When Ezekiel Elliott lobbied for the Dallas Cowboys to select Wide Receiver Noah Brown in the 2017 NFL Draft, it was the blocking of Elliott’s former Ohio State Buckeye teammate that drew rave reviews from Elliott. The Dallas Cowboys likes what they saw and made him a seventh round selection that year with the hopes of utilizing his excellent run blocking in their run-heavy offense.
Noah Brown was slowly integrated into the offense his rookie year, and found a role in the Vince Mayle mold. That player who has the size to motion in-line and crack line backers, but also the ability to move in space to neutralize defensive backs in the run game. Not big enough to be a full-time tight end, but does everything you want your tight end to be.
So perhaps a “light end.”
Injuries derailed his 2018 season thus far and when he finally got back into the lineup the results were mixed. Solid blocking, but also drew a couple of penalties and wasn’t effective in the passing game. He saw his largest offensive snap count of the three games he's played this season and third highest total of his career.
On Thanksgiving Day, Noah Brown flipped the script and made a big impact for the Dallas Cowboys offense. Let's take a look at what makes Noah Brown such an important piece for the Dallas Cowboys.
On this play you see Noah Brown motion into the backfield and on the snap works across the formation to engage the linebacker on the second level. He uses excellent leverage and positioning to neutralize the defender. It's a modest gain for Elliott who cuts back against the grain and Brown limits the linebacker's ability to flow with Elliott. The league leading rusher runs it in for a score.
This time Brown coming in motion draws the attention of Safety DJ. Swearinger. Again, Elliott cuts back to the weak side of the formation where he finds more running room, but Brown's ability to occupy Swearinger prevents him from being able to work to the play side and gives Elliott more room to run.
This time Ezekiel Elliott follows Noah Brown's block through the hole for a nine yard gain. Again, it's Noah Brown taking on a linebacker at the point of attack and neutralizing him in the hole with good leverage and positioning. Brown holds him up long enough for Elliott to get by him for a nice gain.
This time the Dallas Cowboys are in a two tight end formation to the right side with a single wide receiver to the left. They bring Brown in motion to the weak side and Brown is the lead blocker for Elliott. Brown shows a lot of patience working behind Xavier Su'a-Filo and Cameron Fleming as he works to the second level. Brown holds up the defensive back long enough for Elliott to turn the corner and out run the defensive back for the first down.
This is one of my favorite plays from Brown's day. He's motioned wide to the numbers, but hustles to the inside to seal the defensive back, which puts Rod Smith in a one-on-one situation with the safety as he takes the play wide. Smith is nearly able to pick up the first down before being forced out of bounds. Also, what are you doing Rod, stay in bounds.
This is another favorite of mine. Brown again on the outside of the formation is working against a cornerback and completely eats his lunch. From a wider view, you can see the DB begin to get frustrated. Brown drives him nearly 15 yards downfield and continues to work him even after the play is over. It's this tenacious work as a blocker that keeps him getting snaps and may see him get even more snaps moving forward. It may be his blocking that got him on the field, but Noah Brown has another element to his game that is pretty underrated.
His receiving ability.
This is the kind of win you want to see from your fifth wide receiver when you give him an opportunity. Noah Brown runs a comeback route by driving the defensive back downfield and creates a ton of separation at the top of his route and provides a large window for Quarterback Dak Prescott. Brown isn't satisfied with just the reception as he turns up field and with a block rom Ezekiel Elliott gets some nice yards after the catch. It's a huge pickup for Brown who doesn't get a lot of targets in this offense.
We've seen Noah Brown take on corner backs, safeties, and linebackers and when his blocking assignments. When Brown is on the field, he adds an excellent blocking element, which is why I think they need to use him more and more as the season moves forward. He brings more to the table than either Blake Jarwin or Rico Gathers at the tight end position, so the Dallas Cowboys should look to use Brown as a "light end" when they want to have a tight end on the field. At worst he should replace your second or third tight end when the Cowboys want to resemble 11 or 12 personnel.
Noah Brown as the team's "light end" is a matchup problem moving forward if Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan want to use him that way. When the Cowboys go with Noah Brown instead of a tight end, it forces the opposition to make a difficult decision. Do they keep their defense in nickel and risk a linebacker having to cover someone like Cole Beasley or Amari Cooper in the slot, or do they bring their dime package on the field and risk a size/talent mismatch between Brown and the fourth corner.
The NFL is about mismatches and the Dallas Cowboys have several and Noah Brown is one of them. It's time to increase his snap count to take advantage of his blocking and receiving ability.
Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense
For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.
Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.
He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.
During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.
Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.
With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.
Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.
In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.
There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.
While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.
Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.
Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.
In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.
Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.
Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.
At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.
The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.
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