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Game Notes

Grading The Game: Eagles 33, Cowboys 27

Tommy Simon

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Cowboys Blog - Grading The Game: Eagles 33, Cowboys 27

Heartbreaking. It seems like I have said something like this before. It seems really familiar. Too familiar. This feeling in my gut seems too familiar for my liking. As I sit here, I feel helpless, lost, and empty. I just do not know how I can shake it. Close, but never quite there.

What is a fan to do?

You live and die with your team. But it's hard not to transpose the disappointment with anger. The sadness to outrage. How can they let this happen? How can they do this to me!

Know the feeling? I am sure you do. It is hard not to succumb to resentment. But let’s let reason take hold and try to look at the game objectively. I watched for a second time (I still expected them to win in overtime the second time), I have looked at various plays, and I have read what the pundits have to say. I have heard Broaddus talk about how close the Cowboys rushers were and Garrett point out that the Boys continue to fight. So should I be optimistic after six losses? Should I really believe we are one player away?

Before I get into the grades, here are some general thoughts.

I do not care what excuses the pundits will use, the Cowboys pass rush just is not good. They are averaging 1.8 sacks a game. That is the same as last year. Over the last 3 games, they are getting a sack on 3.23% of plays, one of the lowest percentages in the NFL. Now I am not a genius, and I am not claiming I understand the minds of the Jones’, but I imagine they cannot be happy that they spent a wheel barrel full of money on a DE with major off the field baggage, another tractor full for an “elite” three technique, and used the last two second round draft picks on young “pass rushing” DEs (one which you gave up picks for), all to average the same amount of sacks per game as they did last year. So let’s not sugar coat it or talk about how close we were to getting to the QB, or spit out stats like how many QB hurries the defense had; the Boys are simply not getting to the QB or stripping the ball.

That is the real reason the Boys lost on Sunday night. Period.

And when your line is not getting to the QB, blitz. If your LBs can’t blitz (and McClain looks like he cannot), then get a LB who can. You have to generate a pass rush to win. Simple as that.

Can we get a turnover? I have never seen a stretch like this. .5 turnovers per game. Wow. I wonder what the record is. Has to be close to it. If the lack of pass rush lost the game, the lack of turnovers is losing the season. The Boys have to find a way to make a play. I really thought Jones would bring that dynamic, but even as well as he is playing, he has not come up with a single turnover (nor has Claiborne, nor Carr, nor Church).

The DL and LBs have to help too. But if you can’t get to a QB, you can’t strip the ball. If you need an example of how to do it, look at how Graham made the Boys All-Pro tackle (Smith) look silly and cause two strip sacks. Hopefully the Boys will study that tape and learn a few things.

What do the Cowboys do for conditioning exercises?

Why are they so tired in the fourth quarter?

This is the difference in losing the last six or going 3 and 3. I have never seen a team that regularly is so exhausted in the fourth quarter. If I am the Cowboys coaches, I have the team running sprint drills until they puke. Conditioning wins more games than most fans realize. This lack of conditioning is directly on the coaches and the Jones’. This country club culture will attract players, but it will lose you games as well.

The biggest thing the Boys miss on offense is Romo’s ability to spread the ball and hit 8 or 9 receivers. This game the only options were Dez, Witten, and Beasley (finally), with a couple of throws to Williams or Whitehead. The Boys have to find a way to get more people involved in the game.

Anytime Dez is working one-on-one throw him the ball. Don’t waste time looking at anyone else. Just go to him. Every time.

Now with that said, let's get to the grades.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks: Grade C+

I would have given Cassel a solid B, but the pick six was a killer. Although the terrible route by McFadden had as much to do with it as anything. But Cassel misread it and stared it down.

He made the biggest mistake a QB can make. He made up his mind who he was going to before he ever left the huddle. Should have had a better pre-read.

He was actually very lucky on the pass to Lucky too. You know the one. The one Dez saved him by out leaping everyone for the score. Yeah, that pass was ill advised but well executed. Dez saved him and gave the Boys a chance.

That said, Cassel finally realized that Beasley is the Boys number two receiver. Hopefully, he remembers next week against Tampa Bay. Overall, Cassel was able to get the ball down field most of the game, and he did his part to give the Cowboys a chance to win, so he gets a C+.

