The 2018 Dallas Cowboys season seems to be on the brink of collapse, especially after the demoralizing overtime defeat they suffered at the hands of the Houston Texans on Sunday.
As much as Sunday hurt, and most of the Cowboys seem lost and broken, the linebackers have actually been arguably the best unit on the team. Rookie Leighton Vander Esch has been incredibly impressive, staking his early claim for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
I want to focus on former second round pick Jaylon Smith today, however. Smith, who suffered a horrific leg injury during his final collegiate game in January of 2016, finally looks healthy. He finally looks like himself on film, bursting from sideline to sideline and making touchdown saving tackles.
When you turn the film on from Sunday's loss you immediately appreciate what Jaylon Smith is doing. Smith had his best game as a pro last week, and it showed on each of his 12 combined tackles. Smith showed the burst and acceleration which we saw from him pre-injury at Notre Dame, working sideline to sideline to chase down the ever-elusive quarterback Deshaun Watson.
On one play in particular, Jaylon Smith hustled from his MIKE spot to meet Watson just shy of the goal line, knocking him out of bounds with a ferocious hit. This tackle came on fourth down and goal right before the first half as Houston was looking to take control of the night, and kept the Cowboys in the game for the time being.
During the draft process this year scouts and analysts constantly questioned if new Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was physical enough to defeat blockers at the professional level. He has been labeled a "run and chase" player, who may not love the physicality of the game. Of course, through the first five games of his career it's clear this isn't true, but Jaylon Smith could not be more opposite than this evaluation either.
Smith is not only fast and athletic enough to beat blockers to the spot, he is physical and strong enough to shed offensive lineman when they do meet at the point of attack. Once he beats those blocks he is also a sure-tackler, and proves why he should be the middle linebacker of the future in Dallas.
It remains fair to question the wait-and-see strategy a seemingly win-now Cowboys team took when they used a second round pick on the injured Jaylon Smith in 2016. But, now that he is healthy and absolutely balling, it's safe to say the Cowboys investment has paid off.
Let's hope he and Vander Esch can continue to grow together on the field for years to come.
#WASvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Despite each looking awful during their week five match up, both the Cowboys and Redskins bounced back in a huge way a week ago. Dallas now sits at 3-3, just a half game behind the 3-2 Washington Redskins for first place in the NFC East.
This is a massive week seven game between these two hated rivals, especially considering it appears the Philadelphia Eagles are starting to hit their stride.
The winner of this game will be in a very favorable spot heading into the second half of the 2018 season, as they each look to steal this division from the Eagles' hands.
Cowboys +1.5, O/U 41.5 Points.
Through the first five weeks of the season it seemed clear the Cowboys offense was broken, specifically through the air. And entering their sixth game on the year, this time against the league's best defense, it was hard to imagine them putting up many points at all.
Then football happened. And, somehow, the Cowboys dominated the Jaguars defense all game long, to the tune of a 40-7 victory.
The win helped the Cowboys keep pace in the NFC East, as both Washington and Philadelphia got their third wins of the season as well. Those three teams may be in a fight the entire season, and these division games are very meaningful.
A victory on Sunday would put the Cowboys in a fantastic spot moving forward.
Are the Redskins good? Honestly, it's hard to say. Before the season I predicted they'd be in second place in the East, and a possible wild card contender. Through their first five games I'd say that prediction looks solid, but they also got destroyed by the Saints just two weeks ago.
This whole division is wonky and that's probably how it will continue to be. Washington has talented players though, and could give the Cowboys offense some issues on Sunday.
Alex Smith and company looked very impressive in their week six victory over Carolina, but like the Cowboys this team has been up and down all season. It's impossible to peg how they'll play on a given Sunday.
- The Cowboys are 5-2 against the spread their last 7 games against Washington.
- The score total has gone over the last 5 Cowboys/Redskins games.
- Washington is 5-1 their last 6 games at home.
- The Cowboys haven't won a road game all season. (I just wanted to throw that in).
This is a really tough one to call.
Are the Cowboys going to score 40 points again? Probably not, but then again the Jags defense is much more talented than the Redskins. Are the Cowboys ever going to win a road game? I mean, eventually, but why should we believe this is the week?
I don't think anyone should bet on this game, and there's really no value in the line either way. But taking over 41.5 points might be your best bet, especially considering that both match ups between these teams would've hit that over last season.
I could see a 23-20 final score, which would hit the over of just 41.5 points.
Takeaway Tuesday: Cole Beasley is Your Interim WR1
Watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7 was undoubtedly fun for Cowboys Nation. There were not many positive expectations for the Cowboys heading into this game but both the defense and offense put on impressive performances at home in an attempt to remain serious contenders within the NFC East.
We learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday as they beat one of the top defenses in the NFL. Let's talk about in this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!
Cole Beasley Is Your Interim WR1
The Cowboys have yet to find their #1 wide receiver, but Cole Beasley is making a serious statement looking like the most reliable target in Dallas. Being 5'8 and a slot receiver doesn't really help Beasley's case to be the #1 guy, but he's making plays.
