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Gaining Perspective On Cowboys Defensive Woes Against Falcons

RJ Ochoa

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Falcons

The other night I sat down and finally watched Jurassic World. I know that I'm not alone when I say that the first one legitimately terrifies me, but it was one of the more popular movies of the summer so I decided to give it a go.

I'm a simple dude so I settled in with a nice bowl of popcorn - a staple for any great movie. A few handfuls in I was really digging my movie snack, thinking that I'd made a great decision on what to munch on as dinosaurs feasted on humans, and about halfway through I was overwhelmed with dino-goodness and completely forgot that I had popcorn at my disposal. I was overwhelmed by the whoknowswhatasaurus and the popcorn went stale.

Much like the velociraptors did to me, the Atlanta Falcon offense overwhelmed the Cowboys defenders this past Sunday. Atlanta dropped 39 points on the scoreboard... the most that the Dallas Cowboys defense has allowed since letting the Chicago Bears score 45 during that infamous Monday Night Football game in 2013. I'm here to explain why we don't need to break the glass, press the panic, pass go and collect $200, or anything else. The word of the day is perspective and I've cooked you up a fresh serving of it. Sit down and have a bite... I promise we won't watch Jurassic World.

Down Goes The Defense

Expectations for the defense have been raised after the first two games of 2015, a shocking revelation given the way that side of the ball has played in recent history, and there were plenty of fans hoping that they'd carry the team in the absence of Tony Romo. While the '85 Bears didn't show up on Sunday, I don't believe that they were as bad as it seemed.

Let's remember now that the following players did not even put on a uniform for the Cowboys Defense this past Sunday:

  • Orlando Scandrick
  • Rolando McClain
  • Greg Hardy
  • Randy Gregory
  • Jeremy Mincey
  • Terrell McClain

Not to mention that both Sean Lee and Barry Church had their lips cut during the game and had to miss partial time to address those.

However you want to look at that... it's a lot. Those are some massive pieces missing - so let's keep perspective. The Atlanta offense, fully equipped with their stars, was held to just 17 points in the first half.

"Just 17 points? RJ... dude come on, that's a lot."

Yes it is, but let's again remember to keep perspective. Rod Marinelli's unit, held together by duct tape, forced punts on three out of Atlanta's first four drives. Had it not been for a Brandon Weeden interception, that gave Atlanta the ball at the Dallas 23-yard line, their first half performance would've likely been pretty impressive.

Defense Runs Out Of Gas

"What about the defense from the first two games? They looked fantastic! What happened?"

Let me break this down for you. I'm literally breakdancing at my keyboard. This is dangerous.

17 points in the first half, given that 7 of them were a semi fluke, against a Kyle Shanahan offense armed with Julio Jones is a victory in a lot of books around the NFL. Consider that the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants (both armed with more of their starting defensive units... unlike the Cowboys) surrendered 20 and 13 points to the Falcons in the first half of their respective games.


Time of possession is a huge indicator of who won football games in the National Football League. By now you undoubtedly know that Atlanta held the ball for 34:13 of the contest to the 25:47 maintained by the Cowboys. What you don't know is the second half breakdown of that. If you'll allow me I'd like to examine that closely.

In the second half alone, the Atlanta Falcons held the ball for 20:07... leaving just 9:53 for the Cowboys. The Falcons had the ball in the second half for more than DOUBLE the amount of time that the Cowboys did. Perspective:

Second Half Time of Possession from Week 1 victory over NYG - 15:11

Second Half Time of Possession from Week 2 victory @ PHI - 17:21

While there is ultimately no excuse for missed tackles, broken plays, or allowing Devonta Freeman to just run rampant... it's a little bit more understandable when you consider how exhausted this depleted unit was.

Perspective

The lesson of the day for class, and there will be a quiz on Sunday in New Orleans, is that the performance against the Atlanta Falcons is not the real 2015 Dallas Cowboys. This defense is definitely for real, but everyone has a breaking point and unfortunately they reached theirs during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons... after playing what I believe to be a very impressive first half all things considered.

That velociraptor Julio Jones? Here's how he has performed during each first half of the three games played this season.

Julio Jones 2015 1st Half Stats Targets Catches Yards Touchdowns
Week 1 - PHI 12 8 97 2
Week 2 - @ NYG 10 8 49 0
Week 3 - @ DAL 8 3 27 0

Morris Claiborne did that. He's having quite a start to 2015.

It's easy to deduce that when everything's going right that everyone plays well, and that's true. I'm just saying that the defense spent a majority of the second half, approximately 67%, on the field. The Falcons scored 22 points in the second half - 56% of their total for the game. Their sustained success came when they tired us out. That's an aberration so far this season and something that needs to be addressed from a total team perspective, not strictly a problem for the defense.

Have some patience with the Cowboys. Help is on the way.

You don't want to be hot at this time of year. You want to get hot in November and December... when the Cowboys will be at full strength. Have faith.


What perspective did you gain from the Falcons game? We want to hear your thoughts! Email me at rjochoa@insidethestar.com or Tweet @rjochoa.

Tell us what you think about "Gaining Perspective On Cowboys Defensive Woes Against Falcons" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!


I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Rookie Report: Which Cowboys Draft Picks Stood Out Against the 49ers?

In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.

Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot

Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.

If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.

Can WR Devin Smith Sneak Onto the Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster?

Dallas Cowboys WR Devin Smith (AP Photo / Josie Lepe)

Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting

The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.


His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.

Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again

Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.

While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.

Cowboys Need More From Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton 1

Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer

Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.

But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Game Notes

DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win

Kevin Brady

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Kerry Hyder

Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.

Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.

As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.

Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.

Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.


A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.

Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.

"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli

Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.

Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.


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Game Notes

#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup

Brian Martin

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#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he's no Longer Darrell Henderson's Backup

For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.

Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.

Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.

The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.


We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.

Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?

What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?


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