Running Back: Grade B

McFadden was good. The reason for giving him a B grade rather than an A was two blown blocking assignments and the terrible route on the pick six. On that route, McFadden has to drive the LB back into a back pedal before making his cut. That is fundamental football. As good as he was at running the ball, that play is the one that probably cost the Boys the game. It certainly was a big contributor to the loss.

McFadden's running was solid. He got tough yards, fell forward, was elusive at times, and made positive yards when he could have been tackled for a loss. Hard to ask for more than that.

Offensive Line: Grade C+

The O-line is hard to grade. If you grade on the run game, they probably deserve an A. But in the pass game they allowed 4 sacks and many hurries, so I would give them a D. If the Boys had won then I probably would give them a B-, but since they lost, I give them a C+.

I thought Smith struggled against Graham. It just wasn’t that he gave up the two strip sacks, but Graham had multiple plays where he disrupted the run game as well. Now Smith struggling is still pretty good. He certainly moved his side of the line on many positive runs.

I thought the rookie La'el Collins held his own against a pretty tough matchup. He did allow some penetration and missed a couple of stunts, but overall he was solid.

Free had a pretty good day. He looks to be getting healthier. He was a force in the run game both at the point of attack and on backside cutoffs. He has been the weak link a good portion of the year, but he seems to be getting back into form.

Frederick and Martin were consistent. For most of the night, they got movement on an interior line that is among the best in the league. They did lose some battles, but I would say they got the best of their matchups for most of the night.

Receivers: Grade B+

Dez isn’t back yet, you can tell he is not at 100%. He certainly is not in shape. But even saying all that, he is the best player on the field when he is on. It is good to have him back. When teams have to double him, they can’t double Witten, or play 9 in the box, or have an all-out blitz. He is a game changer just by being on the field.

It was good to finally have a QB who looks for Beasley. He can be a nightmare when teamed with Dez. Beasley is the Boys number two receiver (third if you count Witten as two) and he deserves more focus in the game plan.

I would give the receivers an A, but William’s hands are still a liability. He could have made a big play on the Cowboys second drive, but dropped a relatively easy, though contested, deep ball. If he catches that pass, the Boys probably get a field goal at the minimum. You just cannot trust a receiver who has to jump into the air and use his body rather than just reach up and catch with his hands. They did use him on a slant and a dig which is how to effectively use him. But his lack of hands really hurt the Boys.

I probably would have scored the receivers higher, but the Boys still have no imagination in how to use Whitehead. He is a weapon that is being poorly used. No reverse, no jet sweep, no screen, no drag, no toss sweep, no using him at RB and sending him on option routes, no imagination at all.

Tight End: Grade B

The blocking was really good. I said it last week, but it bears repeating. The run game got better when Hanna got healthy. Witten is just consistent and a leader.

This is a solid group, even with Escobar not being a factor. Speaking of Escobar, he is not giving enough effort on blocking. On one play there was a run to the left. Escobar was on the right and he exploded (I say that loosely) up and hit his man and just stopped. Meanwhile, McFadden was cutting back and would have had a nice hole, but Escobar’s man came over and met McFadden in the hole. Escobar was there, he just quit on the block. Had he continued with his block it might have been a big gain.

This was not a skill issue, it is an effort issue (or lack thereof).

 

Defense

Defensive Ends: Grade F

What can you say? It is one thing not to have a pass rush but entirely another to give up the edge too. Lawrence gave up the edge multiple times and he was ineffective as a pass rusher. He is getting caught inside way too much. He tries to jump inside the block and then back out before the runner gets there. On a couple of times this year, he has made big plays doing this. But unfortunately, the other 15 times have been big runs to the outside. You have to set an edge.

I really think Lawrence is a right end. I think he would be better there. He seemed quicker last year. I would recommend that that they try to switch Hardy and Lawrence. I think it would make them better against the run and probably would help improve the rush as well.

Hardy had one sack, so it is hard to complain about him. But he has not been dominant the last three weeks against makeshift lines. You would think he could have dominated the game against Lane Johnson, but it never materialized.

Mincey was a non-factor in the passing game, but he is strong against the run. Pretty much the same as all year.

There is nothing really to say; no rush, no edge, run lanes everywhere. Bad day all around. Calling out Lawrence. Be the player we all know you can be.

Defensive Tackles: Grade F

See comments above. No rush, run lanes up the gut, and the O-line dominated you in the fourth quarter. Called it tired, call it whatever, but the Eagles imposed their will on the D-line in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Linebackers: Grade D

The Boys LB play started off well. But it got worse as the game went on.

