When the Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins in week seven this year, it was really clear what the Cowboys would have to do defensively to slow down the Redskins. For the most part they were successful. They didn't allow Alex Smith to beat them with his legs and they didn't allow big plays in the passing game. The one area where they struggled was in the run game against the eternal Adrian Peterson.
His stat line, 24 carries for 99 yards, isn't all that impressive when you take it at face value, but he was effective in keeping the Redskins in favorable down and distances and even broke several runs for big plays against the Cowboys top five ranked run defense.
Looking at the chart below provided by Next Gen Stats and NFL. com, you can see where Adrian Peterson did most of his damage during the Cowboys week seven loss.
When the Redskins ran Peterson between the tackles, the Cowboys were generally there to prevent him from going for big gains. He ground out the dirty yards as he only had one carry go for five yards when running between the tackles. .
Per Pro Football Focus, Peterson carried the ball off tackle or to the interior 15 times and only gained 32 yards, including one run for 20 yards. That one run for 20 yards was technically off tackle as the center and guard pulled to the outside and Peterson ran to the inside of the pulling guard, as you'll see below. So on the 14 other carries, Peterson gained 12 yards when running off tackle or to the interior. When he and the Redskins wide, Peterson gained 67 yards on 9 carries.
Some of what Adrian Peterson was able to accomplish was a nice play call at the right time against a favorable defense. However, much of Peterson's success against the Cowboys came because of Adrian Peterson the future hall of fame running back.
Let's look at some of the game film to see where Adrian Peterson had his success.
On this first play, the Cowboys have the play snuffed out and there's no where for Adrian Peterson to go. He's attempting to get to the outside, but Jeff Heath holds up Vernon Davis to set the edge and the defensive line and linebackers have filled their gap assignments expertly. Adrian Peterson being the veteran that he is, sees that the Cowboys have played the run well, but have left a lot of room for him to cut back. As he makes his cut to go against the play, you see that there's a ton of room to the backside of the play. After DeMarcus Lawrence jumps the offensive lineman to try to make the play on the backside, he's caught out of position and Peterson has nothing but space in front of him. All he has to do is give Kavon Frazier a slight hesitation move and he has the speed to get around him for more yards.
Here the Cowboys get good penetration from their defensive line and the linebackers have the play pursued well, but because the defensive line has crashed up field, there's a lot of room for Peterson to cut back inside after Jaylon Smith cuts off his outside run. Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods are slow to rally to Peterson and several missed tackles later, Peterson has another nice gain.
This run is a really nice play design against a weak front to the play side. You can see that Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are shading to the weak side of the formation and Heath is down in the box to help against the tight end. The Redskins pull the center and the guard at the snap and they have simple assignments taking on Jeff Heath and Byron Jones on the outside. Both defensive tackles work the A gap and are out of the play immediately and Taco Charlton gets caught rushing inside and isn't able to effect the play at the point of attack. Leighton Vander Esch looks like he read pass and began to drop into coverage, but it puts him playing catch up on the play and the Redskins have a big gain on the ground.
The Redskins had a nice game plan for the Dallas Cowboys run defense. They were able to get to the perimeter for several big gains to control the game. The Cowboys defense had a nice day in general, holding the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day, but these big plays by Peterson and the Redskins offensive line killed the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys will need to be more disciplined in their pursuit so they aren't over-running plays and allowing Adrian Peterson to work back to wide open spaces. He's a great runner who has always had excellent vision. The back side pursuit will need to be there to keep Peterson from gashing them for big runs again on Thanksgiving Day. With first place on the line this Thursday, I expect the Cowboys defense to correct some of the things that went wrong in the first game and find a way to limit the damage done by Adrian Peterson and the Redskins offensive line.
The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense
The Dallas Cowboys earned their first win of the 2019 preseason on Saturday night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 in Hawaii.
Despite the low scoring affair, there were certainly standout performances from both offensive and defensive players for Dallas. Some who are looking to earn a roster spot, and others who are rather solidified in their place with the team.
Let's get into some of my game notes from the Cowboys preseason victory.
