From the WMSC studios, I caught up with interstateofgreen.com Jets writer and Code Green podcast host Craig Gorbunoff to get his thoughts on everything surrounding the Jets and their trip to AT&T Stadium this Saturday to face the 4-9 Cowboys.
Inside the Star Staff Writer Sean Martin sits down with Interstate of Green Jets writer Craig Gorbunoff to preview the Jets visit to AT&T Stadium this Saturday (12/19).
Q: What's been the most impressive part of this defensive unit for you personally this season?
A: I think the easy answer is going to be Darrelle Revis and the secondary, but really it's this defensive line they've been able to assemble over the past couple years in the draft. They were averaging like five turnovers a game, that's not something you're going to keep up. Really, one to two (per game) is about average. When you look at this defensive front, they're able to get pressure from pretty much everyone along the defensive line. Whether it's Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, who had an excellent game against the Titans, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison - they're able to clog up those lanes for the run game and get some pressure on the quarterback. They don't always necessarily equate to sacks, but they are able to dominate the trenches and make things difficult for the opposing offenses. That's what we've seen over the past three weeks and a three-game win streak.
Q: Todd Bowles obviously the new head coach of this team, everyone knew about Rex Ryan with the Jets, what's been the biggest difference that you notice in this team from what you saw with Rex Ryan and what you're seeing in Bowle's first year?
A: Well with Rex Ryan he liked to be the focal point of the New York Jets. He was gonna go out there, he was gonna talk and he was gonna be the scapegoat if you will. He was going to talk all the trash, and if they didn't back him up he was gonna take the blame for it. Todd Bowles is all about "let your play do your talking for you" and if you don't show up on gameday it's your fault.
Not to say he's not accountable for it, but the team is one unit. It's not Rex and the Jets, now it's just the Jets and Todd Bowles happens to be the spokesperson for it. I think it's made a difference, they are not so focused on making a splashy NY Post headline. It's all about football, it's all about performance and that's what we've seen out of this team. This offense is playing at a level I haven't seen since Brett Favre in 2008. Those first couple of games where he was throwing a ridiculous amount of touchdowns before he injured his shoulder. That's really the last time I've seen this offense work so well.
Q: What's your evaluation of the quarterback play the Jets have gotten from Ryan Fitzpatrick?
A: In all actuality coming into the season, I did not have high hopes for Ryan Fitzpatrick. In the early parts of training camp, Geno Smith was looking like one of the better QBs in the NFL. Somehow, he looked great in practice, he had great arm strength, he was reading the field well. He didn't throw many interceptions against the secondary. He had a strong command over the team. The incident with IK happened, Fitzpatrick took the reigns and I was honestly very scared for this season. Fitzpatrick did what surprised me getting off to a hot start, and then he started to fall off a little bit and that's what I expected. We know
Fitzpatrick did what surprised me getting off to a hot start, and then he started to fall off a little bit and that's what I expected. We know what Fitz is, he's an ok QB. These past couple games, Fitzpatrick's record in December over his career is garbage. He's not a good QB in December. This season is completely different since he trimmed the beard in the Buffalo Bills game he has nine touchdowns, no interceptions, and three wins. He just won AFC Player of the Week. It's all about the beard.
Q: How do you see Fitzpatrick handling Saturday night?
A: You know, Sean, I really let numbers do the talking. The Cowboys defense allows approximately 24 PPG and 335 YPG. That's about what the Jets offense is. I think we're gonna see what we saw out of the past couple of games out of this Jet offense. While this Cowboys defense isn't quite as bad as I think most people say they are, I think you'll see the Jets be able to march down the field and score at least a couple of drive. I think the defense will show up here or there.
I think the defense will show up here or there. They're gonna give up enough "X plays" to where the Jets are going to get out to an early lead and Matt Cassel just is not going to be able to overcome it.
Q: If there's one aspect that you think the Cowboys can succeed in against the Jets what might that be?