Lee got hurt. Next play big pass play on a swing and go. Picked on Hitchens until he left. Gachkar struggled against the pass but played the run well.

McClain had the worst game of the year. He seems to be fading not getting into shape. He was dead tired. He is one of the players if he is tired, you take out his heart. He wanted no part of the overtime. He had a chance to make a play on fourth and one, and he simply could not muster the energy to make a play. Really disappointed in the last couple of games from McClain. We can only hope he keeps his head in the game for the rest of the year. That and he gets into shape.

Overall, I could not give an F because they did make some plays, particularly in the first half.

Corners: Grade C

Who would have thought that the corners would be the stars of the defense? But they are the most consistent unit.

Claiborne’s holding penalty hurt, but I think the Eagles would have completed the pass but not for the tug. He has been the best corner for the Cowboys all year. He may not be a Neon Deon, but he is consistent and good. I just wish he could finish a play and get a pick.

Jones had a mixed day. He both played really well and made rookie mistakes by being overly aggressive. Overall, he is becoming a solid starter.

I thought Carr had a really good day in run support. His coverage skills have diminished, but he is a physical corner who can tackle when he needs to. Since DeMarcus Lawrence was giving up the edge all night, he needed to be.

Overall, not a bad day, not a good day, just steady.

Safeties: Grade F

Man was JJ bad. I mean he could not tackle anyone in the open field. On the long run on the Eagles first touchdown, JJ had the containment on the outside and completely whiffed on the play. He took a bad angle and never came close. The result was a long run that got a first and set up the touchdown. Same on the final touchdown. If he makes the stop the Cowboys may keep the Eagles to a field goal or maybe even come up with a big turnover. Instead, JJ takes a wrong angle and whiffs again. JJ is bad in coverage. He takes bad angles on deep balls. He takes bad angles when he is coming up to hit a receiver or runner in the open field. He is simply not a starting safety in this league. He is not making any impact plays or even positive plays and he's making a ton of negative ones. A change is needed.

After the game, JJ says he is going to work on taking the right angle so it does not happen again. Did he just realize in year three this was an issue? What about all the other times? Did he ignore them? Or did he learn from them too? Or is why didn’t he learn more accurate? He is a liability. I am not sure when the Boys will decide to make a change. Heath can at least tackle someone.

 

Special Teams

Cover Teams: Grade B

Good coverage all day

Return Teams: Grade A

Whitehead is a weapon. Hope the Boys will use him more.

Overall I would grade the offense as a B and the defense as a D. Most games, 27 points should be enough to win, but when you can’t rush the passer, have no turnovers, and you constantly give up the edge, you are not going to win many games.



Tommy Simon is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and sports enthusiast. He is currently CEO of TechBAA, an investor and board member of TPC Technical and CommunitesFIrst, and acting CFO for ALS Communities. In addition to investing and advising companies, Tommy is also a Sales Management coach and is working with companies as a Fractional CMO/CSO. Tommy is a life long football player, coach and Cowboy fan. He currently coaches and sponsors several 7 on 7 teams. He manages/coaches an adult flag football team that is the top team in Florida one of the highest ranked teams in the country. Tommy's hobbies include international travel, fantasy football, reading, and engaging in intelligent political discourse. He is married to a wonderful women for 18 years; which is the best thing he has ever accomplished. He has a dog that is the best dog ever. He also has 9 siblings and roughly 30 nieces and nephews. For more information about tommy, or to request him to speak, please contact him at info@techbaa.com

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2 Comments
  • Patrick bailey

    Agree with lawrence playing on wrong side glad someone else is seeing it. He and gregory are essentially the same position which means we need a LDE whether its mincey, hardy, russell or a future draft pick.

  • Patrick Bailey

    Agree with lawrence been saying it he and gregory are same position. Need new LDE more stout like hardy, mincey, maybe russell or irving or draft one.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Will McClay Breaks Down Cowboys Vision for New WR Amari Cooper 1

Just when all hope was lost, the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and surprised fans with a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Both on defense and offense, it was a game that showed us plenty of silver linings to be excited about. While a playoff run certainly remains pretty difficult to accomplish, at least the team isn't leaving without a fight.

The last Cowboys' victory came approximately a month ago, so it is with great pleasure that I share with you this week's edition of "Takeaway Tuesday!"

Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

Vander Esch Among Best Cowboys' Players

Just before last game, I wrote about how Leighton Vander Esch could be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Playing on Sunday Night Football (on national TV), the rookie helped his case a lot with 13 solo tackles and an interception.

Little by little, he's making sure the Cowboys know they can move on from frequently injured Sean Lee down the road. Vander Esch can play. Forget about him being an impressive rookie, he's currently one of the best players on this roster.

Scott Linehan Shouldn't be Off the Hook

As any Cowboys fan, I loved the win. There were quite a few things to like about the offense on Sunday, but there's no denying play calling could've been way better. As much as the Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt in a mediocre division, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan should remain on the hot seat.

Ezekiel Elliott took the Cowboys to the 5-yard line by leaping over a human at full speed and right after the Cowboys stopped using him on that drive. Against the Titans, the offense found itself on third and 16 twice and ran a running back screen pass. In Philadelphia, they were on third and 16 once and they ran a RB screen once again.

Dallas has left a lot of points on the field this year and in big part thanks to play calling. Linehan shouldn't be safe right now.

Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It

After two games wearing the Star, Cowboys Nation is feeling a lot better about trading a first rounder for Amari Cooper. On the field, he's proven to be an impact player. An impact that has been felt immediately, by the way. Out of 11 catches, Cooper has gotten the Cowboys' offense ten first downs.

Versus the Eagles, though, his impact is felt beyond his single stat line.

On Sunday Night, he accounted for six catches and 75 yards. He helped QB Dak Prescott get 270 yards through the air and most importantly, to spread the football.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

7 different Cowboys have a reception of at least 13 yards tonight.

That stat above is an underrated one. No wide receiver in next year's Draft would have the kind of impact Amari Cooper is having on this football team. In the long run, lots of people could be eating their words after heavily criticizing the Cowboys' trade for the two-times Pro Bowler wide receiver. Hopefully, that's the case.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It" 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

Cowboys Wide Receivers Now a Strength They Can Count On

John Williams

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Cowboys Wide Receivers Now a Strength They Can Count On

The Dallas Cowboys (4-5) came away with a big win over the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) on Sunday Night Football 27-20 and the wide receiver group had an excellent day. What once looked like a weakness for the Cowboys, now looks like a strength on \ offense. With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have four players that can hurt opposing defenses all over the field.

Since the Amari Cooper trade two weeks ago, the Cowboys wide receiver group has been better positioned moving forward to help Dak Prescott and the Cowboys move the football. With Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have really nice depth.

On Sunday Night Football each of the Cowboys top four receivers had a reception that went for more than 20 yards. They accounted for 11 of the team's 14 passing first downs. Of Quarterback Dak Prescott's 270 yards passing, wide receivers accounted for 186 or more than two-thirds of the passing yards. Explosive plays from the wide receivers was something that was lacking for much of the season, but they seem to be turning it on at the right time.

On Sunday night, they all had their moments in the Cowboys win.

Per Pro Football Reference, Cooper was the leading receiver on the team with six receptions on 10 targets for 75 yards. Five of those receptions went for first downs and he averaged 12.5 yards per reception.

Michael Gallup led the wide receiver group in snaps on Sunday and logged another nice game as he continues to assert himself during his rookie season. It may not have been as explosive as the three receptions for 83 yards that he put up against the Washington Redskins a few weeks ago, but he had possibly one of the plays of the game.

With the Dallas Cowboys attempting to extend their lead with under two minutes to play in the first half, they faced a 3rd and 15 from their own 35 yard line with 0:58 seconds left on the clock. Scott Linehan dials up a tunnel screen to Gallup who goes for 25 yards  helping to set up the touchdown just before half time. If Gallup doesn't make that play, with help from the blocking downfield, the Eagles get the ball back with enough time to tie the game or potentially take the lead. It was a huge play in the game to allow Dallas to go up by 10 at half time.

Cole Beasley's line wasn't flashy, but he was his typical efficient self, hauling in three receptions for first downs and making a play for 15 yards to get the Cowboys into the red zone after the Eagles had scored on the previous possession in the third quarter to make it 13-13. Beasley's catch helped the Cowboys answer the Eagles touchdown with a touchdown of their own to retake the lead 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Beasley finished the night with four receptions for 37 yards on five targets.

