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Game Notes

Organizational Failure Highlighted In Cowboys’ Offensive Woes

Kevin Brady

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Everyone, From The Top Down, To Blame For Cowboys' Offensive Woes 1

Much of the discussion the past few months within the Cowboys fanbase has centered around the amount of turnover on the offense. Gone are veteran pass catchers Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and in are unproven young guys like Michael Gallup and underperforming vets like Tavon Austin.

The idea was that, without a player like Bryant needing targets force-fed to him, Dak Prescott could spread the ball around to the open man and allow the offense to function as efficiently as it did in 2016.

Dallas was going to run the ball and control the clock, work some creativity in the offense in terms of jet-motions and option looks, and utilize an efficient passing game led by Prescott.

Things were supposed to be different than they were the second-half of 2017, but Sunday afternoon, this offense looked exactly the same as it did on Christmas Eve a year ago.

Gaining just over 60 yards of total offense in the first half, the Cowboys offense failed to score a single point until the fourth quarter. Though their defense kept them in the game, and an optimist may be able to argue that the offense came together a bit down the stretch, it was all too little too late against Carolina.Everyone, From The Top Down, To Blame For Cowboys' Offensive Woes

The bottom line is, if you're defense holds a team to just 16 points, you have to win that game. You cannot score just 8 points, your All-Pro caliber running back cannot rush for just 69 yards on only 15 carries, and your quarterback cannot look downright incompetent when the offense gets behind the sticks.

But, as we all saw, this was the case for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

A few years ago the Cowboys made the conscious decision to build around their offensive line and running game. They double down on this decision by drafting Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in 2016. They then went even deeper into this philosophy during the 2018 draft, selecting guard Connor Williams in the second round. But Sunday, the Carolina defensive line straight up kicked their butts on the line of scrimmage.

Prescott was sacked 6 times, Williams looked overmatched, and even Tyron Smith was called for multiple potential drive-killing penalties.

Of course, the front office cannot be faulted for center Travis Frederick developing such an illness, but even with Joe Looney at center the offensive line should have played much better than they did.

Then there is the coaching/play-calling. Simply put - it wasn't good.

Michael Gallup, arguably the Cowboys best receiver, was limited to just one target all game. Tavon Austin, who Stephen Jones discussed getting "a dozen" touches per game in the offseason, had 1 carry for 1 yard.

Continuously the Cowboys were unable to scheme their receivers open against a shaky Carolina secondary, and when they were open, Prescott often missed them.

To be quite honest the only bright spot on the offense was Cole Beasley, who caught 7 passes for 73 yards and looked legitimately good all afternoon.

The good news is this was only one game. Dallas still has 15 more to play, and a crucial one coming up on Sunday night against the also 0-1 New York Giants. But regardless of the outcome next Sunday, and regardless of any outcome the rest of the way, this version of the Dallas Cowboys will never be a real threat to anyone if they can't figure this offense out.

Because if they can't put up enough of a fight offensively to score more than 8 points on 232 total yards, this team may be picking top 10 come next April.

And no, that's not a week 1 overreaction, that's an educated guess after the last 9 offensive performances the Cowboys have put up.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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4 Comments
  • Bret Lewis

    It seems Linehan got so much of what he wanted in the off season, he can’t be demoted and another coach take over as offensive coordinator. There isn’t anyone else. He covered his backside hiring Moore

  • Mark

    This game was 100% predictable. I described it in detail long before it ever started, and almost predicted the exact score. The truth is so painfully obvious that it’s nauseating… Jason Garrett is the worst head coach in professional sports. Period.

    Like I’ve said on here and every other Cowboys-realted website, this team will NEVER win a championship with this clown and his offensive “scheme”. Linehan can only be blamed to the degree that he does what Garrett tells him to do. It’s 100% Garrett. Look no further.

    Dak’s new and once-promising career is all but ruined because of Garrett and his idiocy. Dak is scared to death to throw the ball downfield. He executes his entire offense within 3 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage. It is without a doubt, the most predictable and easily-defended offense in football. In my opinion, Dak will never recover.

    The players, in general, aren’t the problem. Put them under a great coach, and this exact group of players will win 5 of the next 7 Superbowls.

    I’ve been a die-hard Cowboys fan for 53 years. I now sincerely doubt I’ll ever see my team win another Championship in my lifetime. The only thing I can now do is try to spread the truth and help convince every real Cowboys fan to stop supporting this team as long as Jerry keeps this loser head coach.

    The painful realization I’ve finally accepted is that any support offered to Garrett, directly or indirectly, only serves to perpetuate this nightmare.