A: Darren McFadden. Look for DMC on Demario Davis or David Harris. We've seen multiple times, wheel routes against these MLBs turn into big scores. That's gonna be a huge matchup to watch out for. This Jet defense, even though statistically good against the run, seems to not be able to stop it certain games. If they are able to control the clock and run the football I think the matchup of McFadden and the LBs will be key to watch.
Q: How important has Chris Ivory been to this entire team?
A: Chris Ivory at times has really been the catalyst of this offense. Over the past couple of weeks, they've learned to not rely on him so much but very much so early in the season if he did not have a good game running the football the Jets lost and that was the end of the story. What has happened is Fitzpatrick has stepped up to the plate the past couple of weeks to the point where Ivory has an easier time running the football. Ivory runs angry, he doesn't look to go out of bounds, he's always looking to hit somebody. He's also a free agent I hope the Jets try to keep.
Q: What is your bold prediction for the Jets on Saturday?
A: My bold prediction for the New York Jets this week is that Brandon Marshall, Erick Decker, and Bilal Powell all have over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown a piece.
Sean’s Scout: Leaning on Elliott, Young Defense Earns Cowboys Win in Philly
On a short week after their Monday night loss, the Dallas Cowboys came into Philadelphia given little chance of escaping with their first road win here in week ten of 2018. The Eagles were rested off their bye week, and despite not playing up to their championship level of a year ago, had far fewer problems compared to the Cowboys coming in with speculation that a sixth loss could lead to significant coaching changes.
Such is why games are decided between the lines. Complete with some pregame scuffles, the Cowboys gave the Eagles all they could handle with Running Back Ezekiel Elliott eclipsing 100 rushing yards for the first time since week six.
Elliott's 151 yards with two touchdowns were enough for a tenacious Cowboys defense to come up with enough stops, forcing one turnover on rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's first interception.
Losers of two straight coming into hostile territory, the Cowboys have a win to build on through the back half of a difficult schedule. Playing up to their potential for the first time since acquiring Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, the Cowboys will simply be relieved to touch down in Dallas as winners at the Eagles 27-20.
Here are my notes on exactly how they got there.
- Of all the surprising things Leighton Vander Esch has done for the Cowboys defense this season, his first quarter interception of Carson Wentz was probably the most expected play.
Vander Esch's coverage skills coming out of Boise State were much more developed than anything he's shown against the run with the Cowboys. His ability to get depth and read the quarterback was one of the few strengths that were evident on his tape, with the rest of his outlook being a projection on how his athleticism would translate to NFL play.
Obviously, the rookie has made a bigger overall impact than even the Cowboys could have expected. Paying a steep price for LVE at 19th overall, the Cowboys have their replacement for Sean Lee (out once again in this game), something impossible to put a price on given what losing Lee has meant to past seasons.
Vander Esch's interception of Wentz set up the Cowboys first score in a game they would never trail. Leighton and Safety Jeff Heath assured this on back-to-back plays late in the fourth, as Vander Esch made a sensational play in space against Corey Clement for a loss of three.
Turning a third and two into fourth and seven, Heath drove on Zach Ertz and tackled him short of the line to gain to turn Philadelphia over and allow the Cowboys to run the clock down.
- Already without rookie Left Guard Connor Williams, the Cowboys appeared to be in for a long night when Right Guard Zack Martin exited with an ankle injury.
Martin would work his way back onto the field as his usual self, but the Cowboys handled the brief absence of both starting guards very well. On the first play with Adam Redmond on the field for Martin, the Cowboys dialed up a quick slant to Amari Cooper.
Prescott trusted Cooper to win on a route he's dominated since coming into the league, and the Cowboys newest weapon at WR did just that to move the chains on third and seven. The Cowboys red zone play calling left a lot to be desired in this game still, but getting points immediately after the loss of Martin was an important moment early in this must-win game.
More importantly, it was great to see Prescott develop his confidence in Cooper as his go-to receiver, something that's helping the entire Dallas offense find its footing.
- Jaylon Smith's fourth down stop will overshadow this play, but Xavier Woods' pass breakup on the third down before it might have been his best play of the season.
