delivering a perfect hit to dislodge the ball from Colts TE Eric Ebron and stop a potential big gain.
- Blake Jarin and Dalton Schultz combined for seven catches for 68 yards; another week of increased TE production from what we've seen must of the year.
- Fullback Jamize Olawale doesn't get many opportunities on offense, and he may not get more after dropping an open touchdown on the team's second drive of the day.
Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Trailing Colts 10-0 at Halftime
The Cowboys have had no trouble moving the ball today, but they've failed to finish drives with points. Dallas is thus trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-0 at halftime.
Dallas has had possession for over 19 minutes compared to just 10 for the Colts. But their three drives have ended with a blocked field goal, a failed 4th-and-1 play near the endzone, and a punt.
The offensive line continues to suffer from health issues. With Zack Martin already out and Connor Williams starting at right guard, Xavier Su'a-Filo left the game with an eye injury during the second quarter and will not return. Backup Adam Redmond is now playing.
The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win in any of their final three games. They could also clinch today if the Redskins and Eagles lose. Washington is trailing 10-3 in Jacksonville at halftime, and the Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
Hopefully, Dallas will start showing up on the scoreboard in the second half.
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