- Tony Pollard. I mean, I've said enough right? The rookie running back was awesome in his one drive of action Saturday night, rushing 5 times for 42 yards and a touchdown on the team's opening possession. Pollard was decisive, patient, and comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, and seemed to know exactly where and how to run on each rep. Pollard is looking like a complete back, rather than just a receiving threat for the Cowboys offense going forward.
- While undrafted free agents Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have garnered much of the attention, it was Devin Smith who impressed the most out of all the Cowboys' down-roster receivers this week. He caught 3 balls for just 24 yards, but had a fantastic touchdown grab from Cooper Rush in the third quarter.
- Speaking of Cooper Rush, he's your backup quarterback for the 2019 season. The coaching staff gave Mike White a chance to work with the 2's this week, allowing him equal ground for competition with Rush. But even with this opportunity, Mike White did not play well whatsoever. He's indecisive in the pocket, abandons clean protection, runs into pressure, and just looks kind of lost out there. Hopefully White can improve, but Rush is certainly deserving of the QB2 spot going forward.
- While Rush solidified his position as the QB2, QB1 Dak Prescott led another impressive drive on Saturday night. Prescott has command in the pocket and of the entire offense, and he orchestrated an excellent touchdown drive in his own possession this week. Prescott went 5/5 for 64 yards, but the highlight of the game for Prescott was his third and seven completion for 31 of those yards to Michael Gallup. He and Gallup seem to be connecting this preseason, and if that's going to happen regularly, look out.
- Now to the defense. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show signs that 2019 could be a career season for him. He was disruptive in limited playing time this week, and showcased a scary spin move on the inside. He can be an electric interior pass rusher for the Cowboys, and he looks to be "putting it all together" this year.
- Jourdan Lewis is too good to rot away on the bench, guys. Though he did get beat for decent completion in the first half, Lewis was also sound as a tackler and sticky in coverage once again this week. Lewis looks to be playing at the highest level we've seen from him yet, but once Byron Jones comes back he may not be getting the playing time he'd easily earn elsewhere. Dallas has a bit of an embarrassment of riches at cornerback right now, and Lewis just needs to keep competing every week.
- Lewis' Michigan teammate Taco Charlton had a decent night himself. While Dorance Armstrong has been the talk of the town at defensive end, Charlton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and was credited with 2 quarterback hits against the Rams. He wasn't creating the level of pressure you'd hope to see out of a former first round pick playing that deep into a preseason game, but you can tell he's looking a bit better as of late. Still, there's a whole heap of defensive ends on this roster who are flat out better than him right now.
- The Cowboys linebackers showed up to play on Saturday night. Of course, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch are who they are, but Justin March-Lillard led the team in tackles with 6, and Justin Phillips came away with an exceptional interception in the third quarter. He made a play on the ball that you don't expect to see from any linebacker, let alone someone of his roster status. This is a really deep linebacker room, and there's a strong chance the Cowboys will have to let go of a good player.
DAL 14, LAR 10; Tony Pollard, Cooper Rush Standouts in Preseason Win
The Dallas Cowboys' second preseason game wound up being the first victory of 2019. But more important than the irrelevant standings in August, the game helped us further see who deserves to make the roster this season. The 14-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Hawaii helped to reinforce things we saw in last week's game versus the 49ers.
Rookie Tony Pollard, starting at running back again due to Ezekiel Elliott's holdout, scored the first Cowboys touchdown of the preseason with a 14-yard redzone scamper on the team's initial drive.
Pollard had 42 rushing yards on just five carries, plus a nine-yard reception, on that one drive. It was an even more productive game than last week, and an encouraging sign if Zeke's absence were to linger beyond the preseason.
Also building on last week was backup QB Cooper Rush, who left no doubt that he's the superior player to Mike White with his play tonight. Coming in with the third-team offense, Rush completed 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
White, who got a chance to come in after Dak Prescott this game, managed just 30 yards on 7/13 pass attempts. He threw a horrible interception on the first drive of the second half, at which point Dallas sent in Rush and ended Mike's night.
