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Film Review: Analyzing The Sacks Given Up Vs. Carolina

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Analyzing The Sacks Given Up Vs. Carolina

There's no question the Dallas Cowboys passing game failed as a whole on Sunday in their season opener. But, as usual, everyone is looking to assign the blame to someone in particular.

Was it the offensive line? The receivers? The coaching? The quarterback? In reality, it was a little bit of everyone. The stars on the team did not perform to their ability, and the role players looked bad at times.

The Cowboys vaunted offensive line surrendered six sacks, and Dak Prescott appeared to be under duress all afternoon. Of course, this doesn't all fall on the offensive line, though. Prescott could not find open receivers down field often, even when they were there to be found.

So, once the All-22 came out on NFL Gamepass, I decided to take a look and see who's "fault" each of the six sacks was. Of the six (one of which looked more like failed quarterback draw) I placed three "on" the offensive line/pass protection and two "on" Dak Prescott.

Let's examine a few of these sacks in greater detail.

dalvscar2018 sack 1

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The first time the Panthers got to Prescott looked way too easy. Backed up in their own territory the Cowboys came out in the I-formation with a tight end inline on the right side. Prior to the snap Carolina shifts their weakside linebacker over the left tackle, creating a two-over-one situation on the backside.

This should have been a red-alert for a blitz, and should've been communicated across the line of scrimmage. Instead, with veteran center Travis Frederick out, there seemed to be communication issues.

Tyron Smith steps down to take care of his inside gap, allowing the blitzing weakside backer to run free. On paper, this should be Ezekiel Elliott's man, but that is a damn-near impossible block for him to make coming across the formation.

Still, it is his responsibility, and he fails to pick up that block. This sack falls "on" the pass protection, but it really has to do more with poor pre-snap communication.

dalvscar2018 sack 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Later on in the game we see one of the sacks which really falls on Dak Prescott. The Cowboys come out in trips to the near side, and Ezekiel Elliott and a tight end stacked to the right. Carolina once again shows two-over-one, this time over the right tackle.

This screams blitz, and Elliott is able to step up and take the blitzer head on this time. The interior is where this pass protection breaks down, as left guard Connor Williams gets flat-out beat by the 3 technique.

Despite being beat relatively quickly, there's no excuse for Prescott to take a sack here. He has his tight end flashing open quickly in the middle of the field, and has the option to tuck it and run with green grass in front of him if he doesn't want to try to fit it between zones as well.

Prescott has to process the coverage and blitz quicker here to avoid the negative play. He also has to run more often, but that's another point for another post.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This third sack falls mostly on the offensive line, and once again can be attributed to poor communication on the interior. Carolina brings a bit of a modified cross-dog blitz, with the 2i technique defensive tackle occupying both Williams and Looney, allowing for the blitzing linebacker to run free through the b-gap.

Joe Looney and Connor Williams have to communicate this better. Williams completely turns his hips and shoulders rather than staying square, and is unable to slide off the 2i to the linebacker. Looney should take the down lineman over, allowing Williams to slide off.

This has more to do with lack of familiarity than anything else, and is actually somewhat encouraging. This should get better as the season goes on.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr 2 wide view

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

These final two clips are the same play, just from different angles. I wanted to highlight how sometimes, you just get beat, and I don't think you can really blame any one person alone.

From the end-zone angle you can clearly see Connor Williams get beat by the 3 technique once again, and on first view it appears the sack is his fault. But when you really look at the whole play progression, you see that both the play design and Dak Prescott are also to blame.

Carolina is in two-deep coverage attempting to avoid the big play. Dallas is already down multiple possessions and with time running out, they know they can just sit back and play this type of off-coverage.

Dallas is looking to push the ball vertically down the seams, but both deep safeties are able to sit on the hash and just wait for the receivers to reach them on their route. You could argue that Prescott should have hit the hitch route on the far side, but it doesn't appear to be on his radar.

Overall, Carolina just won on this play. Sometimes that happens, those guys get paid to play too.

If there's a conclusion to be drawn, it's that just about everyone was bad at Sunday. If Dak Prescott, the offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott, the receivers, and the coaches are all this bad going forward, it's going to be a long season.

But, as you can see, simply getting some familiarity with one another and communicating better should help this offense develop throughout the season.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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Catching Up With Dallas Cowboys NFC East Rivals’ Offseasons

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Catching Up With Dallas Cowboys NFC East Rivals' Offseasons 1

It's been a very busy offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, with many tasks still undone. Their work in free agency and in the Draft has gone pretty well as the front office has managed to keep the team from having unfilled needs throughout the process. Currently, the team is still hard at work negotiating contract extensions with some key Cowboys, most notably, Quarterback Dak Prescott. In the thick of the offseason, it's easy to forget that the Cowboys aren't alone in the NFC East.