    • Mr. Jaguar

      I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the Cowboys. I too have been a loyal Cowboys fan since 1966. Been through it all. This organization has always back in the day, was able to bounce back to being elite especially in the 70’s. When Jerruh took over we loyal fans thought the franchise would continue to move forward in a positive direction with a taste of winning the 2 Super Bowl under Jimmy Johnson. Since, 1994, with Switzer as the coach, this franchise, have been living off a dying legacy. The 1995 team won a Super Bowl, despite the organization and coaching staff. Since 1997, until the present time, this once proud franchise, that calls itself America Team, has been wallowing in mediocrity and stuck in NFL Purgatory for 22 seasons, because of the business skills of Jerry.
      WITH the golden boy at head coach, and his coaching staff , it appears that hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, numerous times, is just a fantasy. It’s time for the Dallas media to turn the heat up on the Cowboys organization, because Cowboys Nations is fed up with drinking the poison that Jerry has offered the loyal Cowboys for the past 22 seasons.
      Even if Jerry fires the coaching staff, this season, the problem will remain, the Jones Family, who always laugh last, all the way to the bank.

  • dbonedig

    Cowboys will never win until a coach can run the team without the Owner’s input. And, that will never happen. So, everyone has got to live with it. In 18-20 Months, their will be a changing of the guard. Then, lets witness how the new ownership will run the team. The Cowboys are making so much cash, it doesn’t matter if they loose continually. Of course, now, they are loosing for a high draft pick. They will be going for a QB. A third grader can see that! In any case, the next season is just below the horizon. Don’t matter if they win every remaining game. Their season is over.

Game Notes

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of playerprofiler.com). So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Faces Tough Matchup vs Falcons Passing Attack

John Williams

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Bottom Line: Are the Cowboys Better or Worse for 2018?

When you're a 4-5 team in the NFL with preseason expectations of making the playoffs, the last half of the season has a lot of of must-win games. This week is no different. The Dallas Cowboys face another 4-5 team in the Atlanta Falcons who is also looking to keep their playoff hopes alive. Both teams are still in the hunt, but have slightly different paths to get there. The Dallas Cowboys would probably have to win the NFC East to make the playoffs with the Falcons only real chance coming via the wild card. The New Orleans Saints look to be the kings of the NFC South this season.

In order to stay in the hunt, the Dallas Cowboys are going to need a huge defensive effort against a fierce Atlanta Falcons passing game. Through the first nine games, the Cowboys have provided reason for optimism that they can slow down Matt Ryan and company, but they've also had some porous efforts this season.

The front seven of the defense has played pretty well through the first nine games of the season and Byron Jones has been one of the best corner backs in the league. They've had problems on the left sde of the defense with Chidobe Awuzie and with the safeties.

The Cowboys will face a really difficult challenge as they travel to face the Atlanta Falcons passing game led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Matt Ryan is in the top five in most passing categories including yards, touchdowns, passer rating, completion percentage, and leads the league in passing yards per game. In yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, and air yards per attempt, Matt Ryan is sixth in the NFL.

As you can see from the chart above provided by Next Gen Stats and NFL.com, Matt Ryan has been average to better than average throwing to every area of the field this season. Particularly troubling is what he's doing when he's throwing to his right, which happens to be the side of the field occupied by Chidobe Awuzie. Awuzie is allowing a passer rating of 129.7 this season, which is the 15th worst number in the NFL among corners who have played a minimum of 92 coverage snaps.

What's potentially more troubling than how efficient Matt Ryan's been throwing to Awuzie's side of the field is the fact that Julio Jones will play all over the formation and can beat you in every area of the field.

The chances are high that we'll see Awuzie lined up against Julio Jones on several occasions on Sunday. Pray for Chido, y'all. 

Jones has only scored two touchdowns this year, but through nine games, he's already over 1,000 yards receiving, which is leading the NFL. Julio is fourth in the NFL in receptions and is averaging more than 15 yards per catch. He's third in the NFL in yards per route run at 2.99 sitting behind only Michael Thomas and Albert Wilson among players with at least 20 targets on the season.

From Jones' chart against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week six, you can see that they lined him up all over the formation and they ran him on a large variety of routes to a large variety of depths. Julio Jones is one of the best route runners in the NFL, which is scary considering he provides huge size and athleticism to go with it.

As good as he's been this season, the secondary receivers for the Falcons -- Calvin Ridley, Mohammed Sanu, and Austin Hooper -- have also played well. Each of them has more than 400 yards receiving on the season. To put that in perspective, Cole Beasley leads the Dallas Cowboys in receiving yards at 403. Each of the Falcons' top four targets have more receiving yards than Beasley does.

Not sure if that speaks of how good the Falcons passing game has been or how bad the Cowboys passing game has been.

The Cowboys will be facing the player that fans wanted the team to select instead of Leighton Vander Esch at 19th overall; Calvin Ridley. Ridley's been excellent this season with 500 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions. He's averaging 13.2 yards per reception. Ridley's second on the Falcons in receptions for first downs and Matt Ryan has a passer rating of 138.9 when targeting Ridley.

Austin Hooper doesn't get the same publicity that Jones and Ridley do, but he's been effective this season as well. Hooper is second on the Falcons in receptions with 46, which is the fourth most among tight ends in the NFL. Hooper will test Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch in the middle of the field as well as Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath down the seem.

