With the contract and hold out saga with Ezekiel Elliott continuing, rookie Running Back Tony Pollard got the start on Saturday as the Dallas Cowboys faced off against the San Francisco 49ers in week one of the preseason. There were few players that Cowboys Nation was as excited to see in action than Pollard and in his preseason debut, he had a very solid effort totaling 16 yards on four carries and picked up a first down on the ground.
On his four carries, Pollard gained 11 yards after contact, averaging 2.75 yards after contact per carry. Obviously, four carries is a limited sample size, but he should feel really good about the work that he put in. He ran with patience, vision, initiated contact and made good decisions.
Let's take a look at his day.
On the first play from scrimmage for the Dallas Cowboys, to the surprise of no one, they decided to run the ball. Though we may be tired of seeing first down runs, it was probably a wise decision to get their rookie playmaker involved early to shake off any nerves that he might have brought to his first professional football game.
With the Dallas Cowboys in 11-personnel with the tight end and slot wide receiver to the left side, the call goes to the weakside. The 49ers' left defensive end seals the edge quickly and Tony Pollard has to cut back against the grain, but his vision and patience allow him to get find a nice hole left of Center Travis Frederick. Tyron Smith crashes inside and is able to seal off the 49ers 3-technique defensive tackle as Connor Williams and Zack Martin get to the linebackers at the second level. After the initial cut, back, Pollard finds his crease and makes a quick move into the hole to pick up six yards on his first carry.
After the initial contact, he's able to drive the defender for at least a yard, which is an encouraging sign with questions about his size to play the running back position.
On Pollard's second carry, the Cowboys are in 12 personnel with two tight ends to the right and a tight stack of the wide receivers to the left. The 49ers initially stymie the Dallas Cowboys offensive line, but after a brief moment, the Cowboys are able to get some push against their counterparts. Pollard doesn't see anything right away but is clean in the backfield and is able to use patience to wait for something to open up.
It's not a great run, as it picks up only three yards, but it's solid and leaves the Cowboys with a manageable 2nd and 7.
3rd and 2 with the Dallas Cowboys in shotgun and a balanced 11-personnel look with the tight end to the right side. On the snap, Dak Prescott gives the ball to Tony Pollard but shows a read-option look. As he fakes the quarterback run, Prescott causes the blitzing safety to hesitate in his pursuit of Tony Pollard, which allows Pollard to get upfield quickly and avoid the blitzer's tackle.
The Dallas Cowboys interior doesn't get much movement and Pollard has to cut back against the flow of the play behind a nice double team by La'el Collins and Blake Jarwin. They take care of the slanting defensive end and Pollard is able to pick up four yards for the first down.
On his final carry of the night, the Dallas Cowboys are in 22 personnel (two running backs, two wide receivers, and one tight end). The point of attack is running left, and Jarwin forces the left defensive end upfield allowing Pollard a cut back lane, which he wisely chooses as there isn't much going to the play side and the offensive line isn't able to execute any second-level blocks.
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Tony Pollard may not have had any explosive runs for 20 or more yards in this contest, but it was a solid performance in his first outing against NFL competition. More experience and exposure to the game speed will help him to get more comfortable running at this level.
What Pollard did show was good vision, quick processing, decision making, and a burst to get through the hole and pick up the yards that were available. He also showed a willingness to take on contact and lower the shoulder to attempt to get extra yards. There's still work to be done, but it was an encouraging performance in his first preseason game.
Jason Garrett Reminds Everyone That Kellen Moore Calls the Plays
There's a lot of blame game being played around the Dallas Cowboys right now after a demoralizing home loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Even the head coach seems to be getting in on the act as Jason Garrett went out of character and got unusually specific in explaining Kellen Moore's responsibility for play-calling.
Garrett is not known for calling people out. In fact, many fans have criticized him for not being more critical of his players. He tends to speak in vague, nebulous terms when it comes to discussing the Cowboys' weaknesses or failings after a loss.
But in a radio appearance this morning, Garrett didn't mince words on who was deciding the plays during the Cowboys' final drive.
Jason Garrett on @1053thefan on the two run plays late: "Kellen's calling the game. In that situation it's 2nd and 2. He felt like he had a good opportunity against a favorable box to run the ball in those situations. On each of those plays we had options beyond just the run.
Jason did try to excuse his offensive coordinator's decisions with some context, but he also made sure to clarify who was responsible for those calls. It was not very Garrett-like, and it may speak to his own growing frustration and concern over his future.
Garrett is on the final year of his contract and the Cowboys' front office has made it clear that any extension depends on the results of the 2019 season. With Dallas now dropping to 5-4 and only leading the division by a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles, the future is increasingly unclear.
Jason Garrett famously uses "we" and "us" terms when talking about the negatives, not wanting to assign blame to any particular player or person when things aren't going well. That he strayed from this well-established behavior today may be an anomaly, but it shouldn't be ignored.
