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Knowing the Enemy: 49ers Players Cowboys Defense Must Contain

Brian Martin

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Knowing the Enemy: 49ers Players Cowboys Defense Must Contain

Football is finally back! The Dallas Cowboys will be taking on the San Francisco 49ers tonight in the first of four preseason games. For many it may be a meaningless game, but for the 49ers and Cowboys it's a chance to prepare and evaluate for the upcoming 2018 season.

Since this is just Week 1 of the preseason, don't expect to see any of the starters play much for either team. That means we will see a lot of the players on the bubble receive quite a bit of playing time in this contest. That's okay, because it's the first chance a lot of us will have to see some of these players in action for the first time.

Today, I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of identifying some of the  Dallas Cowboys players to watch tonight, I wanted to flip things around and take a look at a relatively unknown 49ers team. Sometimes, knowing the enemy is the key to success.

Please continue to read below to see a few of the San Francisco 49ers players I believe could possibly cause some problems for the Dallas Cowboys defense. Containing them could be the key to victory.

OT Mike McGlinchey

Mike McGlinchey

San Francisco 49ers OT Mike McGlinchey

The 49er starters likely won't see a lot of playing time, much like Dallas', but rookies are sometimes the exception to the rule. As such, San Francisco may choose to allow McGlinchey to remain in the game after several of their other starters are pulled in order for him to get up to speed as quickly as possible. The more game experience he receives could help him be better prepared for the season.

McGlinchey was one of the top offensive tackles in the 2018 draft class. He may not be on the same level as Tyron Smith or La'el Collins, but he should still challenge the Cowboys pass rushers. If any of Dallas' defensive ends are able to put McGlinchey on his heels and give him trouble, it would go a long way in helping earn a roster spot when cuts are made.

RB Matt Breida

Matt Breida

San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Matt Breida was a pleasant surprise for the 49ers last season. The undrafted rookie free agent ended up having a pretty spectacular rookie season, accumulating 645 total yards and amassing an impressive 4.4 yards per attempt, mostly while spelling then starter Carlos Hyde. Despite his success, he could see quite a bit of playing time against the Dallas Cowboys tonight.

The 49ers signed former Minnesota Vikings Running Back, Jerick McKinnon, to a lucrative contract during the offseason, which means he is likely the lead dog in 2018. This means he probably won't see much playing time against the Cowboys, leaving Breida as the workhorse RB tonight. His footwork and ability to cut on a dime should be a challenge for the Cowboys defenders.

WR Dante Pettis

Dante Pettis

San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Dante Pettis is someone the Dallas Cowboys showed an interest in during the draft process coming out of Washington this year, but he ended up going to the 49ers in the second round instead. Word is, Pettis has been quite impressive during offseason practices with the 49ers and has made their defensive backs look pretty silly at times. Expect to see him utilized all over the field against the Cowboys.

This could be a pretty good challenge for several of the Dallas Cowboys younger cornerbacks. Pettis has a quick release off the line and has the ability to separate at any level on the field due to his precise route running. He will likely see plenty of single coverage from the Cowboys CBs, causing them to carry him all of the field. This could be a good test for them early on in the process, which could help with evaluations down the road.

RB Joe Williams

Joe Williams

San Francisco 49ers RB Joe Williams

Despite both being rookies last year, Joe Williams was clearly outshined by Matt Breida in 2017. Williams may be the more talented of the two, but ball security issues plagued him a season ago and likely led to his decreased playtime as the season progressed. However, that doesn't take away from what kind off threat he can be on the field.

Williams is a threat to score from anywhere on the field whenever he has the ball in his hands. He possesses game breaking speed, which could put quite a bit of pressure on the Cowboys defenders in both the running and receiving game. Williams could see the most playing time out of all of the 49ers RBs, and containing him could end up being the biggest challenge for Dallas'defense.

WR Richie James

Richie James

San Francisco 49ers WR Richie James (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Richie James was actually one of my favorite players to study in the 2018 draft class coming out of Middle Tennessee State. He is an exciting player to evaluate due to his ability to make something happen anytime the ball is in his hands. So, it was no surprise to me to find out he has been pretty impressive so far with the 49ers in training camp.

Being just 5'9", James is primarily going to be a slot receiver with the 49ers. It's a position he should excel at due to his short area quickness and ability to run pro-ready routes. This could be a huge challenge for the Cowboys CBs, especially the ones who aren't used to playing the slot. It wouldn't be all that surprising if he has a big game if not contained.

