The Cowboys defense held the Giants to just 260 yards of total offense. They sacked Eli Manning three times and recorded three turnovers. It was probably their best night all season as an overall unit.
To say all of that after a loss is tough to swallow, and the Dallas offense is to blame. The Cowboys couldn't manage more than one touchdown as they lost their second game this season and gave the Giants the season sweep.
Despite nine days of rest and what we thought was a wake-up-call game in Minnesota last week, the Cowboys' passing attack continued to sputter. Dak Prescott was sacked three times and threw two interceptions. He completed just 46% of his throws for a paltry 165 yards.
At least two of the sacks on Prescott were due to coverage. Dak held the ball too long as he couldn't find an open receiver. The Giants did not sack him immediately on their blitzes but disrupted his throws many times with pressure. They did not seem to be missing Jason Pierre-Paul one bit with the amount of rush they generated.
Dez Bryant was targeted nine times and had just one catch all night. Dallas would have had a hard time getting into scoring range anyway, but Bryant made sure of it by fumbling the ball to end the final drive. It was the second time this year that bad play by a wide receiver ended a comeback effort against the Giants.
- Dallas could have had a 10-point lead at halftime, and perhaps the game-tying points, if Dan Bailey's 55-yard kick had just been a foot longer. The ball clanged off the front of the crossbar for the miss. Of course, coming off the foot of the greatest kicker of all time, it was still dead center.
- Ezekiel Elliott did his part, picking up 107 yards on 24 carries. Given that Dallas had the lead throughout the first half and it was always a one-possession game, it's surprising that Dallas did not utilize the run more. It was the only thing that consistently worked all day.
- The early box score has Sean Lee with 18 total tackles tonight. He was incredible tonight, shutting down run plays and short passes at every turn.
- Anthony Brown snagged one of the nicest interceptions you'll ever see away from Odell Beckham. His read and react on the play was flawless and he did what so few Cowboys defensive backs seem to do by completing the catch. He just keeps flashing his tremendous potential.
- Tyrone Crawford and Benson Mayowa each recorded a sack as Dallas put plenty of pressure on Eli Manning. DeMarcus Lawrence was not on the field much dealing with back issues, but we did see him getting close to Eli on a few plays. He was used selectively and the rest of the team did a nice job in his absence.
- Brice Butler has a chance at a touchdown, leaping over Eli Apple in the end zone for a jump ball but failing to make the catch. Those are make-or-break plays for a guy trying to earn a new contract.
- Terrance Williams has the team's only touchdown on a gorgeous fake. The entire Giants defense bit as Prescott faked a toss to Elliott, running one way while Williams ran uncovered for the end zone. Dak just had to gently lob it to him for the score.
Let's recap where the Cowboys stand after the loss. Now 11-2 on the season, they are still well within the driver's seat for their postseason goals. They still have a two-game lead over New York for the division title with only three games to go. Of course, the Giants now hold the tiebreaker after beating Dallas twice.
As for other NFC goals, the Seahawks' loss in Green Bay was a help. Dallas is still in good position to claim a first-round bye and home field advantage in the weeks ahead. Seattle fell to 8-4-1 today, leaving the Detroit Lions as the next closest team with their 9-4 record.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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