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Notes on Scout’s Eye from Day Two of Cowboys OTA’s

John Williams

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Reviewing Notes from Dallas Cowboys Day Two of OTA's
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

One of my favorite things to read in the offseason and preseason is anything DallasCowboys.com writer and former NFL Scout Bryan Broaddus has to say about what transpired during these practices. He has an excellent perspective when discussing football. As a former scout turned Dallas Cowboys insider, his stuff is must-read material. It's gold every single time.

Definitely go check out the Scout's Eye from Bryan Broaddus, but here are a few notes that I found very interesting.

The Newest OL Addition

Connor Williams is going to be a huge upgrade from Jonathan Cooper. Don't get me wrong, Cooper played well and was able to turn that into a one-year $5 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Though he played well, he had limitations, primarily in his mobility as a blocker. Because he was limited, the running game was limited in what they could do. That won't be the case with second round pick Connor Williams.

"It might have had to do with the scheme, but I noticed plenty of running plays where Connor Williams was used as a puller. Williams was primarily working to his right. He had a couple of those pulls where his path appeared good and right where he needed to be at the contact point. Given his athletic ability, we might be getting a little taste what the coaching staff has planned for Williams by getting him in space."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Athletic enough to play tackle and strong enough to play guard, he is going to make life very difficult on opposing defenses in the run game. The Dallas Cowboys are going to be able to run pull, stretch, zone, or power plays wherever they want because of the physicality and athletic ability across the offensive line.

The Defensive Backfield

One thing that has been clear from Byron Jones' game is that even if he looks beat, he isn't really beat. Whether it's Rob Gronkowski or AJ Green, Jones has great ability to make up the separation that wide receivers can sometimes get on him.

"Really nice job by Byron Jones recovering on a deep ball to Deonte Thompson. Jones tried to force Thompson to the sideline but couldn’t cut him off. With a little bit of separation Jones had to rally hard to close the gap. Dak Prescott put the ball in a spot where Thompson had a chance to bring it in, but just at the last moment Jones reached in with his off-hand and knocked it away."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Byron has always used his length and athleticism to knock passes away, and with the technique that defensive backs coach Kris Richard is teaching these guys, Jones will have a lot of opportunities to get his hands on the football.

Richard wants them forcing players to the outside on their routes, keeping themselves between the receiver and the football. In addition to Jones' ability to make plays on the ball underneath the route, this could be a big year for him in his fourth year with the Dallas Cowboys.

Another note on the defensive back group.

"Just a note on how the defense lined up in first nickel: Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones on the outside and Anthony Brown in the slot. With Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods at safety. Jourdan Lewis played both on the outside and in the slot with the second group. I was worried that with the new secondary coach that maybe Lewis would not get enough opportunities, but I thought he was outstanding."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

What's interesting to note from this is that Anthony Brown got the first team reps ahead of Jourdan Lewis. It's early in the preseason and so this could change, but perhaps it's not as much of a foregone conclusion that Lewis will be the primary slot cornerback.

With what we've seen from Anthony Brown in the slot in his first two years, he's pretty good from that spot himself. Lewis is the better all-around cornerback, but this will be an interesting battle to watch throughout the preseason.

Lewis had his own shining moment during practice against fifth round draft pick, Tight End Dalton Schultz.

"You have to give Jourdan Lewis some credit. Lewis drew the much bigger Dalton Schultz and fought him in the air to knock away a ball from Cooper Rush. Schultz had the position to make the play, but Lewis wasn’t going to let him have the ball. If Lewis is going to play in the slot there are going to be some days where he is going to have to deal with a tight end playing the inside."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Jourdan Lewis isn't the biggest cornerback on the team and doesn't fit Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard's size profile, but he's a gamer. He has enough length and fight to make things difficult for receivers in the middle of the field.

This defensive backfield is going to be really, really good.

Unsung WR Selection

One of the more underrated moves from the 2018 NFL Draft was the selection of sixth rounder Cedric Wilson from Boise State University. In two seasons with the Broncos, Wilson combined for 18 touchdowns while averaging 19 yards per reception. He topped 1,100 yards both seasons with a high of 1,511 yards in 2017 on 83 catches.

He had a tremendous career, but because he doesn't have a strong athletic profile, dropped to late in the draft.

Could he be this year's Anthony Brown or Xavier Woods?

The Dallas Cowboys have done an excellent job in the later rounds finding good football players. Wilson seemed to have a pretty good day at practice yesterday.

"Cedrick Wilson sure is smooth running routes. I liked what I saw from him driving Anthony Brown off the ball, then turning outside as Brown continued up the field. Cooper Rush put the ball in a perfect spot for Wilson to secure the first down. He also had a nice block on Duke Thomas to Trey Williamson a long run. Sanjay Lal came over and slapped him on the back after he was able to finish that one."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Anthony Brown is no slouch defending the pass. He had a really good 2016 and recovered in the second half of 2017 to put together a nice season. Yes, it's only the off-season and they aren't even in pads yet, but these are two really encouraging notes on Wilson's practice. If he can continue to win reps and flash as a run blocker, he'll be on the roster.

