Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to lock up home-field advantage with a win over the Detroit Lions Monday night. That would be a huge advantage once the playoffs get underway.
Of course, if they are able to lock up home-field advantage, that means that the last game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles is pretty much meaningless.
A lot of people are starting to speculate if the Cowboys will sit their starters in order to assure their availability in the postseason, but I think we are getting ahead of ourselves. I don't know about you, but I like to take things one game at a time.
Even though we are closing out the 2016 regular-season, there are still a lot of questions surrounding this team despite their success.
Below are five things that are running through my head this week ahead of the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.
One: The players that made the 2017 Pro Bowl were recently released this week. The Dallas Cowboys have five of their players voted in that could play in Orlando, Florida if they're not playing in the Super Bowl, but Sean Lee isn't one of them. I'll be completely honest here, I wasn't that surprised that #50 missed out getting voted into the Pro Bowl. The way the ballot is set up for the voting has Sean Lee listed as an outside linebacker. That means he is competing against players like Von Miller and Khalil Mack, although technically they are entirely different types of players. Lee is more of a traditional inside linebacker, while Miller and Mack are outside linebacker/pass rushers. Lee will never have the QB sacks like a 3-4 linebacker, just like 3-4 linebackers will never have the tackle numbers like Lee has. Having said all that, I wonder if it's time that the voting criteria changes? Sean Lee without a doubt played at a Pro Bowl level, but wasn't voted in on what I believe is a disappointing technicality. I personally think it's time to clearly differentiate the differences between a 4-3 linebacker and a 3-4 linebacker.
Two: I'm going to stay on the topic of Sean Lee here for second, because I'm wondering if he is going to be paying any extra attention to where Golden Tate is on the field this week? If you remember a few seasons ago when Golden Tate was still a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he had a vicious blindside hit on Sean Lee, that a lot of us believed was a dirty play. Now, I'm not saying Lee will go out of his way to target Tate, but if Tate is the one with the ball in his hands and Lee is in the vicinity, #50 could put a little extra pop in his hit when making the tackle. I don't know about you, but I would love to see Sean Lee deliver a big hit to Golden Tate Monday night. It would kinda be like poetic justice and hopefully set the tone for the game. You can bet that the entire defense remembers that dirty hit Tate delivered years ago, even if they weren't a member of the Dallas Cowboys at the time.
Three: A lot of eyes will be on Ezekiel Elliott this week as he gets closer and closer to breaking Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Elliott is currently just 258 yards shy of Dickerson's record, but I wonder how much #21 and the Dallas Cowboys will focus on breaking that record? Personally, I would love to see Ezekiel Elliott break Eric Dickerson's long-standing rookie rushing record, but not at the expense of harming his availability for the postseason. Elliott is a huge reason why the Cowboys have been so successful this season. Because of him, the Dallas Cowboys have pretty much been able to win the time of possession in just about every game this season and that has really helped keep the defense fresh. That is something that needs to continue in the postseason and one of the reasons why I think Elliott and the Cowboys should probably put the rookie rushing record on the back burner. Individual accolades are great and all, but not over the team success.
Four: Darren McFadden played his first game in 2016 last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was already used in some unexpected ways. I wonder if Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will continue to find new and creative ways to incorporate McFadden into the game plan? McFadden's versatility and fresh legs could be a huge benefit from here on out for the Cowboys offense, especially in the postseason. He can be a threat in the passing game, he is good in pass protection, and he can help spell Ezekiel Elliott from time to time if needed. There are number different ways he can help the offense, but it will really be interesting to see how Linehan uses him.
Five: It looks like Randy Gregory could possibly make his 2016 debut this week against the Detroit Lions, but I wonder what kind of impact he can have for the defense? Gregory has been able to work out at the facility while serving his suspension, but hasn't really practiced at all the entire season. That makes me wonder what kind of game shape is actually in and if he would really be an upgrade over the current defensive ends on the roster? We all know that the defense for the Dallas Cowboys could use all the help they can mustard to help improve their pass rush, so Gregory's addition could possibly help in that area, at least that's what we're all hoping. The Cowboys will have a tough decision to make regarding whether or not they add Randy Gregory to the active roster this week. If he is added to the roster, that means someone has to be cut. Who's the odd man out?
Is there anything your wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?
El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.
Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?
De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.
Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.
Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.
Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.
A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.
Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.
Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.
Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y ganando a la otra.
Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.
Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?
What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.
Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.
It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.
If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.
We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.
Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.
Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1 WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.
Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?
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