At this point, it looks like White's bid to compete for the backup QB job and perhaps even a roster spot have ended as well.
- Dak Prescott remains perfect this preseason, completing 5/5 passes for 64 yards on his one drive. He was 4/4 last week against San Francisco. Tonight's throws were highlighted by a 31-yard pass on third down to Michael Gallup to move the chains and help set up Pollard's touchdown run.
- Speaking of continued trends, Brett Maher remains suspect with a bad miss on a 52-yard field goal. Maher went wide left from the right hashmark, albeit from long range and dealing with windy conditions. But he also barely made one of the extra point attempts; still cause for concern after some bad signs a week ago.
- Trending upward is WR Devin Smith, who caught Cooper Rush's TD pass with an athletic leaping grab in the endzone. Smith is starting to remind us why he was a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 Draft, and is standing out over hyped prospects like Jon'Vea Johnson and Reggie Davis in recent days.
- Johnson had two more drops tonight to continue his own storyline from a week ago. Last week it was Cedrick Wilson who outclassed him, and this week it was Devin Smith. Either way, the Jon'Vea stock is now moving in the wrong direction.
- The stock is going up on LB Justin Phillips, who looked good last week and even better tonight with an interception and seven tackles. While small at just 6'0" and 230 lbs., Phillips has been much more visible in these games than Chris Covington and other linebackers prospects.
Know Your Foe: Los Angeles Rams Looking To Avoid Super Bowl Hangover
This Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys meet for the first time since their Divisional Playoff matchup last January. Of course, this time around, the game is much less important as we move into week two of the 2019 preseason rather than the final 8 of the postseason.
Still the link between the two teams remains strong. Dak Prescott and Jared Goff made their preseason debuts against one another, Jerry Jones caught fire for claiming his offense had Rams-level potential, and they've now played each other in consecutive seasons.
Let's take a look at the Rams and learn more about the Cowboys upcoming preseason opponent this week.
The Rams offense was one of the most dynamic in all of football in 2018. Finishing second in offensive DVOA last season behind only the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs, the Rams put up big time points and yardage week in and week out.
They've become known for their play action passing game, so much so that it almost feels cheesy to discuss at this point. In the backfield is the talented running back Todd Gurley, who Ezekiel Elliott is looking to surpass in terms of overall contract value this offseason.
Beside him is quarterback Jared Goff, who despite being a number one overall pick and putting up some impressive numbers the past two seasons, is often questioned over whether "the system" makes him who he is. Los Angeles' receiving corps is full of weapons as well, led by Brandon Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp.
Upfront the Rams had one of the better offensive lines in football in 2018, with the veteran Andrew Whitworth having a career revitalization of sorts in recent years.
Of course, you can't discuss the Rams offense without talking about their head coach Sean McVay.
McVay has been anointed as the golden boy of creativity on offense the past two seasons, and the results speak for themselves. He took over an offense which ranked towards the bottom of the league, and has turned them into an absolute juggernaut. After a disappointing performance in the Super Bowl, however, the pressure mounted on both McVay and Goff's shoulders is as heavy as ever heading into 2019.
The Rams defense was certainly the weaker of the team's two units in 2018. Defensively, Los Angeles finished 19th in DVOA, despite some big name talent on that side of the ball. Aaron Donald is arguably the best player in all of football, and is a menace for any offensive line to deal with.
Though they lost Ndamukong Suh in free agency this year, their defensive line shouldn't experience too much of a hit overall. Donald is still the most important piece of that unit, and the team has high hopes for former first round pass rusher Dante Fowler as well.
In the back-end Eric Weddle joins a secondary that is loaded with star-level names like Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Whether they will all live up to their hype is yet to be seen, but Rams fans certainly have to be excited about what their secondary can look like in 2019. Plus, the Rams drafted Washington safety Taylor Rapp, a player who was all over draft boards of Cowboy fans last Spring.
The Los Angeles Rams are primed to contend for another NFC West crown, and for a chance to represent the conference in the Super Bowl for the second straight year. If the Cowboys want to take the next step in 2019, they'll likely have to step over the Rams at some point in the year.
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