In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys be looking at a WR depth chart of Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson, as your top four.

Reviewing Notes from Dallas Cowboys Day Two of OTA's 1

Dallas Cowboys' LB Jaylon Smith

Clear Eye View

The last thing I want to touch on is Jaylon Smith. For two years he's been one of the top stories for the Dallas Cowboys as we've watched and waited to see what his knee was going to do. It seems like things are progressing really well for Smith and he's going to be a better player in 2018 because of it.

"Jaylon Smith has some pass rush moves as a blitzer. He put a nice little side step move past Ezekiel Elliott in order to put some pressure on Dak Prescott. Elliott is one of the better pass blockers in the league and after the move, he had to scramble a bit just to get his hands on Smith."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

The thing I find intriguing with the combination of Smith, Sean Lee, and rookie Leighton Vander Esch is that they all have shown a penchant for blitzing in their careers, even if it was just in college.

This is going to allow for a versatile defense that can line up in a variety of defensive fronts. Whether they are in a base 4-3 or in a nickel 3-3-5, Rod Marinelli is going to be able to mix up his blitz packages, especially if Jaylon shows a marked improvement in his lateral movement. Coverage was a weakness for Smith last year, but if he can improve, the linebacker versatility will be a strength for the defense.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

There are a lot of practices still to come and some very interesting training camp battles to watch. What's the most intriguing camp battle for you?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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13 Comments
  • Albert Smith

    Byron is in his 4th yr and they’ve picked his 5th year option.

  • Travis Diggs

    To me the most intriguing position is the safety position. I like Xavier Woods, i think he will take the next step and get better. I don’t believe the same thing can be said for Jeff Heath .While he is serviceable at times, i don’t believe he is a starter in this league, for the cowboys he is, but no other team in the NFL would employ him as a starter .Whether it’s Kavon Frazier, UDFA Tyree Robinson, or somebody else.
    Cowboys fans and writers love Jeff Heath for some reason but let’s be honest, Name a NFL team other than us he would start for?? Loyalty to these under performing players has been a problem with us for a while now .

    • Fingaz

      I thought Frazier would start at SS and Woods at FS… we shall see.
      Unless Richard sees something we haven’t, Heath has been a good back up and ST guy.

    • oneputter

      i’m with you on this one. 38 has done a decent job but way to often is out of position. he’s a good ST player and as a back up.

      frazier is a down in the box player who can lay the wood. woods is the back end guy who can also bring the pop but his size might be a concern with the new coach, he likes them long and lean.

      i would like to see one of the new guys step up. as you mention Robinson or even k kelly over into the FS spot, both long and lean and ball hawks.

    • John Williams

      It’s likely you’ll see a Three man rotation at Safety. Heath and Frazier on Run downs and Woods and Heath on Passing downs or when teams go to 11 – personnel.

      • Travis Diggs

        Im guessing your one of the Writers/Fans i was mentioning in my post. Three man rotation with Heath on passing downs??? What game tape are you watching, good offenses take advantage of him. I asked a question in my post, What other NFL team would employ Jeff Heath as a starter besides the Cowboys?? Somebody answer this question for me .I got two names for you, Tyree Robinson and Kam Kelly

        • John Williams

          Heath isn’t as much of a liability when asked to cover deep like he’s been asked to do many times. He isn’t the best safety out there, but also it’s really hard to find elite safety play in the NFL.

          You aren’t going to play Frazier over Heath on passing downs. Perhaps Robinson can take Heath’s job, but that’s asking a lot of an undrafted rookie.

          Last year when the defense was bad, it wasn’t because of Heath, it was because of the linebackers. Jaylon and Damien Wilson got picked apart in the Green Bay and Los Angeles games.

          Heath is a popular whipping boy, but he’s a solid presence on the defense.

          • Sexcdex Xfact

            Agreed
            There’s just too much and to go around on both sides of the ball, coaching, players, owners getting in the way & distractions from players & owner alike
            My God, we’re blessed to have had as decent of a year as we did
            But could’ve /should’ve had better by all accounts

  • LD Jackson

    Has anyone seen Charles Tapper? I wondered if he was involved in the OTAs.

    • John Williams

      Tapper has been out there at OTAs running with the second team at Left Defensive End.

      • LD Jackson

        I’m hopeful that he can stay healthy this year. I think he has a tremendous amount of upside if he does.

        • John Williams

          I agree. He would provide some nice depth on the defensive line. They may be forced to keep six defensive ends if Tapper is healthy and Gregory is reinstated.

        • John Williams

          I think so too. It’s really hard to produce sacks in the quick passing, quick tempo Big 12.