With a tough second-half stretch coming in this 2019 schedule, Garrett may be starting to feel like a dead man walking. We'll see in the coming weeks if this leads to anymore shifts in his usual demeanor with the media.
Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly from Week 10 Against Vikings
Well Cowboys Nation, the Dallas Cowboys let yet another winnable game slip to their grasp Sunday night after the devastating 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. By my count, that's three out of four games the Cowboys probably should have won this season. But, probably… maybe… and should have don't mean diddly squat in the NFL.
I'm not going to beat around the bush today because I would likely end up going into a long winded rant about what took place last night. So, let's go ahead and jump right into this week's edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. As always, please feel free to use the comment section to voice your opinions and thoughts on the subject.
Unlike in weeks past, I had absolutely no problem deciding what to go with this week for this category from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. I don't think anyone would argue that the good had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott's play and the Cowboys overall passing game. This unit was the sole reason they had a chance to win at the end.
Prescott was simply phenomenal Sunday night. He threw for 397 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He was on point last night and was dropping dimes all over the place. It's one of the reasons why both Amari Cooper (147 yards, 1 TD) and Randall Cobb (106, 1 TD) both went over the 100 yard mark in receiving, and Michael Gallup wasn't too far behind (76 yards, 1 TD). All in all it's an MVP caliber performance from No. 4, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to seal the victory.
I thought and thought about what I wanted to go with in this category and I'll have to admit, I had a hard time deciding. There were individual players who deserved a nomination here, but in the end I think the bad for the Dallas Cowboys was them getting off to yet another slow start against the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, it's been a trend for them this season.
It all started when Jason Garrett decided to send out Kicker Brett Maher to attempt an ill-advised 57 yard field goal. Maher is capable of making such kicks, but there's a time and place to use that kind of weapon. Last night on the opening drive of the game was not one of those times. After the missed FG, the Vikings had excellent field position and scored a quick TD. Not long after they scored another TD to go up 14-0 after another stalled drive by the Cowboys offense. It's a hole they were never quite able to dig themselves out of.
Deciding what to go with here in this category was pretty easy after narrowing down what I wanted to put in the bad category. I think the ugly for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings was their defensive play. In all honesty, it was absolutely sickening to watch the Vikings have their way with the Cowboys defense. Dallas has far too much talent on that side of the ball to be manhandled like they were.
The tackling was atrocious and so was the execution. I'm pretty sure the game plan was to neutralize Dalvin Cook the way they did Saquon Barkley in Week 9, but the league's leading rusher (Cook) would have none of that. He pretty much did what he wanted. He ran through arm tackles and had room to run, whether it was as a rusher or receiver. It looked a lot like what Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones did to the Cowboys in Week 5. It was completely inexcusable and unacceptable!
What is your good, bad, and ugly from the Dallas Cowboys Week 10 matchup?
Randall Cobb has Breakout Game in Tough Loss vs Vikings
When NFL free agency began this past March the Dallas Cowboys spent the month making several additions to their roster. Veterans George Iloka (only one not currently on the roster), Kerry Hyder, Christian Covington, and Robert Quinn were added to help on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, there was a huge hole to fill when Wide Receiver Cole Beasley signed a four-year 29 million dollar deal to play for the Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys would then sign Randall Cobb about a week later to a one-year deal. The seasoned pro was brought in as an upgrade over Beasley in the slot to compliment Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Also, with his unique ability to play on the outside as well, it would allow Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to present different looks for opposing defenses.
In his first seven games of the season, Cobb struggled to find his place within this offense. He produced 25 receptions for 274 yards, with his lone touchdown coming in the season opener vs the New York Giants. He had four or fewer receptions five times and his most productive game only produced 69 yards. However, last night against the Minnesota Vikings was a glimpse of how productive Cobb can be in this system.
Cobb finished with six receptions for 106 yards Sunday night. This was his first 100-yard game since Week 1 in 2018. Four of his catches went for 20 yards or more, five went for first downs and he scored his second touchdown of the season. Dak Prescott showed supreme confidence in looking for Cobb on crucial third-down situations.
That's exactly what Cobb can do for this offense. He provides another reliable threat in the Cowboys aerial assault. When Cobb plays at a high level it will only free up Cooper and Gallup to wreak havoc on the outside.
Last night's game was a perfect example of this. Cooper had 11 receptions for 147 yards and Gallup added four catches for 76 yards, each scoring touchdowns. It doesn't allow a defense to lock in on one receiver and take them completely out of the game.
Cobb playing well also has an impact on the running game. The better he plays the more defenses will have to focus on stopping himself, Cooper, and Gallup. What does that do? The Cowboys won't face as many eight or nine-man fronts which will give All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott the opportunity to wear down opposing defenses by playing ball control, which is the Cowboys bread and butter.
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come from Cobb as the playoff push heats up. If he can continue to build chemistry with Prescott it will only improve one of the NFL's best passing offenses while simultaneously increasing Elliott's ability to be effective by taking extra defenders away from the box. Will Cobb make this a regular occurrence for the rest of the season? Only time will tell.
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