Welcome to the first playoff edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys are probably a little bit relieved that they are playing the Green Bay Packers this week instead of the New York Giants. I'm not saying they were rooting for the Packers to win, but the Giants are the only team that have beaten them twice this season, whereas they have already beaten the Packers and relatively easily.
You can bet that there are plenty of Cowboys players that are anxiously waiting for kick off Sunday to try to revenge the controversial playoff loss they suffered at the hands of the Green Bay Packers back in 2014. Dez Bryant in particularly is likely leading the charge.
For the rookie and second year players like Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak Prescott, they probably aren't as vengeful since they didn't play that game back in 2014, but I don't think for second they won't be ready for this matchup.
I don't know about you, but there is plenty of things I'm wondering about this week ahead of the Cowboys matchup with the Packers. Below are the five things I decide to share with you this week. I hope you enjoy.
One: The last time the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers faced off against one another was earlier this season in Week 6. That matchup resulted in a victory for the Cowboys and that was in large part due to the performance of defensive lineman David Irving. Irving only played 19 defensive snaps, but sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers once and forced three fumbles, one of which he recovered. That Week 6 performance earned him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. I wonder if he can have a repeat performance this week with much more on the line for the Dallas Cowboys? I certainly think it's possible considering the way Irving closed out the 2016 regular season. He was arguably the best defensive lineman the Cowboys had and should receive more playing time because of his ability to get after the QB. The defense has to find some way to harass Aaron Rodgers and David Irving might just be the answer.
Two: Let's stick with David Irving here for a little bit longer. I wonder if defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will game plan ways to create favorable matchups for Irving? Irving is probably at his best when he is playing inside as the 3-technique in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. His quickness and length create problems for offensive guards and if he can win some of those matchups, it could force Aaron Rodgers into making some uncharacteristic mistakes. It is really going to be interesting to see how much playing time Irving receives with a lot of their defensive lineman returning from injuries that limited them towards the end of the regular season. #95 has had a problem staying consistent, but the game changing plays he can make should earn him more playing time.
Three: In the previous match up with the Green Bay Packers, Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 157 yards on 28 carries and had two catches for 17 yards. I wonder if Elliott can come anywhere close to repeating that performance? The good news is if #21 is even remotely close to approaching 150 rushing yards, then that means the Cowboys are probably controlling the time of possession and keeping Aaron Rodgers and his high-powered offense off the field. This is probably the way Jason Garrett and the coaching staff would like things to play out. It worked for them earlier this season, so why not lay down the same blueprint and hope that everything turns out the same when the final seconds tick off the clock at the end of the game. Isn't that why it Ezekiel Elliott was pretty much drafted so highly in the first place?
Four: After having perhaps the best seven games of his entire professional career earlier this season, Morris Claiborne unfortunately missed the remainder of the year due to a groin injury. It looks as if he will be able to play this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, but I'm wondering exactly where he fits into the secondary? Brandon Carr has been playing pretty well since moving to the right side and Anthony Brown has simply been outstanding, especially considering he was just a sixth round rookie. I don't think Claiborne unseats either one of them on the outside, and I certainly don't think he is better than Orlando Scandrick in the slot. That doesn't leave a lot of room for Claiborne to make his way back to the field, but as much as Green Bay likes to play in multiple receiver sets, #24 will still probably see plenty of playing time. Regardless of how much playing time he receives, his return to the lineup definitely makes the Cowboys secondary better.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys haven't beaten the Green Bay Packers yet, but I wonder who they would rather face out of the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks? I know I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but I don't really see the harm of looking ahead. Of course, I don't want the Dallas Cowboys doing the same. I want their full attention on the Packers this week. Personally, I think I would rather see the Seattle Seahawks than the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship if the Cowboys take care business this week. The Falcons are the one team left in the NFC that scares me the most because of how many points they can put on the board on offense. They are a well-balanced offense and can really hurt the Cowboys defense in both the running and passing game. The Seahawks however don't have the same dominating defense we have seen in years past, and I don't think their offense can keep pace with the Cowboys'. I hope that's the way things turn out at least.
Is there anything you are wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share with all of us anything you're wondering about this week.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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