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: 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.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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