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Play Breakdown: Dak Prescott, RPO’s, And Indecisiveness

Kevin Brady



Dak Prescott, Bengals

The failure of the Cowboys offense to produce any type of, well, offense does not fall on just one man's shoulders. This has been an organizational failure from top to bottom, starting with their offensive philosophy and trickling down to every player on the field.

With that being said, we still must evaluate the plays and players as they happen. Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the 2018 Cowboys. Whether or not he will, or should, be the quarterback beyond that is in question, but he has his chance to answer those questions over the next 13 games.

Prior to watching the film of Sunday's loss to Seattle, I expected to be disappointed in Prescott's play. The live viewing was not pretty, and the passing game has been horrendous thus far. After watching the All-22, however, I actually didn't think he was terrible.

No, he wasn't good, but the pieces around him continually let him down when he did find ways to make correct reads and good throws. Whether it was Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, or the entire receiving corps, the offense was a complete disaster from the first snap of the game.

I wanted to break down one play in particular, however, to highlight a consistent problem I've seen with Prescott through the first three weeks of the season. And, to be honest, we've seen this issue since the nightmare game in Atlanta last year. The problem? Holding onto the ball too long and not trusting himself to make throws into relatively tight windows.

dalvssea2018 failed rpo

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

Let's start with the All-22 of this snap. The Cowboys are in 11 personnel, with Cole Beasley in the slot and Ezekiel Elliott flanking Prescott in the backfield. From the looks of it, Prescott is given two options on this play. One, he can simply hand the ball to Elliott who will be led by multiple pulling linemen. Or, two, he can pull the ball and throw to Beasley on the slant route.

Pre-snap Prescott's read becomes clear. The Seahawks are plus-1 in the box, and running when at a box disadvantage is never ideal. Seattle is showing a single high look and looks to be in man-free coverage. Prescott should be thinking "pull and throw" before the snap even happens.

Prescott is reading the WILL here (#56 to Beasley's side). If he steps forward to play the run while already at a box advantage, this should be a quick completion. If he stays home to account for the pull, then the Cowboys should be able to beat him to the front side with Elliott as they'll regain the numbers advantage.

Once Prescott gets the snap and puts the ball in Elliott's stomach, the linebacker steps forward and puts himself in a bind.

Play Breakdowm

Dak Prescott correctly pulls the ball and looks to throw to Beasley quickly. The slot defender is about 7 yards off of Beasley in soft coverage, and the underneath linebacker has stepped towards the line of scrimmage to honor the run.

This is a completion waiting to happen, and exactly why RPO's and packaged plays are becoming so popular around the NFL. Instead, Prescott does not trust himself to hit that window, and looks scared of the linebacker recovering to intercept his pass.

Prescott double clutches the ball, allowing for pressure to get to him and force him into a scramble. Still, he actually delivers a decent throw under duress to Beasley, but the ball falls incomplete.

While this probably gets graded as a pressure, this should have been an easy completion for at least a decent gain through the air. Prescott has to get rid of the ball quicker and be more decisive when making his reads.

Maybe he doesn't trust the protection, maybe he doesn't trust the receivers, maybe he doesn't trust himself. Whatever it is, if it doesn't get fixed quickly, the 2018 season is going to be a waste.

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 have been with ITS since 2016.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chuck Wright

    September 26, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    In your video, I see a scheme that bunches all the pass catchers within 12 yards of the LOS. Further everyone is “running to a boundary”, which means eventually they run out of room. Take the same play, run the slot WR up the field, pulling his covering DB and most likely the S with him. More importantly freeing up the outside WR to run a cross in largely a vacated area.

    Or run the outside WR on a slant with the slot running an out. Again, instead of 3 defenders covering 2, you put our players in a 1 and 1 situation. Good lord if I can see these, what in the wide wide world of sports is Scotty thinking???? High School teams run more sophisticated passing offenses.

    Complete a couple passes and suddendly they can not go +1 in the box, Zeke has more room and play action far more effective.

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin



Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?

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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors



Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...

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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady



Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.

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