Right at the heart of the Cowboys and Eagles scuffle before kickoff was Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard.
It's well-known that Richard's expertise is coaching the back seven of a defense, coming over from a Seahawks defense that featured one of the most talented secondaries in recent memory. One player that Richard and the Cowboys are still trying to find a true role for is Xavier Woods, who had his share of negative plays in coverage on Sunday night as well.
Playing closer to the line of scrimmage on a third and short for the Eagles, Woods got a fantastic read on a pass from Wentz into the flat and broke on it to arrive first and knock it away. These are the types of plays that Woods made consistently in college, and if Richard can find ways to put him in position to be around the ball more, the Cowboys may have another welcome addition to their defense.
Off the turnover on downs, the Cowboys once again drove for a field goal, though not without a fourth down conversion via fake punt and Elliott's highlight reel hurdle.
For the most part, both Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan coached this game with their backs to the wall, and without scoring a touchdown that was clear on this drive as they rewarded their defense with three more points.
- This shouldn't be something we just now have to praise Linehan for, but he did a great job sticking with Elliott on the drive following Brett Maher's miss from 42 yards.
The Eagles tied the game on a short field when Wentz found Ertz from 15 yards out, and looked poised to take back momentum. Elliott had just gained 50 yards on carries of 15 and 35 on a drive that came up empty for the Cowboys. Coming back onto the field in a tie game, I was worried Linehan would rely too much on Prescott's arm, but instead kept Philadelphia guessing while feeding the hot hand in Elliott.
On the Cowboys first series with the game tied at 13, Elliott touched the ball on the first three plays to move the chains with one reception and two rushes. He would rip off an 18 yard run two plays later, and walk into the end zone for his second receiving TD of the season to cap off the drive.
Of course, it took yet another touchdown for the Cowboys to take the lead for good, and this one was also provided by Elliott on a one yard plunge.
The Marc Colombo effect is a real thing for the Cowboys offensive line, paving the way for Elliott's heroic night. Their emphasis on getting to the second level and playing better in space was evident in not only the run game but on a few crucial WR screens as well.
- Lance Lenoir played in his second regular season game for the Cowboys, both of which now being wins at the Eagles.
The practice squad receiver was called up to the active roster this week, and found a way to make an impact on special teams. Lenoir was given a chance to return punts as a UDFA last year, but his struggles on STs forced the Cowboys to keep him on the practice squad for his rookie season.
Lenoir did play in the Cowboys meaningless week 17 win last year.
With a deep group of receivers for Lenoir to work through this summer as well, the Western Illinois product had been working on the practice squad again before earning this opportunity. Covering the Cowboys final punt of the game, Lenoir closed the angle on Golden Tate as the only Cowboy downfield in that moment.
The Eagles came after the punt as they should have, forcing the Cowboys to commit numbers inside to protect. Lenoir's efforts in the open field limited the return on a clean punt by Jones. The Eagles final drive began on their own 32, as Wentz would earn one throw with a chance to reach the end zone and come up short on a completion to Ertz.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys schedule doesn't get easier from here, as they'll revisit the site of the "Burning of Atlanta" next Sunday. Last year's Cowboys loss in Atlanta was the beginning of the end of that season, and through nine weeks this year it felt like the turning point for perhaps Garrett's tenure and Prescott's time under center.
The Cowboys were able to deafen the outside noise surrounding the uncertain future of this team and play up to potential on the road for the first time at the Eagles. This starts with Prescott's efficient night, something that must inspire confidence for him to put any result from last year behind him and focus on the tall task at hand of climbing the NFC East standings at 4-5.
With a home win on Sunday, the Washington Redskins remained in the division lead at 6-3. They play in AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving.
As if this Cowboys win didn't prove that the NFL is a week-to-week league, Cowboys Nation should be intrigued by this week's result for the Falcons - a loss at the Cleveland Browns 28-16.