Will any of these 49ers players give the Dallas Cowboys defense any problems?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

Game Notes

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

Brian Martin

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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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Game Notes

LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco

Kevin Brady

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LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into last night's preseason opener Cowboys fans had their minds on three linebackers: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. Of course, they were right to focus on those three. They are the three most talented linebackers on the roster, and each were taken within the first two rounds of their respective drafts.

During the game against the San Francisco 49ers, however, an under-the-radar linebacker stole the show for the Dallas Cowboys. If you were watching you know that linebacker is Joe Thomas. With Sean Lee out Joe Thomas got a chance to play with the first team defense, and boy did he take advantage of that opportunity.

Joe Thomas finished his night with five tackles, one TFL, and an interception on the play below. Thomas was relentless in pursuit, flying all over the field and keeping himself near the ball at all times. This relentlessness put him in position to capitalize on Kavon Frazier's pass deflection, and come away with the pick.

Multiple times during the first half Joe Thomas made everyone in Cowboys Nation ask "who is that!?" And in the preseason, that's at the top of the to-do list of every lesser-known player.

NFL on Twitter

On the very next play... PICKED. #DALvsSF https://t.co/X62FGTNpKV

Over the last few seasons the Cowboys have severely lacked depth at the linebacker position. When starting WILL Sean Lee is out, which happens quite frequently, the entire unit seems to fall apart. Their attempts at bargain shopping at linebacker, or snagging mid-round depth in the draft, hasn't necessarily worked all that well.

Adding Leighton Vander Esch during the 2018 draft was a step towards building the linebackers as a complete unit, but Joe Thomas' performance last night adds even more stability.

No, Thomas isn't going to take a starting role from Sean Lee, but he does add quality depth behind what are high profile linebackers. Jaylon Smith looked better and healthier last night than he has during his entire time as a Dallas Cowboy, Vander Esch looked like an athletic freak at times, and Sean Lee is still Sean Lee.

If Joe Thomas is going to show up like he did against the 49ers on a nightly basis, the Cowboys suddenly possess one of the deeper front sevens in all of football.



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers
(Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys first game of 2018 is in the books. Although it goes as a loss on the scoreboard, last night was a win for the Cowboys in the important areas. Above all else, the team avoided any major injuries, and navigated Quarterback Dak Prescott through his first scoring drive.

There's plenty for the Cowboys to like about what they left on the field in San Francisco before returning to Oxnard, as well as plenty of room for improvement. Here is my first official Sean's Scout of the season, on some takeaways from the Cowboys performance against the 49ers.

  • Great block from Tight End Dalton Schultz to seal the corner for Rod Smith's first run of 15 yards.

The rookie was able to come off the ball with good explosiveness, using his quick hands to sustain the block downfield. This relentless blocking ability is Schultz's best trait, and if he can continue to show it off on the second and third level of the defense, he's going to earn snaps in this offense.

  • Dak Prescott continues to be a "gamer", finding rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup for a 30-yard touchdown on the Cowboys first drive.

Prescott had been struggling to connect on deep passes like this one in practice. As we know about the Cowboys third-year starter though, Prescott continues to be better in real game situations. The protection was perfect for Prescott to deliver this ball to Gallup, but his small window of opportunity to do so didn't allow Dak to step up in the pocket.

The throw was still perfect to Gallup, who uncovered right as he ran under the scoring pass -- his first of what the Cowboys can expect to be many more receptions this season.

  • Jaylon Smith's first signature "swipe play" of the game was really set up by Linebackers Joe Thomas and Damien Wilson.

Take nothing away from Smith, who looked fantastic running around last night, but the Cowboys got everything they could ask for out of their veteran linebackers in this game too.

As a defense, the Cowboys excelled at containing the edge all night long. On this play it was Wilson motioning down from his SAM position before the snap to do just that. Joe Thomas also stayed home to meet the runner in the hole and Smith was there to finish off the play.

Later in the same drive, on a third and long, Smith carried a 49ers tight end down the seam to force the ball underneath. The Cowboys got off the field, and it was an even better sign seeing Smith plant and flip his hips in coverage.

  • I really wish we got to see Defensive End Taco Charlton at LDE since the start of his rookie season.