Mohammed Sanu will be the matchup to watch for Anthony Brown in the slot. Though Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones will run routes from there on occasion, Sanu is the primary slot receiver. He ranks 22nd in the NFL in receptions and yards from the slot. Of his 45 targets, 33 have come while in the slot and 25 of his 34 receptions. When Matt Ryan throws Sanu's way, he's got a passer rating of 125.8.

And if all that wasn't bad enough, you have the Dallas Cowboys defense as one of the worst in the NFL at getting off the field on third down. The Atlanta Falcons are second in the NFL at getting off the field on third down.

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The Dallas Cowboys are likely going to give up some long drives to the Falcons, and that's ok. What they don't want to do is give up big plays to the Falcons passing attack. The Cowboys rank sixth in the NFL in red zone defense allowing teams to score on only 48.1% of their trips inside the 20 yard line. The Falcons are seventh in the league at scoring in the red zone, but have had their issues scoring touchdowns when getting inside the 20. If the Cowboys can hold them to three instead of seven, I'll count it as a successful drive for the defense.

The Dallas Cowboys defense is playing really well this season and it ranks in the top 10 in most team defensive categories. However, if they have a weakness it's been in their pass defense, primarily Awuzie and the safeties. If they want to win this game and continue to get themselves back into the playoff picture, they're going to need better performances from their defensive backs not named Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, and to a lesser extent Xavier Woods.

Facing the Atlanta Falcons prolific passing attack is a huge test for this defense and one that could define the rest of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season.



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Game Notes

Cowboys’ Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups

Brian Martin

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Cowboys' Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups 1
(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

With their seasons hanging in the balance, the Dallas Cowboys (4-5) and the Atlanta Falcons (4-5) know all too well the importance of this matchup. The Cowboys however might have a little extra incentive to win this game, revenge. The Falcons absolutely throttled them in 2017, but Dallas is looking to turn the tables on them this year.

Playing in hostile territory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium isn't the ideal place to secure a victory, but I believe the Dallas Cowboys have a excellent shot at coming out of this contest with a "W". This time around the Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith at their disposal and they should pay huge dividends. Having these two players in the lineup will certainly factor into the outcome of the game, but there are other matchups worth keeping an eye on as well.

Here are the three matchups I believe will decide the outcome of this game:

Amari Cooper vs. Falcons' Secondary

Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Amari Cooper

If the Atlanta Falcons secondary continues to play the way they've played for the majority of the 2018 season, the Dallas Cowboys should be able to find quite a bit of success in the passing game. That's why I'm expecting Quarterback Dak Prescott and his receivers to have a big game, especially Amari Cooper.

The Falcons are surprisingly giving up 294.4 passing yards a game, which happens to be third worst in the NFL. But what's more surprising is they are also the worst at defending their opponents best receiver, ranking 30th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). That's why I think Amari Cooper could end up having his best game to date in a Cowboys uniform.

Cooper's ability to threaten an opponent's defense all over the field has already made the Cowboys offense better and that should continue to improve as his bond with Prescott develops. He has already become one of the most highly targeted WRs in the NFL since coming to Dallas and that is not only helping improve their passing game, but the running game as well.

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Falcons' Run Defense

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

As much as I'm excited about the damage Amari Cooper could do to the Falcons secondary, I'm even more excited about how dominate Ezekiel Elliott can be against Atlanta's defensive front. A lot of that has to do with the way both of these teams played in these areas a week ago, and it's a matchup that heavily favors the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are coming off their best rushing attack of the 2018 season. The offensive line completely manhandled the Philadelphia Eagles top ranked run defense last week, allowing Zeke to rush for 150+ yards. We could see a repeat performance, especially with the way the Falcons failed to stop the run last week against the Cleveland Browns.

Rookie Running Back Nick Chubb had a career day against the Falcons a week ago, amassing 176 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another 33 yards and a touchdown through the air. If that's an indication of what we can expect from Atlanta's run defense, Zeke should have a huge game. Controlling the clock with the running game would more than likely secure a much-needed victory.

Cowboys' Defense vs. Falcons' 3rd-down Offense

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

As good as a Dallas Cowboys defense has been this season, they have really struggled to get opposing offenses off the field on third down. In fact, they're currently the fourth worst third-down defense in the league, allowing offenses to convert a first down 44.07% of the time. That's not good, especially if you factor in that the Falcons convert 51.26% of their third downs, ranking second in the NFL.

The matchup between the Cowboys defense and the Falcons third-down offense could end up being the most important. Dallas absolutely have to find a way to get Matt Ryan and his offense off the field and the ball back in the hands of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. They can't allow Atlanta to get out to an early lead, because they're not a team who's built to come from behind.

Hopefully the Cowboys can capitalize on the Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott match ups (previously mentioned), that way they're play on third-down becomes less of a factor. But if it ends up being a close game, they will without a doubt have to improve their third-down defensive efficiency.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys get their revenge against the Falcons?



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