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Game Notes

Finding the Bright Side of an Ugly Dallas Cowboys Loss

John Williams



Sean's Scout: Defense Lags Behind In Blowout Loss At Broncos 1
Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post

Every team, on their way to greatness, runs into what the Dallas Cowboys did on Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos; an absolute beat down. Let's not forget the thumping that the New England Patriots dynasty took in week one to the Kansas City Chiefs. One game does not a season make. There are 14 more to go.

With the team riding high after an emphatic week one win over the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys played about as poorly as a team could play. The Denver Broncos thoroughly manhandled your hometown heroes to the tune of 42-17.

This team is still a good team. They just got walloped by a good team, on the road, in a stadium that is very difficult to play in.

There’s no other way to look at this one. They were whooped.

You're going to hear over the next few days all the things that went wrong. This site and others are going to be littered with how poorly this team played. If you look really hard, though, there are some positives to take away from this game.

Since I'm an eternal optimist, I'm going to dig those out for you.

It Can’t Get Much Worse.

I can’t imagine a scenario the rest of the season where the Dallas Cowboys can play any worse than they did on Sunday. That includes future matchups with the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, and Atlanta Falcons. This was their low point in the season. Better it come in week two than in round two of the playoffs.

The defense was torched, even before losing two of their top three corners.

Players missed tackles all over the place.

They made Trevor Siemian look like an upper-tier quarterback; which he looked like in a week one win against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The offense couldn’t ever sustain a rhythm.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was inaccurate.

The offensive line was manhandled -- not something I ever expected myself to write.

The play calling and the game plan were questionable.

Even when the game was close, it seemed like Ezekiel Elliott was an afterthought.

There were drops, one through the hands of Dez Bryant which led to a Chris Harris interception.

Brice Butler had his patented drop of the game.

It was just a horrible game through and through. But again, it can’t get much worse.

Looking on the Bright Side of an Ugly Dallas Cowboys Loss

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten #82, Denver Broncos S Will Parks #34 (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

The G.O.A.T. gonna G.O.A.T.

For all the talk about Jason Witten's age and possible retirement after the 2017 season (guilty, sorry Witt), Jason Witten continues to be one of the most important players on this team. His 10 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown show that he still has what it takes to be an elite tight end in the NFL.

During the game Jason Witten tied Marvin Harrison for fourth all-time in receptions. That is a pretty impressive feat.

Witten is on pace to catch 136 passes this season, which would be a career best for him. I find it unlikely he keeps his 8.5 receptions per game pace, but if teams continue to leave him open, he'll continue to feast.

He did have a bad drop and a false start that hurt a drive, but he's still a great player. As the season goes along, teams are going to have to work harder to take him away. Hopefully his play will open things up more for Dez Bryant on the outside.

DeMarcus Lawrence

I think it's safe to say that DeMarcus Lawrence has finally arrived. No longer injured or facing a suspension, Lawrence had an offseason to get healthy, to get in shape, and to work on his game.

And it's showing.

DeMarcus Lawrence built off of his strong week one showing to perform well again versus the Denver Broncos. Now with four sacks on the season, Lawrence is certainly working his way toward a big pay day.

For a guy who has had as much adversity as Tank has, it's exciting to watch the former second rounder come into his own.

His early season production is really important for the defensive line as a whole. It will only open things up more.

Cowboys Kicking Game is the best in the NFL

Between Dan "Split 'em" Bailey and "The Puntisher" Chris Jones, the Dallas Cowboys kicking game is the best kicker/punter combination in the NFL. And it’s probably not close.

Dan Bailey matched a career long with his 56-yard field goal at the end of the second half. At the time, it was a huge make, which made it an 11-point game going into halftime.

Punter Chris Jones continues to boom the ball and pin teams deep in their end of the field. After having a tremendous week putting the Giants inside their own 10 week one, he did so again in week two. Two of his five punts led to the Broncos starting drives inside their 20, with one at the 6.

No Offensive Injuries

While the defensive unit lost Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) to injuries, the Dallas Cowboys offense didn’t lose anyone.

Most importantly it didn’t lose its most important player; Dak Prescott.

