Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5?
The Dallas Cowboys should be well rested and that is good news heading into a tough game against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
There were quite a few players that were banged up and needed the extra time to recuperate. The Cowboys should be as close to full strength as they have been all season and if I'm the Eagles, I'd be just a little bit worried.
The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the more dominant teams in the NFL so far in 2016 and if everything plays out the way I think it will, they should continue that domination Sunday night in prime time against their NFC East division foe.
Even though I have full confidence in what the Cowboys can accomplish this season, there are still lingering questions/thoughts that I just can't seem to get out of my head. Luckily, this is exactly why I started Martin's 5.
So, without further ado, here are the five things that I just can't get out of my head this week.
One: Now that Chaz Green is practicing once again after suffering an injury, I wonder if the Dallas Cowboys will start splitting reps between him and Doug Free at right tackle? Green had to fill in for an injured Tyron Smith earlier this season and despite my worries, performed really well. Doug Free as we know is the Cowboys weakest link along the offensive line, so it's only natural to think Green could give him a run for his money. Although Free is the weakest member along the offensive line, he has performed pretty well so far in 2016. But, splitting reps between Free and Green could be beneficial to both players. Green would receive valuable repetitions to learn the position, while Free would be able to avoid some of the wear-and-tear that the season produces. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Two: Speaking of splitting reps, I wonder if the Dallas Cowboys will work Orlando Scandrick back slowly and have him split time with Anthony Brown? Orlando's return from his devastating knee injury that wiped out his 2015 season hasn't gone as well as he or the Dallas Cowboys would've liked. He hasn't been able to get in "football" shape and has suffered recurring injuries because of that. Luckily, rookie cornerback Anthony Brown has filled in as the Cowboys slot CB and the defense hasn't missed a beat with him in the lineup. This allows the Cowboys to work Scandrick back slowly if that's what they choose to do, but we will have to wait and see if that is indeed what happens.
Three: After failing to turn over the ball the first five weeks of the season, quarterback Dak Prescott was responsible for three turnovers in Week 6 against the Green Bay Packers. I wonder if Prescott can have a short memory or if we will see him playing more safely to prevent these types of turnovers from happening? Nothing I have seen from Prescott makes me believe that those turnovers will have any lingering effect on him, but the thought is still there in the back of my mind and won't go away. At some point this season I kept expecting to see Prescott perform like a rookie and maybe that's what we saw against Green Bay. Hopefully this was just a one-time occurrence and we see him return to the player he was, and has been, throughout the majority of the season.
Four: It looks as if Dez Bryant has received the green light to play this week against the Philadelphia Eagles. I wonder if having him back in the lineup will help make Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys running game even more dangerous? Dez Bryant's return is a big boost for the Cowboys offense and should make the #3 overall unit in the NFL even more potent. Opposing defenses will now have to account for where Bryant lines up, and that means they can't stack the box like they have been to try and stop Elliott and the Cowboys running game. If they do try to stack the box that means Bryant is likely in a one-on-one situation. So, no matter what opposing defenses try to do it should be a win-win situation for one of the best, if not the best offenses in the NFL.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys were on a five-game winning streak heading into their bye week and looked like one of the hottest teams in the entire NFL. I wonder if they can build on that momentum after a week away from football activities and continue to dominate their opponents? Honestly, this isn't a very big concern of mine, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. I think this team has a different attitude this season and should have no problems getting back on track after a week off. The game against the Philadelphia Eagles isn't a give me game by any means, but it is a game the Dallas Cowboys should win nonetheless. Division games are always tough, but this game is important in order for the Dallas Cowboys to get back on track and pick up where they left off.
Do you have any lingering thoughts this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share any of your thoughts and opinions.
QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations
Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.
Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.
There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.
One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.
Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.
This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.
Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.
He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.
For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
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