Despite Win over Eagles, Scott Linehan’s Job Not Secure
Per reports from Ian Rapaport of NFL.com, the Dallas Cowboys considered firing Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan during the team’s bye week. Instead they fired Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander and trades for Amari Cooper to attempt to ignite the offense. Despite a win over division rival Philadelphia Eagles, Scott Linehan's job should still be in jeopardy. Nothing that happened on Sunday Night Football should change that.
Here is what Rapoport had to say:
From @gmfb Weekend: The #Cowboys seriously weighed moving on from OC Scott Linehan during the bye week and have an affinity for #OU coach Lincoln Riley if they move on from Jason Garrett... who @MikeGarafolo says may take back play-calling. https://t.co/8HRHaSKAHw
The Dallas Cowboys were facing an Eagles secondary that was already down a starting outside cornerback in Jalen Mills and their starting slot corner Sydney Jones. Ronald Darby, the other Eagles starting outside corner went down with a knee injury in the game and missed the rest of the contest.
The Cowboys should have won that game from the outset and the offense should have had some success against a hurting Eagles secondary. We shouldn't be surprised at the success the Cowboys had passing against UDFAs and guys getting their first extended run on defense.
Linehan called an okay game for most of the night, finding ways to get his wide receivers open and Dak Prescott had his best game of the season in a hostile environment. He got the ball in Ezekiel Elliott's hands early and often and the offensive line responded with probably their best game of the season.
Yet, on the most important drive of the game when the Cowboys were up seven and needed a first down to ice the game, Linehan reminded us all why he needs to be fired.
The final series was an illustration of what it means to get "too cute" as an offensive coordinator.
Elliott had been gashing the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line up the middle all night, Linehan calls a toss play. Elliott runs left and the Dallas Cowboys have a hard time blocking it up and Elliott is tackled for a loss. A toss play is not a bad play, but on a drive when you can't afford a loss of yardage and you've been effective up the middle, you keep going where you've been winning. Prior to the toss, Elliott was averaging 8.44 yards per carry and had more than 100 yards after contact. The Dallas interior was playing great, so why not keep the game in their hands?
Here's Ezekiel Elliott's run chart provided by NFL.com's Next Gen Stats.
As you can see from the chart, Elliott and the offensive line were killing them up the middle or with off tackle. Only once did they try to run wide. It worked, but most of his damage was done inside the hashmarks.
On second down in trying to get some cheap yards, he throws a bubble screen to Cole Beasley. Again, not a bad play call in general, but when you need yards, you took the ball out of your best player's hands.
On third down, Linehan went with another curious play call when he had Dak Prescott run a quarterback draw. It wasn't good execution by Dak as he ran into his own blocker and the play went for a loss.
On the most important drive of the game against a defense that was offering little resistance, Linehan went soft and didn't give his offensive line an opportunity to drive a nail in the coffin of the Eagles defense.
In addition to the final drive, the Cowboys struggled for another week in the red zone, only scoring on 60% of their possessions inside the Eagles 20 yard line. The Dallas Cowboys have been below average in the red zone all season long and Sunday night is just another example of the ineffectiveness of the offense, even against a very banged up defense.
Scott Linehan made a lot of changes to the coaching personnel in the offseason removing the offensive line coach, quarterbacks coach, and wide receivers coach. The offense has looked dysfunctional and has been criticized for being too predictable dating back to late last season by players and analysts alike. Wide receivers for two years, including former Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant, have been critical of the offense. With the offense still struggling heading into the bye week, Linehan survived another offensive assistant when Alexander was let go. At some point Linehan is going to run out of offensive assistants to scape goat and it's going to come down to him.
While they were able to score 27 points against the Eagles on Sunday night, don't count me as convinced that the offense is "fixed."
One game does not change what the offense has been, because for the most part, it's been average-to-bad in three out of the four years Linehan's been here. Since 2015, when Scott Linehan took over the play calling duties, the Dallas Cowboys offense has ranked 31st, 5th, 14th, and 26th in points and 22nd, 5th, 14th, and 27th in yards. Perhaps we can give him a pass for 2015 when he had to roll out Brandon Weedn, Matt Cassell, and Kellen Moore for much of the season, but if you look at the history of his offense's they've been rather average.
