Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys can kick back and put the feet up this week while watching the first round of the playoffs to see who their opponent will be in a few weeks.
It has to be a strange feeling to know that the slate is wiped completely clean and every team that made the playoffs now has an equal chance to play in Houston, Texas for the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys are in a rare situation where they won't have to leave the state of Texas for the Super Bowl if they take care of business in the playoffs. That is what we all hope to see, right?
Despite making the playoffs, there's still lots of things about the Dallas Cowboys that I'm wondering about this week, hence the purpose of Martin's 5 to begin with.
Below are the five things that I'm wondering about this week during the downtime between games for the Cowboys. I hope you enjoy.
One: I don't know if I've ever seen a more confusing situation/circumstance than what I see Randy Gregory in presently. Gregory has been able to play the last couple games for the Cowboys after serving his suspension, but his availability for the playoffs is now up in the air because he is facing a possible year-long suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy once again. He has recently met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but still doesn't know his fate. I wonder why the NFL would allow Gregory to return and play for two games, then decide to turn right around and possibly suspend him with the playoffs fixing to get underway? The way the NFL has handled this whole situation is beyond mind-boggling and it really puts the Dallas Cowboys in a tough situation. The Cowboys might have handled things differently had they known Gregory could only be back for two games. They likely wouldn't have released DE Zach Moore, because they could definitely use the depth at the position. The Randy Gregory mystery is beyond confusing, but hopefully everything works out for the best.
Two: The pass rush for the Dallas Cowboys has struggled getting after opposing QB's for the majority of the season, so you really have to give credit to the secondary for the way they have performed. Brandon Carr, Anthony Brown, and Orlando Scandrick have been playing really well and are a big reason why the defense has exceeded everyone's expectations here lately. Morris Claiborne was having the best season of his career before suffering a groin injury and it looks like he will be available for the Cowboys first playoff game. What I'm wondering is, what kind of role will Claiborne have in the secondary once he returns? It's unlikely he will be reinserted into the starting lineup. I don't know how you replace Brandon Carr or Anthony Brown with the way they have been playing. Odds are he will be worked slowly back into the lineup and played mostly when the defense is in their nickel package. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off, because that would be a huge benefit for the backend of the Cowboys defense.
Three: Morris Claiborne isn't the only Dallas Cowboys player that is expected to return to practice this week after missing nearly the entire 2016 season because of a toe injury. La'el Collins is expected to be activated off of IR, which means the Dallas Cowboys have 21 days to decide what to do with him in the playoffs. Much like Claiborne, I wonder where Collins fits into the plans on the offensive line? Ronald Leary has been outstanding this season and Joe Looney is the backup guard/center on game days. Collins is strictly a guard, so having him active for games would be a luxury I'm not sure the Cowboys can afford with some of the injuries on the defensive line. Leary suited up, but didn't play last week against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a back injury. So, maybe bringing back Collins from IR is more about insurance in case of further problems with Leary's back. This will be a situation I will be keeping a close eye on.
Four: The Dallas Cowboys will have nearly 2 whole weeks in between games with a first-round bye for the playoffs. They haven't had this much time off since their bye week earlier in the season, so I'm wondering how the coaching staff and players are trying to keep their edge? One way to keep their edge is to get as many of their players as healthy as possible before the next game. The Cowboys inactive list last week against the Philadelphia Eagles was all made up of injured players, so this two week time span might actually work in their favor. However, I also worry that they might lose their momentum because the routine that has worked so well for the entire season now has to be tinkered with a little bit. How the Dallas Cowboys handle this time off could go a long ways in determining whether or not they will be successful in the postseason and make a push to playing in Houston, Texas for the Super Bowl.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best stable of quarterbacks on all of the teams in the playoffs, but I wonder how many they decide to activate on game day? We all know that Dak Prescott is the starting QB and Tony Romo without a doubt played superbly last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mark Sanchez on the other hand pretty much came out and laid an egg against his former team. Honestly, I don't see why the the Cowboys would carry three QB's on the game day roster. If they have to resort to playing Sanchez, then the odds are already stacking up against them to win whoever they're playing against anyway. The Cowboys may need an extra game day roster spot for depth purposes at a different position, so I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see Mark Sanchez in uniform in the playoffs.
Is there anything you are wondering about the Dallas Cowboys this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share any of 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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