The Michigan product always projected best as a left end. Drafting for need at 19th overall though, the Cowboys felt the need to try Charlton at right end at the start of 2017. This was a less than ideal position for him to begin his career, and it made his strong push at the end of the season from the left side even more impressive.

Above all else, Charlton looked like he had a plan for every rush off the strong side in this game. With Taco off one edge and Tyrone Crawford on the other, the Cowboys deep defensive line has a chance to be great against the run.

Charlton looked much more comfortable turning the corner and avoiding blocks with quick change of direction ability, which led to him being in the quarterback's face multiple times.

Sean's Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas, S Kavon Frazier (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

  • That's a perfect angle from Kavon Frazier on the blitz to tip a pass that was intercepted by Joe Thomas.

I already mentioned the Cowboys ability to play contain defense very well, and this was an area that Frazier brought some juice to. Reading the eyes of the QB on this pass play, Frazier avoided a low block to time his run and leap for the ball.

If Beathard held onto the ball for another second, he likely would have been sacked by rookie Defensive End Dorance Armstrong, who also did a nice job collapsing on the play. Instead, his pass resulted in one of two turnovers Dallas came up with last night -- both on deflected balls.

  • Nice job by Blake Jarwin to look back for the ball as he converted a third down in the red zone to set up a Bo Scarbrough touchdown.

Jarwin ran wide open on the wheel route underneath. It would have been easy for him to continue the route up the field into the end zone. With Cooper Rush needing to throw the ball under pressure, Jarwin turned back at the perfect time and presented his quarterback with a big target.

Jarwin's athleticism and size really stands out at TE, catching this pass easily and turning up field to move the chains.

This drive ended with Bo Scarbrough crossing the goal line from one yard out, pushing behind rookie Left Guard Connor Williams. Though it was nice to see Scarbrough score in a short yardage situation, I thought Rod Smith had the much better overall game, and is nearly a lock to be this team's second running back.

I don't know how far Scarbrough has to rise up the depth chart to make the Cowboys roster, but spots behind Ezekiel Elliott and Smith should be at a premium given both backs completeness.

  • Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has to absolutely love Defensive Tackle Brian Price running down a screen pass to knock Ricky James out of bounds.

The Cowboys play caller on defense is all about effort from his defensive line, and there's no better example of this than Price's effort here. Playing without a true 3T in David Irving's absence to start the season, the Cowboys are more than prepared to still hold up at defensive tackle thanks to their depth at 1T.

Collectively, this group has the size and range to hold up on the interior for Dallas. Brian Price -- whose first season was cut short due to injury last year -- deserves a chance to start at 1T over Richard Ash and Antwaun Woods.

Ash did push the pocket with a spin move that put him in position to tip a pass that was intercepted by Cornerback Duke Thomas in the fourth quarter.

Not only is Price hard to move off the spot, but he is freakish in his pursuit of the football once disengaging. As the 49ers failed to get a seal on Price for this screen play, the 318 pound DT flew to the sideline and made the play 21 yards downfield.

San Francisco would score their first points of the game on this drive, but that shouldn't matter when the team reviews the tape to see Price's effort.

  • Lance Lenoir's awareness in a tight space set up his touchdown reception from Rush.

We've said all along that a talented wide receiver is going to miss the Cowboys final cut, and Lance Lenoir continues to do everything he can to assure it won't be him. Not on the active roster in 2017, Lenoir did show enough as an undrafted rookie to stick around on the practice squad, and has shown significant improvement this year.

Lenoir is the type of route running technician that Sanjay Lal is looking for. With his defender planted in the back of the end zone at the stem of his route, Lenoir knew he would have little room to work with in selling the route to the inside before breaking out.

It was a violent and quick move from Lenoir that gave him some separation towards the sideline, gathering himself to tap both feet in bounds and score. It's hard not to be impressed with the way Lenoir shows up and competes every day at training camp, and it was great for the whole Cowboys offense to see his efforts rewarded with a touchdown.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys will return to Oxnard to prepare for the second week of the preseason now. A home game at AT&T Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals awaits them - another opportunity for the players fighting to make this team to prove themselves.

The Cowboys should be impressed by their depth at OL, TE, and DL based on this performance against the 49ers. Having depth in the trenches has gone a long way for this team before, as competitions for playing time are sure to heat up this week.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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