Down in the depth chart with limited snaps, but not at all forgotten is Allen Hurns. Hurns only had two catches (on two targets) for 40 yards on the night, but both catches set the Cowboys offense up with first and goal situations. With 0:40 seconds to play in the first half and the Cowboys looking at a second and nine, Dak Prescott hit Hurns on a deep out route for 17 yards to the Philadelphia Eagles' one yard line. Prescott hurried them to the line of scrimmage and then snuck the ball in for a touchdown to make it 13-3 at halftime. The second reception occurred with the Cowboys facing a third and eight on the game winning drive. Prescott found Hurns for a 23 yard catch and run that helped set up Ezekiel Elliott's game winning touchdown run.

They have four players that can hurt you at various levels of the defense. All four are good to great route runners who can create separation and find the soft spots in zone coverage. Their starters with Cooper, Beasley, and Gallup are a dynamic trio, but being able to bring a guy like Allen Hurns off the bench in sub packages is huge. He's had a thousand yard receiving season in the NFL and showed that he can still win his matchups when he's not required to be a team's WR1.

The move for Amari is proving to be an excellent trade for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the struggles last week in Tennessee, the Dallas Cowboys were able to move the ball through the air as Cooper opens everything up for everyone else on the offense. If you saw some of the windows he provided Dak, you see that Cooper literally makes everything easier.

The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of a bad secondary on Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles were missing three of their top defensive backs, but they also looked like a unit that is starting to find a groove offensively. For the Dallas Cowboys to continue their upward trajectory that hopefully ends with a playoff berth, the wide receivers are going to have to continue to make big plays down the field.If the last several weeks are any indication, more big plays are coming.

Get your popcorn ready. 



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys against Philadelphia

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys against Philadelphia
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys surprisingly pulled off the 27-20 upset over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night and in turn somehow keep their playoff hopes alive. They are now two games behind the Washington Redskins, but the NFC East title is still very much within reach if they can continue to play like they did against the Eagles.

The Cowboys looked like the team we've expected them to be from the start of the 2018 season. Yes there were still mistakes, but they were able to overcome those mishaps when they needed it the most. That's not something they've been able to very much of this season.

Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly aspects from the Dallas Cowboys game against the Philadelphia Eagles. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

The Good

Leighton Vander Esch

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

There were so many different directions I could've gone here for the Dallas Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles, but I ultimately decided that the good for me was Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's play. He is absolutely dominating and making everyone forget about the often injured Sean Lee.

Against the Eagles Sunday night, Vander Esch was all over the field and made his presence felt in a big way. He not only accumulated 13 total tackles, but also recorded his first career interception in the NFL. His play is one of the reasons the Cowboys defense continues to play like one of the better units in the league, even without Sean Lee in the lineup.

No one's doubting No. 55 as the Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick any longer. He is a stud and the scary thing is he will only continue to get better.

The Bad

Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys HC Jason Garrett

I hate to admit it, but I was secretly hoping the Philadelphia Eagles would blowout the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night so that hopefully it would convince Jerry Jones to end the Jason Garrett head-coaching era. So, the bad for me is that the Cowboys win likely means Garrett sticks around as the HC after this season.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me wanting the Cowboys to get blown out, I just didn't think they had much of a chance of beating the Eagles on the road with them coming off their bye week. I'm happy they won in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, but also disappointed Garrett may be sticking around.

I know many of you will agree with me, but I think it's time to find Jason Garrett's replacement. Unfortunately, this victory over the Eagles may delay Dallas' head coach search a little longer now.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm not going to beat around the bush here, I think the way the Dallas Cowboys offensive line and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott dominated the Philadelphia Eagles defensive front was absolutely ugly. The Eagles defensive line was supposed to be the strength of their team, but that certainly wasn't the case against the Cowboys.

Zeke accounted for two touchdowns (one on the ground and one through the air) Sunday night against the Eagles. He also rushed for 151 yards on just 19 carries and averaged an impressive 7.9 yards per carry. That's pretty impressive considering the Eagles were ranked second against the run in the league. But what's more impressive was the blocking No. 21 received from his offensive line.

The Cowboys deployed a beat up OL against the Eagles, but you wouldn't know that by the way they played. They were down one starter the entire game (Connor Williams) and played with two replacements for a while when Zack Martin was injured. They didn't make any excuses though and took it to the Eagles DL.

What was your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Eagles?



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