We have now hit the part of the offseason which is probably the most depressing. The Draft has come and gone, training camp is still months away, and there is very little new news coming out of the Cowboys world.
So, instead, I have decided to take a step back over the next few weeks, and re-evaluate some of the key moments from the 2016 season.
Each week, one play will be put under the microscope to diagnose what the Cowboys did right or wrong in order to decide their fate on that Sunday. To start this series off, we go all the back to week 2 of the last season, with the Cowboys down 23-20 on the road in Washington.
After playing some pretty sloppy football all day, the Cowboys found themselves staring an 0-2 start right in the face. Washington had drove down the field and was now in scoring position, with a touchdown likely putting the game away for good.
At worst, Dallas needed to hold Kirk Cousins and company to a field goal and stay within one possession.
In reality, Barry Church did them one better.
First, let's talk generally about how this play went down. With plenty of time in the pocket, Cousins slid outside the left tackle and saw his receiver, Pierre Garcon, flash over the middle of the field. Recognizing where the ball was going, Barry Church jumped in front of the pass and came up with the game-changing interception.
Now, let's check out the All-22.
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The Redskins come out in an empty backfield, shotgun look. They have trips to the field, and two eligible receivers to the sideline. As a counter, the Cowboys come out in a pretty basic cover 2 scheme from a 4-2-5, or nickel look.
The intended receiver, Pierre Garcon, is lined up slot-left. Garcon and fellow Redskins' wide-out Jamison Crowder stack each other at the snap of the ball, in an effort to confuse the defenders. Remaining smart and patient, Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Hitchens communicate and pass off the receivers to one another.
Trying to find a soft spot in the zone, Garcon tries his luck over the middle of the field and behind the Cowboys' two-deep safeties. The Redskins run the rest of the receivers to the outside in an attempt to stretch out the Cowboys' zones, and open up the middle of the field. Seeing Garcon flash open for a split-second, Cousins tries to fit the ball in there for a touchdown.
Instead, Barry Church baits him into the throw, recovers over the middle, and intercepts the pass in the end zone.
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As good as the Cowboys defense played on this snap, the lack of velocity and poor decision making by Kirk Cousins on this throw simply cannot be excused. Yes, Dallas had solid coverage all of the field, but trying to beat the defense over the middle where four defenders are sitting in their zones will always be a bad idea.
Especially when you had a chance to potentially put the game away. Luckily for the Cowboys, Church made the play and the team went on to get their first of eleven straight wins.
Next week, we flip to the offensive side of the ball, and analyze one of the most important plays of the Cowboys' week 3 win over the Chicago Bears.
Cowboys’ Patience With DE Randy Gregory Finally Paying Off?
Say what you want about Randy Gregory and his past struggles, but he might just be turning into the player the Dallas Cowboys envisioned when they drafted him in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. All I can say is, it's about time!
Randy Gregory is just one of many players Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones has gone out of his way to help in the hopes of improving his football team, but very few have received as much patience and personal attention as Gregory. Jerry has continued to stand by him through all of his off the field issues and suspensions, despite not getting much in return.
It's been somewhat confusing for a lot of Cowboys Nation. Many fans have been ready to move on from the troubled defensive end, but not Jerry Jones. This was his pick back in 2015 and he was bound and determined to see it through. That's exactly what he's done and he might actually see some return on his investment.
Randy Gregory isn't exactly blowing things up like Linebacker Leighton Vander Ecsh or some of his other defensive teammates, but he's quietly strung together some good games these past several weeks. In the last four games he has three quarterback sacks, three quarterback hits, and a tackle for a loss. That's not even mentioning how he's consistently applying pressure to the QB as well.
I know it doesn't look like much from the outside looking in, but to me he's starting to look like a player who's finally finding his groove. I don't know about you, but I will take any silver lining I can get when it comes to Randy Gregory. Even if it is the small sample size.
We all knew it might take him a while to get things going after missing all 2017 and parts of 2016 due to suspensions. That's a lot of football to miss for a young player and it's kind of hurt his development. That's probably one of the reasons the Cowboys brought him along a little slowly this season.
I don't think there's any reason to pull back the reins any longer though. Gregory looks as if he has acclimated to the game once again and is ready, willing, and able to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence from here on out. The Cowboys defense is just better with him in the lineup.
Randy Gregory has had to overcome a lot of personal demons to reach this point in his career, and for that I commend him. It couldn't have been an easy road to go down, but the work he has put in is paying off and he can finally see the fruits of his labor for himself. That could pay huge dividends not only from a confidence standpoint, but also as a sense of validation.
Now, he just needs to keep his nose to the grind stone and continue to do what he's been doing. I think everything else will work itself out and both he and the Cowboys will be better for it.
Do you think Randy Gregory is finally hitting his stride?
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.
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