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Film Review: Cowboys Sack Leader Ryan Davis Brings Versatility

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Film Review: Cowboys Sack Leader Ryan Davis Brings Versatility

In a development that rightfully should have surprised nobody, the Dallas Cowboys managed just one sack out of their defensive line in week 1, falling 20-19 at home to the New York Giants.

The team's career active sack leader at the time, Orlando Scandrick (don't shoot the messenger), got home on Eli Manning once while the other sack came from first-year Cowboy Benson Mayowa.

Now the career lead in sacks on the team actually belongs to a defensive lineman, as Ryan Davis was brought in after being released last month from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Davis accounted for 11 sacks over four years with the Jaguars, starting in 2012 after he went undrafted.

Davis' best year came in 2014 when he managed 6.5 sacks. After serving as both a productive and versatile player, Davis' departure from Jacksonville was reportedly due to the coaching staff looking to move him around to different positions - particularly linebacker.

While Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli loves players with flexibility when it comes to where they can play, there is little doubt that he will be asking Davis to focus on getting after opposing quarterbacks - something he has proven to be able to do in a number of ways before.

The same cannot be said about many of the other current Cowboys defensive linemen, so let's dive into some film on Ryan Davis to get a better feel for what he can bring to the team.

 

 

The first tape I studied for Davis came from 2014, his best season as a pro. The Jaguars moved him around their front multiple times to create pressure, with Davis flashing mostly as a penetrating defensive tackle.

On this first play watch how Davis is able to set up his blocker off the ball with his hands on the inside, in order to drive him back using his strong legs and finish the play. When it came to using his hands as a pass rusher, Davis struggled to do so consistently in 2014, but this was as good as it gets.

 

 

 

In this clip below, you see Davis lined up as a left defensive end, and capture the edge with some quickness and bend. While Davis may not excel in any particular area, he rarely failed to capture the edge as both a left and right defensive end from his 2014 tape. You'll see when we get to his 2015 tape, he began to show more in terms of pass rush moves and unpredictability attacking blockers.

 

 

Rushing as an LDE here, Davis is able to feel his blocker trying to extend on him as he powers off the edge. Using his speed and size, Davis disengages and just finds a way to the quarterback - something that only proven defensive linemen like him can do with consistency.

This particular sack of Ryan Tannehill came on a third down play, flipping field position and forcing a punt.

 

 

 

Above, Ryan Davis is now lined up as a right defensive end. The left tackle tries to extend on him, and is able to at least knock him off of his path. Davis quickly recovers to use his leverage around the blocker, first with his quick hands and then with some impressive closing speed.

You'll see all of these things once again on display from Davis as an RDE in the following clip from a different angle, along with another good example of his strength when it comes to controlling both tackles and guards looking to slow him down.

 

 

 

Against the run, Davis was able to fold inside when lined up as an end and fill gaps with some impressive but inconsistent lateral movement. Occasionally he would be caught playing a bit too high, which caused him to struggle to get a push against linemen that could work inside of him.

This was another thing that Ryan Davis improved on when I moved into his 2015 tape.

 

 

 

Right away from last season, Davis showed a lot more consistent and athletic bend as a pass rusher. For all of the plays in 2014 where he simply got beat with bad positioning, there were also a number of plays where Davis could have finished off plays if he had a better ability to finish around the edge.

The Cowboys will take pressures any way they can get them right now, and throwing Ryan Davis out there with the likes of Terrell McClain and Tyrone Crawford - two potentially dominant interior defensive tackles - is a good place to start.

 

 

 

On this next play, Davis uses his speed to his advantage on a stunt to the inside. Already running downhill when he meets his blocker, Davis knocks his man back and forces the attention of a second blocker as he pushes the middle of the pocket.

 

 

 

Ryan Davis is far from perfect, but the Dallas Cowboys don't need perfect right now when it comes to establishing depth along the defensive line. When the likes of Kyle Wilber, a natural SAM linebacker, were called upon last week in order to establish some form of a rotation, it became clear that an upgrade was needed.

The Cowboys have made us all shake our heads when it comes to finding these upgrades defensively, but they just added a quality pass rusher that still has time to develop. Waiting on the practice squad is another defensive end with experience in Zach Moore (who I scouted right here), and awaiting the status on his suspension is the talented but troubled Randy Gregory. 

DeMarcus Lawrence is also set to return in week 5, and Charles Tapper should also work his way into the defensive end equation sooner rather than later. Things could be looking up very soon for the Cowboys front four.

What do you think of newly signed DE Ryan Davis? Let us know! Share your takeaways from this scouting report by leaving a comment below, or you can email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.

You can also find all of these clips, along with much more when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, on my Twitter account @ShoreSportsNJ

Tell us what you think about "Film Review: Cowboys Sack Leader Ryan Davis Brings Versatility" 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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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.

https://twitter.com/dallascowboys/status/1085291591399546880?s=21

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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