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Game Notes

Less Than Stellar Side of Sunday: Texans vs. Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - Less Than Stellar Side of Sunday: Texans vs. Cowboys

Contrary to last week's dissection of a win against the Saints, the less than stellar side of this Sunday with the Cowboys hosting the Texans was fairly easy to discern, for even the most casual of fans.  Clearly, losing the turnover battle stands out above all other blemishes on the Cowboys performance; in the NFL teams are rarely able to out-execute being placed behind that brand of 8 ball.  But these Cowboys did it, once again showing fight to stay in the game and walk away with the win.

But there were several other issues throughout the game that - despite the win - raise serious questions about the Cowboys' ability to sustain their current win streak.

As has been harped on throughout the season, the mistakes the Cowboys made Sunday cannot continue if they have any postseason aspirations.  From the not-so-Special Teams play to the late-game disappearance of defensive intensity to clock-management issues garnering a delay of game penalty following a time-out, the Cowboys will have yet another hard day watching film, even though they were able to pull out the win in the end.

Yet over all of the aforementioned issues, the one issue surfacing following the game that concerns me the most is the re-injury of Rolando McClain.  Less his addition in the off-season, if we are being honest, these Cowboys would have been exactly what we thought they were – a sub par to horrible defense.  Once thought a long shot to even make the final 53, Rolando is slowly proving to be the most valuable cog in the defense.

Beyond his ideal physical prowess and attributes, he has incredible instincts to sniff out the ball and attack with violent and precise tackles.  Below the surface of that ability, and yet not lost on the esteem of his teammates, he has emerged as a quiet-spoken lead-by-example captain of the defense.  He is not a loud trash talker, like you might expect given his sordid legal issues in the past, but he certainly carries a big stick that opposing offenses must respect.  And his play is infectious; his intangibles may actually outweigh his visible contributions.  The less than stellar side of this is if he is unable to play, his impact will be felt far beyond his individual performance as it seemed to be late in the game versus the Texans.

Romdini's latest act

Romdini, who has now been discussed ad nauseam, once again made an appearance with a spectacular reverse-pivot spin out of a would-be sack by none other than JJ Watt and throwing a perfect bomb to Terrance Williams for a touchdown.  Unfortunately, with Romo one must accept the good with the bad and understand for every brilliant and magical play, he will from time to time force an ill-advised pass.

My understanding of Romo’s nature aside, against teams such as Seattle, those types of mistakes cannot happen because Russell Wilson does not make those types of mistakes very often.  Call him a bus driver who lucked into being surrounded by a great team and head coach all you like, his strongest attribute above and beyond his ability to throw and run is his tendency to make good to great decisions with the football.  While I understand Romo has had a very different situation here in Dallas, I unfortunately cannot say the same about him.  Romo’s competitive spirit can get the best of him and that is one demon only he can exercise.

First line of defense

The defensive line has been solid and at times - that seem to be too far in between - disruptive.  The Cowboys are going to need more help from that side of the trench as the season progresses.

Point blank, this very well could prove to be the Achilles Heel to the Cowboys season.

Granted, the value of a sack can be inflated, particularly those that occur on early downs for minimal loss.  With that being said, if the Cowboys' defensive line is unable to figure out how to generate pressure without the aid of linebackers/defensive backs, as the season progresses, the Cowboys defense will struggle against the better QBs who are able to diagnose where the pressure is coming from and put the ball where the blitzer would otherwise be.

Nuts & Bolts

Bringing the focus down to details a bit, I'm troubled by Terrence Williams’ inclination to body-catch rather than catch with his hands.  Granted, he is a pretty high percentage receiver, but it is difficult to trust players who trap rather than catch in situations where the QB has to get it out of their hands faster than normal. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is something the team will want to address mid-season as attempting to make at change in his catching-habit at this point would likely do more harm than good.

In a previous addition, I mentioned the Cowboys need to make a more concerted effort to ensure the ball touches more hands, both on the ground and in the air.

Players like Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar, Cole Beasley, Joseph Randle, James Hanna, Dwayne Harris, and Devin Street have largely been ignored through the first five games.

Some may argue, "Why complain, the Cowboys are winning!"  Believe me, that point is not lost in my considerations.  But I'm concerned about what the Cowboys are putting on tape and even further concerned about the maturation process of the aforementioned.

With each game, the Cowboys add another chapter to the cleft notes in their playbook.  While I can understand an offensive coordinator not wanting to show all of his hand this early in the season, he should be concerned about getting his down-roster players involved because skill players need the ball in their hand in live-game action to evolve.  Furthermore, diminishing the top-tier players' exposure to potential injury should be a big part of this consideration, especially given DeMarco Murray's medical history and his necessity to the ground and pound approach.

Overall, it was a good win for the Cowboys.  In seasons past, this is one the Cowboys would likely have let slip through their fingertips and in hindsight would be the loss they would point to when being one win short of making it to the postseason.  For that and the addition of some heroics from beautiful plays made by Romo, Dez and Murray, I will give the team an overall passing grade.

But grades are subjective; against Seattle, for instance, their efforts would have likely garnered them a fail.  And that is what concerns me with the Cowboys going to the Seahawks' house on Sunday.


I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

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4 Comments
  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    I expect Romdini appearances to increase as Romo gets more healthy and shakes off the soreness from his back, but yeah, he’s gonna bomb a few times. I’m more worried about the defense without Carter and McClain down the stretch. Looks like they’re gonna keep McClain working and it’s already creating a nagging injury that doesn’t fully heal because we need him out there so badly. All good points though.

    • Jonathan Day

      I really honestly wonder if it wouldn’t be better to keep Ro McClain on the sideline for this next one and let it heal completely, rather than keep throwing him out there with the potential of re-injury always looming.

      It’s fun to see Romdini, but you have to hope we don’t see them that often because that typically suggest something broke down somewhere; typically in the trenches upfront.

      • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

        I can’t help feeling like there are ways to bring Romdini out as part of the plan, not as a result of a failure up front.

        • Jonathan Day

          I do think at times Romo actually does account for edge rushers letting them in to pull his signature spin move. But, like you, I would like to see what they could do with making that part of the game plan.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.


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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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