That's why today we'll take a look around the division to see what's happened with the three teams the Cowboys will have to battle twice this year. Let's catch up with them, one by one.

Catching Up With Dallas Cowboys NFC East Rivals' Offseasons

Washington Redskins

After starting the season leading the division, the Redskins' 2018 season went crashing down when Alex Smith suffered a pretty serious injury that will keep him off the gridiron next season. That's why the Redskins signed veteran QB Case Keenum and drafted a first round signal-caller in the Ohio State product, Dwayne Haskins.

If Haskins doesn't get the starting gig in Washington from the get-go, it'll only be a matter of time for the rookie to take over. Keenum hasn't proved his worth yet and he isn't likely to in a poor-coached team such as the Redskins. Drafting Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick was seen by many like a steal, and the team built on that early success by taking pass rusher Montez Sweat, who surprisingly tumbled into the late first round. Their 2019 Draft went pretty well thanks to their top two selections.

They also made a splash in free agency by breaking the bank and giving former Giants Safety Landon Collins an $84M contract averaging 14 million per year. Additionally, they had obtained LB Reuben Foster, but the young player will be out for the season after tearing his ACL in practice. Even still, their defensive front looks impressive. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat won't be easy to contain.

The Redskins won't be in contention for the division unless Dwayne Haskins dramatically exceeds expectations. However, getting a successful season for their rookie would be a huge win for the franchise.

NFC East QB Picture Could Look Very Different After the Draft 1

Former Duke QB Daniel Jones (Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

New York Giants

For the New York Giants there's also an important discussion around the QB position. The team used the sixth overall pick on rookie Daniel Jones, from Duke. It was a surprising selection for many, being only the second QB off the board. The key question is, when will he play? The Giants still have Eli Manning and won't rip the reigns off of his hands just yet.

A change could come when the Giants are clearly out of contention and the coaching staff just wants to see what the rookie can bring to the table prior to 2020.

Odell Beckham is out of New York and in Cleveland, taking one of the Giants' best weapons to the AFC. In exchange, New York got a first round selection (DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson), a third rounder (DE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion), and S Jabrill Peppers. At wide receiver, the Giants added 30-year old Golden Tate. They decided not to pay Landon Collins and let him leave for free agency.

In what seems like a win-win trade between the Browns and the Giants, the latter swapped pass rusher Olivier Vernon for the former's quality offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler. New York's offensive line will be considerably improved for Saquon Barkley's second season in the NFL, but this team is still far from being a serious contender in the division.

Jordan Howard, Bears

Philadelphia Eagles

Similar to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles have had a busy, yet quiet, offseason. The reason why is that they're a pretty good football team that will be a tough rival for the division title in the upcoming season. This offseason, they were able to keep a lot of their key players such as C Jason Kelce, DE Brandon Graham, OT Jason Peters, and CB Ronald Darby.

But they've also managed to add new talent at various positions. WR Desean Jackson makes his return to Philly and Jordan Howard arrives from Chicago to help at RB along with the product out of Penn State, Miles Sanders.

For the defense, they signed DT Malik Jackson and got pass rusher Michael Bennett from the New England Patriots. They also signed LB Zach Brown, improving their linebacker group.

Paired with a quality Draft, the Eagles had a heck of an offseason and will be a tough team to beat in 2019. If Carson Wentz, who signed a huge extension a few weeks ago, remains healthy, this will be a dangerous team for the Cowboys. Beatable, sure. But they're certainly not alone in the NFC East race.

Tell me what you think about "Catching Up With Dallas Cowboys NFC East Rivals’ Offseasons" 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 Camp: DT Antwaun Woods Ready To Compete

Kevin Brady

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Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, Defensive Tackle

Rod Marinelli defensive lines have always been categorized by one term: rotations. His tenure with the Dallas Cowboys has been no different.

Marinelli loves to rotate defensive linemen through the game, specifically on the interior. He's also not one to pay big money to interior defensive linemen often. Instead, he will cycle through mid-round draft picks, undrafted free agents, and bargain-status veterans to piece together a group in his image.

And there's no arguing with his results.

The latest of Marinelli's guys to make a name for himself on the field was defensive tackle Antwaun Woods. Barely talked about heading into 2018, Woods competed during training camp and preseason to earn his spot on the Cowboys defensive line. Before long he was not only the starting 1-technique, but also making a big impact every week.

This offseason, though, the Cowboys placed an emphasis on adding talent to their defensive line. On the interior they signed former Texans tackle Christian Covington, and drafted UCF's Trysten Hill in the second round. At defensive end they traded for Robert Quinn, and added former Detroit Lion Kerry Hyder.