Game Notes

Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle

Sean Martin

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Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle 1

Through just two games, the Dallas Cowboys addition of Kris Richard to their revamped coaching staff appears to be the team's best move of the offseason. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli revealed that Richard is calling the team's plays on defense, which explains their attacking style of play so far.

It was the Cowboys blitzes that disrupted the Giants offense enough for Dallas to earn their first win a week ago. With the schedule set up favorably for the Cowboys to build off this win, Richard must lead his defense past his old team in Seattle for Sunday's week three match up.

On paper, the Cowboys defense should be able to limit the Seahawks thanks to their strong pass rush and lengthy secondary. Welcoming back Xavier Woods at safety, the Cowboys are getting even better in the back end against the Seahawks, allowing Richard to throw even more looks at Seattle with his front seven.

Starting wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard Ethan Pocic will both miss this game for the Seahawks.

With an offense still trying to find its footing though, Richard' profound impact on the Cowboys staff has extended past the defensive side of the ball this week. Perhaps the most criticized Cowboys coach this season, Offensive Coordiator Scott Linehan has sat down with Richard to study the Seahawks defense - coordinated by Richard against the Cowboys specifically.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Scott Linehan and Kris Richard have been spending a good chunk of time together this week dissecting Seattle's approach. Richard obviously knows Seahawks well. Linehan said Richard has great recall, taking him through each play of teams' previous games.

At 1-1, the Cowboys are still looking to put a complete game on the field and prove they deserve to sit atop the NFC East. The defense being their strongest unit through an ugly loss in Carolina and grind-it-out win against the Giants, Linehan's offense creating some explosive plays against the Seahawks could be all the Cowboys need to exit CenturyLink field as winners on Sunday.

Since Linehan officially took over as the Cowboys OC, he is 0-2 against Seahawks defenses coordinated by Richard. When Kris left Seattle, it was believed that he got out at the right time, with the Seahawks defense declining in talent ever since 2015 (his first year as DC).

The NFL's top scoring defense in 2015, the Seahawks were a full point per game worse in 2016, and nearly 2.5 points worse than that in 2017. So far this season, the Seahawks have allowed 27 points to Case Keenum's Broncos and 24 to the Mitch Trubisky lead Chicago Bears.

Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle

The Cowboys biggest problem against Richard's defenses had been finishing drives, something they improved on against the Giants last week. Both Cowboys losses coming at home, the Seahawks kept Dallas out of the end zone in both week eight of 2015 and week 17 a year ago.

Last year's loss to the Seahawks should still sting those at The Star who saw a desperate push for the playoffs hit a wall against Seattle's defense - holding the Cowboys to 282 yards in Ezekiel Elliott's return from suspension.

Not having to rely solely on motivation for revenge while sitting back and trusting Elliott to carry them, Richard could be the key to the Cowboys passing game finding some rhythm. After all, his official title beyond "offseason steal" is Passing Game Coordinator - a position occupied previously by Linehan himself back in 2014.

With a win, similarly to 2014 when the Cowboys came out of Seattle victorious, Dallas would go a long way in earning respect around the league.

This goes for both the offense, where the Cowboys will remain a work in progress regardless of result, and on defense where Dallas can expect Maliek Collins (knee) and David Irving (suspension) to return in the coming weeks.

Kris Richard's focus has been on bettering the Cowboys since they added him to the organization with a clear path up the ranks. Just how far Richard ascends, and how quickly, will depend on the Cowboys performance - expecting to be more than ready for the challenge ahead this week thanks to the coach responsible for building the "Legion of Boom".

The Cowboys kickoff in Seattle being FOX's game of the week, this team has never been one to back away from the spotlight, and winning under it with Richard on the sideline would give the Cowboys all the momentum they need returning home for week four.

Tell us what you think about "Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Player News

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Facing Multi-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Terrance Williams
Ric Tapia via AP

An arrest last May for public intoxication may finally result in a suspension for Dallas Cowboys Receiver Terrance Williams.

David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, who reported the pending suspension, outlined the details of Williams' case. Charges were ultimately dropped once Terrance completed an alcohol education course and paid damages to the city.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/3RmwQOllim via @sportsdaydfw

However, as Cowboys fans know too well, the NFL reserves the right to suspend players under the Personal Conduct Policy regardless of legal outcomes. The 2017 season was marred by the league's persecution of Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence despite no arrests or charges coming from any legal or police entity.

In Williams' case, there's no dispute of his guilt. It is unlikely he will appeal any decision the NFL makes.

The potential that Terrance will be missing for 2-4 games helps explain the Cowboys' move earlier this week to bring back WR Brice Butler. With both currently active, Dallas has an unusually high seven receivers on their 53-man roster.

It's already Friday, so the suspension is doubtful to come for this week's game in Seattle. But Terrance could easily be one of the seven inactive players on game day, having received the fewest snaps of any Cowboys WR last week against the Giants.

We'll see soon enough, likely as soon as next week, just what the league has in store for Terrance Williams.



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