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.
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.
Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Dominate Jaguars Top-Ranked Defense
After watching the Houston Texans defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the Week 5, I decided to lower my expectations heading into this week's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After all, the Cowboys offense has been one of the worst in the league this season and they were going up against the top-ranked Jaguars defense. Boy was I surprised at what took place Sunday afternoon.
I don't know how you started off your football Sunday, but I decided to watch the Texans take on the Buffalo Bills. I didn't have much of a choice since I live in the Houston area and it was the only game on TV, but I still wanted to see how they played after beating my Cowboys in overtime a week prior. I was disgusted at what I saw and unfortunately took it out on my cold beverage.
The Texans looked nothing like the team we saw against the Cowboys. They were pretty much dominated by the Buffalo Bills, which I'm ashamed to say put me in a rather foul mood ahead of kickoff time in Dallas. I was expecting another sloppy performance, but what we all witnessed was anything but that.
The Dallas Cowboys offense pretty much moved the ball at will against the Jacksonville Jaguars top-ranked defense. I don't think anyone could have predicted that, especially considering the Jaguars were the best overall defense in the league and where the top-ranked in the passing game as well. I thought if the Cowboys were going to have any kind of chance it was against their 14th ranked run defense.
Well, the Cowboys ended up dominating on the offensive side of the ball and completely exploited the Jaguars defense both on the ground and through the air. Quarterback Dak Prescott, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, and Wide Receiver Cole Beasley all raised the level of their game and were big contributors to the 40 points the offense put on the board.
Prescott may have thrown for little less than 200 yards, but he was able to connect with Beasley nine times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. With all of the struggles in the passing game for the Cowboys, these two need to continue to connect like this.
Where Prescott was the most impactful against the Jaguars was with his feet. He was really close to being the Cowboys leading rusher with 82 yards and a TD on just 11 carries, but Zeke ended up surpassing him in the end with 106 yards and a TD on 24 carries. Regardless, the Jaguars defense didn't have an answer for Prescott's feet Sunday afternoon.
I have hope once again that this offense is clicking, but I've gone down this road once before. The Dallas Cowboys are still right in the mix of things in the NFC East division and will have a chance to distance themselves next week when they take on the Washington Redskins.
Now, here's the difficult part of all of this. The Cowboys now need to carry over this impressive offensive performance against the Jaguars into next week against the rival Redskins. We've all seen them riding on a high before this season, only to crash back down to earth the following week. They can't afford to do that with a division foe up next on the schedule.
What did you think about the Dallas Cowboys offense against the Jaguars?
DAL 40, JAX 7: Cowboys Answer The Bell In Dominant Win
It seems like a pattern is developing here during the 2018 Dallas Cowboys season.
For a team and an offense which has looked absolutely horrid on the road, the Cowboys appear to be one of the better teams in the conference when playing at home.
That trend continued today as the Cowboys dominated the now 3-3 Jacksonville Jaguars from start to finish, en route to a 40-7 home victory over last year's AFC semi-finalist.
Quarterback Dak Prescott had possibly his best game of the season, making up for his poor performance in Houston a week ago. While Prescott only threw for 183 yards on 17 completions, it was his 82 rushing yards on 11 carries which put this offense over the top. Plus, the Cowboys were in "kill the clock" mode for basically the entire second half.
The real story here was the offensive line, however. The o-line which has been heavily criticized by the fan base during the season, and has shouldered a heavy amount of the blame for the poor offensive production, finally stepped up and played to their standards this afternoon. Prescott had great pass protection all day, which was evident in his passing numbers and Cole Beasley's receiving performance.
Dallas is now 3-3 on the season, tied with the defending champ Eagles and a half game behind Washington for first place in the NFC East. Next week the Cowboys have a huge game in Washington with first place on the line.
- Cole Beasley proved once again why he's worthy of the pay day he'll get (probably somewhere else) this offseason. Beasley caught 9 balls for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns, dominating man coverage all game long.
- These linebackers are legit. Both Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were all over the field today, anchoring a group which was impressive yet again.
- Brett Maher simply can't miss, going 4 for 4 on field goal attempts including a 55 yarder in the second half.
- Ezekiel Elliott went over 100 yards rushing again this week, and it was somehow still a quiet day for him in the grand scheme of things.
- Byron Jones was the best cornerback on either team today, deflecting 3 passes and staying sticky to the Jacksonville wide outs all day. He's been incredible this season and Sunday's game was no different.
- Oh, and Randy Gregory sack alert! Party!
Cowboys Wishlist: Win The Turnover Battle
The Dallas Cowboys have a very difficult task ahead of them as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars and one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Inconsistency on offense has led the Cowboys to a 2-3 record and it seems like they will be playing catch-up for a while.
For now, they face yet another "must win" game. Can they get it done against Jalen Ramsey and company? It's certainly possible, but it won't be easy. Aside from desperately wishing they win this football game, I have a few other things written down on my Cowboys Wishlist... I hope you enjoy!
Wish #1: Convert a 4th & 1
Oh... too soon? I apologize.
In all seriousness, though, this will probably be a low scoring game just like last week's matchup against the Houston Texans. If it is, I don't doubt there will probably come a time when the Cowboys need to make a tough decision.
After being criticized all week long, Jason Garrett and the rest of the coaching staff must be aggressive. Falling to a 2-4 record would greatly complicate playoff hopes, even in a struggling NFC East. Since some people on this staff might be coaching for their jobs, they'll probably approach this game with a more aggressive tone.
Even if it means going for it in fourth and one hell of a long yard.
Wish #2: Dak Prescott Outplays Blake Bortles
Another guy who could be on the hot seat if his play doesn't improve is QB Dak Prescott. Two struggling offenses will take the field today and it'll be interesting to see which quarterback walks away victorious and with the better play on the field.
Dak Prescott is facing what could be the best cornerback duo in the league right now. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye will complicate things for the third-year signal caller and a group of wide receivers that haven't really stepped up.
Wish #3: Get 4+ Sacks
Last week, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to exploit a weak Texans' offensive line but didn't match those expectations. They get another shot at shining today, this time versus a banged up Jaguars' OL.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the fourth player with most sacks in 2018 and has a nice change of adding more to his name versus Blake Bortles. If this game is to be defined on defense rather than offense, then Dallas needs to get sacks... plenty of them.
Wish #4: Play David Irving More than 15 Snaps
Cowboys' DT David Irving is set to return to the field today, but we don't know exactly how much he'll be used. Coming from a four week suspension, Irving had something to say about his playing time.
Irving said the coaches want to play him 10-15 snaps Sunday. "That's what they say now but if it's a close game, I know good and well Marinelli is going to be sending me out there & putting me through the ringer. I'm ready for it.
I hope he's right. This would only mean that he's in shape and ready to play some real football, a sport in which, all off-field issues aside, the kid is pretty good at. We'll have to wait and see how much snaps he gets, but if the Cowboys want to pressure Bortles, #95 better be on the field just about every passing down.
Wish #5: Win The Turnover Battle
As it has been discussed all week, these offenses haven't played well through five weeks of the season. In a game as close as this one is expected to be, turnovers might be the name of the game. This is an area where the Cowboys' haven't shined very much, but they have what it takes to win this aspect of the game.
First of all, the offense takes care of the ball. even with four interceptions under his name, all of these have bounced off the hands or chests of wide receivers. Plus, the defense has proven to be efficient. If they are able to rush the passer, they could be able to force Bortles into making mistakes.
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