Last Sunday, he was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one catch. The other player with more than one reception was Geoff Swaim, who only got his hands on the ball twice. Beasley finished the day with nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdown catches. The Cowboys need other WRs to step up but in the meantime, let Beasley put the sauce on opposing defenses. Hopefully he continues to hurt defenses like he did versus the Jaguars' feared secondary.
The team still needs a guy who can be a consistent threat on the outside, though. Third-round rookie Michael Gallup could develop into that, but he isn't there yet. We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, it's all Beasley.
Bright Future for the Defensive Line
Blake Bortles was sacked three times by the so-called "Hot Boyz" last weekend. To be quite honest, the future for this defensive line looks brightest than it ever has. The return of Maliek Collins and David Irving to the field were desperately needed for this defense to take the next step. Collins and Irving were somewhat limited, but their snap counts will surely increase as the season continues.
A lot of little details went into this sack from Maliek Collins. From his alignment pre-snap to his timing on the spin, it was a beautiful display of rushing the passer by @SavageSevv. https://t.co/CYcfLH6AfB
Randy Gregory also got limited snaps versus the Jaguars, but he was able to make an impact either way. He finished the day with one sack, two hits and one QB hurry. I can't wait until these guys' snaps increase. This should be a very scary unit for opposing quarterbacks.
Dak Prescott's Stats Don't Reflect His Performance
The Jaguars are the best defense this team has faced and yet it's been the offense's best performance. Dak Prescott's passing stats may not look great, but his play was. Even though he failed to cross the 200 yard mark on the air, he rushed for 82 yards and kept Jacksonville's defense honest. Dak has faced a lot of criticism this year and will likely continue to do so.
Even still, we've seen him ball out on various occasions now. Dak can play. He may not be an elite passer, in fact he's far from being that, but he can make this offense work if they play to his strengths.
We've heard players talk about "turning the corner" in Dallas. Cowboys Nation should hope that is the case. What's more frustrating than watching an offense being unable to move the chains and score touchdowns, is knowing they could do it with a better execution and play-calling. Thanks to players like Dak, Ezekiel Elliott and Cole Beasley, there's a silver lining for the Cowboys' offense.
Inconsistency is the Problem for Cowboys
Simply put, this is not the team we had witnessed in the first five weeks of the season. Even in the two prior wins this year, the Dallas Cowboys had not looked dominant at all. Specifically the offense. They hadn't faced a defense as tough as the Jaguars', but they were able to drop 40 on them. Now granted, they did it with the help of the defense, but still. We hadn't seen this version of the Cowboys.
Even with a 40-7 win over the Jaguars, it is tough to imagine Dallas will keep this up as the season continues. Hopefully, they do and I'm wrong about this. They need to be more consistent if they want to end up surprising the NFC East and walk away with the division title.
Although they got the big win, they still left points on the field and fail to execute for touchdowns in the second half. Even when the defense forced turnovers. In close games, this cost you wins in the NFL. The Cowboys can't afford to lose many more games, even in a weak division.
CB Jourdan Lewis Finally Looks Himself In Cowboys’ Blowout Win
The Cowboys' up and down start to 2018 has been full of both positives and negatives, but the one player everyone can agree on and be excited about has been Byron Jones. And, overall, the one position group Cowboys fans have been excited about through six week are the cornerbacks.
Heading into the preseason, fans could not wait to see Jones and Chidobe Awuzie on the outside, with Jourdan Lewis patrolling the slot. It was Anthony Brown, however, who won that slot cornerback role during training camp, and through the first few weeks of the season Jourdan Lewis was nowhere to be found on defense.
Due to an ankle injury which sidelined Chidobe Awuzie for Sunday's game, Lewis finally got his shot to shine. Playing primarily on the boundary as the outside cornerback in Awuzie's absence, Jourdan Lewis looked like his rookie year self against the Jaguars.
Though Lewis was not credited with a pass defense during the game, he did make two tackles, and remained disciplined in coverage all afternoon. Jourdan Lewis also made a fantastic play on the first third down of the game, breaking on the receiver and joining forces with Byron Jones to force the Jags' first 3 and out.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Lewis also recovered a fumble forced by linebacker Jaylon Smith, making his impact felt throughout the game.
Another area where Jourdan Lewis excelled on Sunday was as a blitzer. The Cowboys have been more apt to blitz on third downs with Kris Richard calling the shots these days, and Lewis (like Awuzie) provides value as a blitzing defensive back.
It's unclear what the Cowboys' plan will be for Jourdan Lewis moving forward. He's too talented to simply waste away on the bench, but he is at his best as an outside cornerback, where the Cowboys currently have two starters that better fit Richard's mold.
While Awuzie is injured Lewis can provide a more-than-adequate fill in, but you have to wonder if they can develop him into a slot cornerback to replace Anthony Brown in the future. Plus, Brown has had a nice bounce back season thus far himself.
The Cowboys suddenly have a surplus of talented young cornerbacks on their roster. Hopefully competition will bring out the best in all four players, including Jourdan Lewis.
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