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Film Room: How Can Cowboys Contain QB Aaron Rodgers?

Kevin Brady

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Aaron Rodgers, Packers

No current NFL quarterback has plagued the Dallas Cowboys like Aaron Rodgers. Starting in 2007 when Rodgers saw some of his first real NFL action at Texas Stadium in relief of an injured Brett Favre, he has done damage to the Cowboys defense just about every time.

Back in 2010, Rodgers ended the Wade Phillips era by demolishing a banged up Cowboys team 45-7. In 2014, he broke the hearts of Cowboys fans everywhere with key fourth quarter drives to put them away in the Divisional playoffs.

This year, the Cowboys are out for revenge. But in order to get said revenge, they must be able to stop the best, and hottest quarterback in the NFL right now.

What makes Rodgers so great, besides all of the obvious arm talent-traits, is his ability to buy time and extend plays. Time and time again a defense thinks they have contained him, gotten pressure on him, or covered all the receivers perfectly, only to see Rodgers escape the pocket and make a big play.

Even in defeat earlier this season, Rodgers still had success when moving both around and out of the pocket against the Cowboys.

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On this play, the Cowboys defensive line does a good job initially of closing the pocket from the inside, and getting pressure up the middle. Jack Crawford hits Packers right guard TJ Lang with a nice spin move, and splits the center and guard on his way to Rodgers.

On the outside, the Cowboys don't do a great job of beating the Packers tackles, who are very talented, but Tyrone Crawford does just enough to knock Rodgers off his initial landmark.

The problem is, by pressuring just one side of the quarterback, the Cowboys allow for Rodgers to create and escape to the other side. Once he gets around DeMarcus Lawrence, Rodgers is all by himself and presents both a running and passing threat.

By buying himself extra time, he allows for his receivers to work open and find holes in the Cowboys coverage. His escape-ability results in a big completion on this play.

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Last week in their Wild Card game against the New York Giants, the Packers started very slow offensively. Scoreless through most of the first half, it took a remarkable play by Rodgers to give Green Bay their first lead.

Here is that play. Once again we see Rodgers create time in the pocket, sliding behind his blockers without running into a sack. While his movement is impressive here, his ability to throw the receiver open is even more shocking.

There is absolutely no one open on this play. Not even after Rodgers creates extra time. But by delivering a dime to the wide-out where only he could come away with it, Rodgers gets the Packers on the board and takes back control of the game.

How Cowboys the can deal with Aaron Rodgers?

It's a fair question, and one that many in the national circuit seem to believe there isn't an answer to. But the Cowboys have dealt with Rodgers before, as recent as this very season. How did they do it? With great coverage, mostly.

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The Packers don't have much of a running game, and with the way the Cowboys play offense, you can expect to have a lead for much of the game. Given this, Dallas should be able to drop as many as seven or eight into coverage at times, and really focus on blanketing Green bay's receivers and leaving Rodgers with no options.

The problem which presents itself when you do this, though, is Rodgers' ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet. Third in the NFL in terms of quarterback rushing yards this season, Rodgers is a dual-threat player, even if he doesn't get mentioned with guys like Tyrod Taylor or even Dak Prescott often.

This is where keeping a spy on Rodgers is so important. Like you can see in the play above, the Cowboys drop seven into coverage, rush just three, and keep a linebacker as a spy. The Cowboys do a great job in coverage on the back end, but don't create much pressure up front. Recognizing that the quarterback is getting too much time, Justin Durant rushes the quarterback from depth, and comes up with a huge sack.

On obvious passing downs, this cover-1 spy look will be critical for the Cowboys if they are to be successful Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers presents a ton of problems for any defense, but with their personnel and scheme, I believe the Cowboys can make a few big stops and win this game on Sunday. Hopefully, I'll be right.



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 am currently a college student. Lets get going.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.

Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
  • CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable

The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.

Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.

Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.

Washington Redskins

  • WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
  • S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
  • RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
  • RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
  • G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
  • CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
  • CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable

It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.

Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.

Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.

In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.

Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.

Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.

Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.

David Moore on Twitter

Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.

Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.

The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.

Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.

Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.

Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.

Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.

He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.

If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.

Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.

Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.

That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They're Given Credit For
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.

But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.

According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.

Brian Burke on Twitter

Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.

What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.

For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.

As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.

Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.

Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).

Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.



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