There were several times during the game that Dak Prescott got hit and got hit hard. That he made it through the game relatively unscathed is a positive. Now he can rest and set his sights on Arizona.

Sean's Scout: Defense Lags Behind In Blowout Loss At Broncos 1

Denver Broncos QB Trevor Siemian #13 (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

Out of Conference Matchup

Every game matters and if it comes down to one game at the end of the season, they’ll wish they played better on Sunday. That being said, it has less of an impact than a division game or a conference game when it comes to tie breakers.

We can only hope that Denver puts a beat down on the rest of its NFC opponents so that the “common opponent” tiebreaker is a wash.

And a little Bonus Optimism for the Cowboys

  • Jaylon Smith played his second game, even though like the rest of the team, he played it poorly.
  • Orlando Scandrick is another week closer to being back.
  • Jourdan Lewis made his debut and had an interception. Let's not speak about the rest of his debut...
  • Chaz Green made it through the game uninjured.
  • Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott seemed to work well against a tough secondary.
  • Terrance Williams was solid, if unspectacular catching four of his five targets. So far with a catch rate of 83% on the season.

It's only week two. In 2016, we were at this same point after two games. 1-1.

We all remember what happened next.

Dallas Cowboys optimist brining factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Game Notes

#DALvsCIN: Bengals DL Gives Cowboys OL Formidable Test

Kevin Brady



The Star News - Bengals At Cowboys: ITS Staff Picks And Notes
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

During their preseason opener, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line faced its first test of the season. The young, athletic, and downright talented defensive line of the 49ers gave the Cowboys starting five a chance to gauge their offseason progress thus far.

I'd say the starting group passed the test, while the backups and depth players looked a bit more shaky. The good thing about football, though, is that they get a shot to do it all again this Saturday.

This week's opponent, the Cincinatti Bengals, feature some serious talent upfront. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best interior defenders in all of football, terrorizing centers and guards since he entered the league.Carl Lawson, Auburn

On the edge is one of my 2017 draft favorites, Carl Lawson. Lawson was a draft target of mine for the Cowboys, but it appears the entire league missed on the stud edge rusher during that draft. During his rookie season a year ago, Lawson racked up 8.5 sacks and looked like the best rookie rusher in all of football. It's rare that a rookie defensive end tallies the sack total that Lawson did in 2017, but then again, Lawson is a rare type of player.

Opposite of Carl Lawson is veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Together, Atkins and Dunlap have been one of the more dangerous pass rush duos for quite some time, but the additions of Lawson and Jordan Willis make them an incredibly impressive group.

During the Bengals' preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, their defensive line looked to be in midseason form.

Though Geno Atkins had the team's only sack, the trio of Atkins, Lawson, and Dunlap looked as prolific as ever.

This deep and talented defensive line is a more-than worthy test for the Cowboys this Saturday. Rookie Connor Williams will likely have to block Geno Atkins at some point, and though he looked promising against the 49ers, this week presents a whole different challenge.

Many now expect veteran center Travis Frederick to miss Saturday's game as well, due to his shoulder troubles during training camp. If Frederick were to miss the start, Joe Looney would be thrown into the first against this first team defensive front of the Bengals.

A rookie at left guard and Looney at center might not be the best ingredients against Geno Atkins and company, but it'll be what they have to roll with.

Still, Saturday will give us another chance to see what the 2018 Dallas Cowboys offensive line is all about.

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Game Notes

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady



Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

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Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

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Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

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On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

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

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.

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Game Notes

What We May Have Learned From the Cowboys Week 1 Preseason Loss

Brian Martin



5 Things We Might Have Learned From Cowboys Preseason Week 1

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately came out on the losing end of the battle in their first preseason contest against the San Francisco 49ers, despite pretty much dominating the majority of the game. The good news is it was just an exhibition game and means relatively nothing in regards to the upcoming 2018 season.

Last week was the first chance for a lot of us to see what this years Dallas Cowboys team could possibly look like. There was a lot of roster turnover this offseason, which means there were quite a few new faces on the field for the Cowboys Thursday night. But, I can't say that I was disappointed in what I saw, at least so far.

Now that I've had time to study and evaluate the Dallas Cowboys game against the 49ers, I wanted to share with all of you some of the things we may have learned. Up until this point we were left speculating about certain things, but I think the picture is much clearer now.

