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Film Room: How Packers Exploited Cowboys On The Ground

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: How Packers Exploited Cowboys On The Ground
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2017 season, we all knew what the Dallas Cowboys were. They were (and are) a team which must rely on an efficient, ball control offense in order to win games and keep their sub-par defense off the field as much as possible.

Simple enough, right?

Largely due to the lack of offensive efficiency, and some injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the 2017 Cowboys have underachieved. They haven't underachieved where we thought they would, though.

Last season the Cowboys were near the top of the league in terms of rush yards against. Of course, this isn't the best way to truly measure a defense's effectiveness, but it was a fact nonetheless. So far this season the Cowboys have allowed 590 rushing yards through five games, ranking 20th in the league.

There are a lot of reasons for these defensive struggles against the run. Up the middle, the loss of defensive tackle Terrell McClain has proved vital, as Stephen Paea has been getting driven off the ball a ton, clouding the linebackers' reads.

Those same linebackers have also been, well, bad. Jaylon Smith doesn't look himself, Kyle Wilber and Justin Durant haven't really impressed, and without Anthony Hitchens or Sean Lee the past two weeks, this unit has really struggled.

Last Sunday, the Green Bay Packers gashed the Cowboys off tackle on more than one occasion. So, I decided to break down the film to see why this defense is giving up so many long runs off the edge.

dalvsgb run d - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On the opening drive of the game, the Packers came out and immediately tested the right side of the Cowboys' defense. Using a pin and pull technique, the tight end down blocks on Tyrone Crawford as the left tackle pulls around.

Kyle Wilber operates as the SAM on this play. Taking a false read, Wilber undercuts the down block and allows Aaron Jones a clear path to the outside. When your SAM and your defensive end both lose contain, the play is going to look a lot like this.

Crawford has struggled a lot this year in these situations. He simply cannot get blocked so cleanly by tight ends if he is going to be an effective run defender. Crawford is primarily out there to play the run, but if teams are going to continue to abuse the edge like this, a change will need to be made.

dalvsgb run d 2 - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Here is an example of Aaron Jones utilizing his vision to beat the Cowboys defense. But, still, the Cowboys are at fault here as well.

The Packers are trying to run right between the left guard and tackle. This is a pretty basic "Power" play, with the tackle and tight end doubling to the second level, the playside guard blocking down, and the backside guard pulling through.

Reading the offensive line, all three linebackers try to fill the hole which has been created. Also trying to close the hole is Crawford, who attempts to rip down a gap later on in the play.

With Kyle Wilber and Tyrone Crawford committing inside to the b-gap so early, Jones is able to cut outside and find clear running room. Then, Byron Jones takes a poor angle, and Aaron Jones is off to a big gain.

dalvsgb run d 4 - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Let's watch an example of the Cowboys correctly defending the edge against the run.

Once again the Packers go with a pin and pull technique on the playside. They also pull the playside guard. Taco Charlton is at right defensive end here, and he does a nice job of shedding the tight end and keeping his outside shoulder clean.

Because he wins against the tight end, the pulling guard must work back inside and seal Charlton. Kyle Wilber also scrapes to the outside instead of getting caught inside the tight end. Although the other blocks are made, the Cowboys are now left with Orlando Scandrick one-on-one with the running back.

This just comes down to making a great individual effort, which is exactly what Scandrick does on this particular play.

The Cowboys defense has not been good enough against the run or the pass, but after watching the film, I'm convinced some of it can be fixed by current personnel. By getting Sean Lee back, and hopefully seeing less of Tyrone Crawford at RDE, the Cowboys can get their defense back in the right direction.



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 have been with ITS since 2016.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Cowboysdude

    October 11, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Seriously? Like it was hard to expose that team? They have a puppet for a HC and the GM is a joke…. it’s not a team….. it’s a punchline.

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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