All of these new faces bring increased competition for Woods, but he is certainly not shying away from the challenge.

“It’s the name of the business: Every year they’re trying to replace us. Every year they bring guys in to take our job, and it’s what makes us better." - Antwaun Woods, via DallasCowboys.com

Woods finished 2018 with 34 tackles, 5 QB hits, and 1.5 sacks, but his impact certainly felt even bigger than those numbers would indicate. Woods brought an energy and attitude to the defensive line that they had been missing in recent years. And when on the field with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, that energy was furthered even more.

Still, it's true that Woods and his teammates were thoroughly controlled by the Rams offensive line during their Divisional round playoff loss. The Cowboys needeto add talent to the interior of their defensive line, and it would seem they accomplished this goal.

If Woods can beat out these newcomers and retain his starting spot, then it's all the better for a Cowboys team which could use the increased competition and hunger across their defensive line.



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Jaylon Smith’s “Clear Eye View” Coming Into Focus

Matthew Lenix

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Jaylon Smith's "Clear Eye View" Coming Into Focus

Jaylon Smith's career nearly ended before he even stepped foot on an NFL field.

The 2016 Fiesta Bowl featured two top-shelf college programs, Notre Dame and Ohio State. You would think the headlines of such a contest would be of excellence on the gridiron but in the first quarter that would all change. Smith would suffer a gruesome knee injury, tearing both his ACL and MCL. The timing couldn't have been worse considering the NFL Draft was just three months away, and the Irish star was looked at as a potential top 10 pick. Many thought his stock would plummet tremendously, but the Dallas Cowboys had a different view in mind so to speak.

On January 7th Smith would have successful surgery to repair both ligaments in his knee. Just four days later, he announced he would forego his senior year and enter the NFL Draft, and the long road to recovery began.

Surprisingly, just six weeks post surgery, Smith was already squatting 500 pounds, truly an amazing accomplishment considering his physical status. By late April, he was already doing field work as he worked his body back into peak condition. When you take into account the seriousness of his injury just three months prior, it was mind-blowing to see him dropping into coverage and swatting a tackling dummy just before the NFL Draft.

Noticeably, he was wearing an Ankle-Foot Orthosis (AFO) device. The nerve damage in his knee caused a condition called drop foot. The brace provided stabilization to the ankle, foot, and knee for Smith and his workout videos began to generate buzz across the NFL landscape.

After taking All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th overall pick, the Cowboys took what many deemed an unnecessary gamble with the 34th pick in round two. Even with the doubts flowing rapidly, they decided Smith was worth the risk and made him a Dallas Cowboy. Now that his pro football home had been determined it was time to get to work.

It would be a long shot for Smith to see the field as a rookie, and he wouldn't risk further damage rushing back too quickly. Instead, he spent the season rehabbing and getting acclimated to the Cowboys defensive philosophy, at least as much as he could without actually being on the field of battle. He could be seen on the sidelines cheering his football brothers on weekly as they went 13-3 and won the NFC East, but as we all know, players want to play, and there's no doubt that Smith was itching to make his presence known.

After a year and a half of rehab, and high expectations just from his workout videos alone, Jaylon Smith made his long-awaited NFL debut week one of 2017 against the Giants. It was clear he wasn't quite back to the player that was so highly praised coming out of college, but you could see the flashes. He finished with 81 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 passes defended and 1 sack. More than solid for your first year on the field after ACL and MCL tears.

For years, the Cowboys defense was looked at as the teams weakest unit, but in 2018 that all changed, in large part because of the play of Smith. He would catapult his name into the conversation of the elite linebackers in all of football with his performance in year two. 121 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 passes defended and 4 sacks. This would silence any and all doubters who questioned rather he would ever reach his ceiling, and it also got him named PFF's (Pro Football Focus) Breakout Player of the Year. Also, following the lead of their new defensive star, the Cowboys finished 5th against the run, 7th in fewest points allowed, 7th in total defense and a solid 13th against the pass. I guess it's safe to say if you follow the lead of Jaylon Smith good things will come.

The biggest takeaway from last season in regards to Jaylon Smith was just how unlimited he looked movement wise. No hesitation, no timid motions at all when you watch his film. He shot through gaps like a Cheetah hunting an Antelope, to use a National Geographic analogy. We are seeing exactly why the Cowboys turned in his draft card in 2016, and they are reaping the benefits tremendously.

Now, as the 2019 season approaches look for an All-Pro level season from Smith. He's improved every year he's been on the field and there's no sign of that stopping in the near future. Plus, he has two things most middle linebackers don't have, an All-Pro on each side of him with teammates Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee, making life that much easier for him. Limitations and doubts have been cast aside and now look for Jaylon Smith to raise his game to another level. The "Clear Eye View" is in full swing.



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