To keep myself from going overboard here, I decided to narrow it down to just five things I think we may have learned about the 2018 Dallas Cowboys last Thursday night. Continue to read below to see what they are.

✭ Rookie WR Michael Gallup the Real Deal✭

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

With so much unknown surrounding the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver position, it was really good to see rookie WR Michael Gallup play well against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night. Despite being a rookie, Gallup looked like the best WR on the field for either team. I don't believe I'm exaggerating the slightest either.

The highlight of the game might have been when he and Quarterback Dak Prescott were able to hook up on a 30 yard touchdown pass to close out the Cowboys first offensive series. Gallup might have scored a second TD later in the game if QB Cooper Rush's pass wouldn't have been under thrown. But, that's neither here nor there now. If Gallup continues to play like he did Thursday night, he could easily be the Cowboys top WR in 2018.

✭ Blake Jarwin Favorite to Replace Jason Witten✭

Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim

Dallas Cowboys TEs Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim

Geoff Swaim may have gotten the start and provided some good blocking Thursday night against the 49ers, but it was Blake Jarwin who may have ended up becoming the favorite to replace Jason Witten this season. Out of all of the options in the receiving game for the Dallas Cowboys, it was Jarwin who was on the receiving end of Dak Prescott's first pass of the game. And, if he hadn't had stepped out of bounds later in the game he would've found himself in the end zone.

Now, it's a little early in the process to claim Jarwin as the victor in the Cowboys TE competition, but he was able to carry over what he's been doing in practice into the game. That's no small feat to accomplish. I'm sure we'll see some of the other TEs on the roster receive opportunities to prove themselves, but for now, it's looking as if it could be Blake Jarwin's job to lose.

✭ Tavon Austin More Than a "Gadget" Player✭

Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon

Dallas Cowboys RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon Austin

When the Dallas Cowboys traded for Tavon Austin earlier in the offseason no one really knew exactly what kind of offensive role they had in mind for him. Since arriving in Dallas, Austin has been described as a "web-back", but that made things even more confusing because it sounded like a made up position. The only thing anybody really knew is that Austin has been mostly a "gadget" player since entering the NFL.

I know it was just Week 1 of the preseason, but if Thursday night was any indication of how the Cowboys plan to use Austin, then he will be more than a "gadget" player this season. Austin didn't line up in the backfield or receive any handoffs. He didn't even return any punts or kickoffs against the 49ers. The only thing he did do was lineup at WR and run routes. His role could change and expand later, but it looks as if he will be more involved offensively than we had originally thought.

✭ DE Taco Charlton Looks Much Improved in Year 2✭

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

The Dallas Cowboys defense may not have recorded a single quarterback sack Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers, but they did put consistent pressure on the opposing QBs. One of those pass rushers to consistently pressure the QB was the Cowboys second-year Defensive End Taco Charlton, who looks like an entirely different player this year. He was getting after the QB, making tackles, and deflecting passes.

Charlton is starting to look more and more like the first-round draft pick the Cowboys were hoping he would be last year. He looks bigger, stronger, faster, and more technique sound than he did a season ago, which should be good news for the pass rush this season. He also showed that his knowledge of the game has improved. Last season he would've been fooled by some of those bootlegs, but it doesn't look to be the case now.

✭LB Depth No Longer a Concern✭

Joe Thomas

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas

The Dallas Cowboys played the entire game against the 49ers Thursday night without Sean Lee, their best defensive player. Unfortunately, it may have provided a glimpse of what we could see at some point during the 2018 season since #50 has a problem of remaining healthy. The good news is, it looks like the Cowboys have covered themselves for such scenario.

Yes, all eyes were on Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch against the 49ers Thursday night, and rightfully so. Both players didn't do anything to disappoint, but it was the Cowboys free agent addition, Joe Thomas, who stole the show. Thomas was filling in for Sean Lee and did an outstanding job doing so. He was all over the field and even ended up getting an interception off a Kavon Frazier deflection. The way all the Cowboys LBs played should ease any concerns with the depth of the position heading into the 2018 season.

What stood out for you in the Dallas Cowboys game against the 49ers?

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