Since 2005, Linehan's offenses have ranked in the top 10 in scoring only three times. In seven of the last 13 seasons, Linehan's offenses have finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring and five times in the bottom third of the league in scoring. Not since he was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings with Dante Culpepper and Randy Moss in 2002-2004, has Scott Linehan had an offense finish in the top 10 in scoring two years in a row.
Scott Linehan is probably what his record states he is; an average offensive coordinator.
If the Dallas Cowboys have seriously considered moving on from him, then they probably need to go ahead and do so. It's not working out with Scott Linehan and this current group of players. If the Dallas Cowboys really believe that Dak Prescott is the future, then they need to get him with an offensive play caller who can utilize Dak's abilities better than Linehan can.
Linehan may have delayed the inevitable for another week, but he'll have to be better for the rest of the season to stay the Cowboys play caller moving forward. Scott Linehan has been on the hot seat for weeks.
The Cowboys picked up the victory, but the W hasn't turned the heat down on Linehan's job evaluation. He still has a lot to prove moving forward.
DAL 27, PHI 20: Desperate Cowboys Get Huge Road Win
Who saw this coming?
Coming into Sunday Night's game with the Philadelphia Eagles, no one seemed to think the Dallas Cowboys had much of a chance. Rumors had been swirling that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could be on the verge of losing his job, and deservingly so based on how this offense has played all year. Dak Prescott was shaky at best during Monday's loss to the Titans, and the offensive line was falling apart one piece at a time.
Then tonight's game happened, as the Cowboys defeated the hated Eagles 27-20, improving to 4-5 on the season.
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense looked like their 2016-selves, answering the Eagles time and time again, and coming away with some huge third down conversions. Dallas rode Ezekiel Elliott all night long, as the stud running back finished with 151 yards rushing and the game winning touchdown.
Prescott looked as comfortable as we've ever seen him, finishing the day with 270 passing yards and a touchdown pass. Of course, this comfortability is directly related to Elliott's success on the ground, but it was encouraging to see nonetheless.
Defensively, the star of the game was rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. The first round pick had the best game of his young career, and made the game saving third down tackle late in the fourth quarter after evading two blockers out in front. He also had an incredibly important interception in the first half to set the Cowboys up for an easy field goal attempt.
- Amari Cooper is worth the price of admission. Cooper once again was impressive tonight, going for 75 yards on 6 catches. Just his presence opens up so much in this passing game, as Allen Hurns once again made a big catch opposite of Cooper this week.
- Randy Gregory sack alert! Gregory played arguably his best game of the year as well, and came away with a big solo sack against future hall of famer Jason Peters. If he can be consistent as a rusher week to week, things should get a little easier for DeMarcus Lawrence going forward.
- The Cowboys offensive line played like the Cowboys offensive line. And they did it without second round pick Connor Williams. Tyron Smith was awesome tonight, and Zack Martin battled through injuries to create running lanes for Elliott.
- It should be emphasized just how great Ezekiel Elliott was tonight. Games like these make it easy to justify his fourth overall selection. As usual, however, the problem with this entire offense is consistency.
- The Cowboys will travel to Atlanta to face the 4-5 Falcons next week, as they try to fight their way back into the NFC East race.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Should Cowboys Pursue Former Raider Bruce Irvin?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Moves the Dallas Cowboys Should Explore at Trade Deadline
Player News2 weeks ago
BREAKING: Cowboys DT David Irving Suffers Potentially Severe Injury
Star Blog1 week ago
Could Cowboys Have Two WRs Make Their Debut Against Tennessee?
Player News1 week ago
Could WR Noah Brown Help the Cowboys at Tight End?
Player News2 days ago
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys Return to Basics with Promotion of Marc Colombo
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Kris Richard on Cleveland Browns Short List of HC Candidates?