In their season opener against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys imposed their will on offense. And while offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and quarterback Dak Prescott stole the headlines, the Cowboys offensive line was as dominant as ever.
In particular, right tackle La'el Collins had one of the better days of his career both in pass protection and as a run blocker. And while improvement in his game is the main reason for his success last Sunday, there's no question that the competition level this offensive line faced played a part as well.
This week against the Washington Redskins, that competition level should be a bit higher. At least on paper. Washington has invested a good number of assets into their defensive front in recent years, essentially going after anyone who's played under Nick Saban in college.
Their defensive line is wildly impressive when you take a look at the names they are able to deploy: such as Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Caleb Brantley, and Matt Ioannidis. Yet, their production as a defensive line hasn't been nearly as strong.
Washington's run defense finished 28th in DVOA in 2018, and after one week of football they currently sit at 16th in those same rankings. They also ranked 29th in adjusted line yards a year ago. Of course, a defensive line does more than just defend the run, but their pass rushing numbers aren't too pretty either.
Though they did have a decent sack percentage last season, their edge pass rushing talent outside of Ryan Kerrigan leaves much to be desired. Washington tried to fix their edge spot opposite Kerrigan by drafting the highly touted Montez Sweat, but he is still very young and has to grow as a player.
Still, this is a really talented unit. As a front seven, the Redskins have one of the higher defensive ceilings in the entire league. Even if Allen is forced to miss the game due to injury, having someone like Tim Settle or Caleb Brantley behind him showcases the incredible depth this team has on the defensive line. At least from a talent standpoint, if nothing else.
If there's one matchup to really watch for this week, it's on the right side of that offensive line.
Ryan Kerrigan has given La'el Collins issues in their past meetings, but now that he has shown consistent improvement since the middle of 2018, Collins should be up to the task on Sunday. Quarterback Dak Prescott's biggest issue in the pocket has been his ability to sense and escape pressure from the right side, putting increased emphasis on Collins locking down Kerrigan this week.
The Cowboys offensive linemen were back to their old ways against the Giants in the season opener, but they'll need to be even better to put on a similar performance this week in Washington.
Amari Cooper Continues to Feast on the Philadelphia Eagles
The 2018 trade that sent the Dallas Cowboys 2019 first-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders has been genius since last year. But it'll never get old bringing it up after many panned the Cowboys for making the move when the Philadelphia Eagles sent a third-round pick, for now, New York Giants Wide Receiver Golden Tate.
The beauty of this deal for the Dallas Cowboys is that their trade for a wide receiver worked out tremendously and at the same time, their biggest rival's trade for a wide receiver fell flat. The other part that continues to make the deal for Amari Cooper a dream come true is the way he's played against the Philadelphia Eagles in some high-leverage games.
In week 10 of the 2018 season, Cooper's second game with the Dallas Cowboys, they found themselves facing an uphill battle for the NFC East as they sat at 3-5 in what would become the first must-win game of the season. After spending just two weeks with the Cowboys, Cooper put up a six reception, 75-yard effort in the Cowboys win that brought them to 4-5. That victory would propel them to win their next five games in a row and go 6-1 over their final seven games.
In their division-clinching win in week 14, Amari Cooper put up an all-time game when he caught 10 passes for 217 yards, and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
Yet again, in a pivotal matchup for the NFC East between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, Cooper showed up yet again. He really likes playing against Philly. On the night he had five receptions on five targets for 106 yards. Cooper had receptions of 44 and 28 yards that helped set up scores to put the game out of reach.
In addition to those two big receptions, Amari picked up two other receptions for first downs, something that we've come to expect at this point. The Dak Prescott to Amari Cooper connection continues to be a treat to observe as the two are on just another level when it comes to their chemistry.
On the 44 yard bomb, the Cowboys put Cooper in motion, and though the man didn't travel with him, Dak knows he's got single coverage on the outside. Prescott uses a good shoulder faint to sell the slant to Cooper before he runs a sluggo route (a slant and go) and gets behind his man and away from the deep middle safety down the sideline. That reception helped set up the first of Brett Maher's two field goals in the final two minutes of the first half, which made it 24-7.
Then at the start of the fourth quarter, with the Dallas Cowboys attempting to milk the clock and also ice the game, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper come up with another big-time throw and catch. This time down the right sideline.
After Randall Cobb goes in motion, Prescott again knows he has Amari with single coverage at the top of the screen. Much like they did last year in the week 10 matchup where Cooper had more than 200 yards receiving, Prescott puts the ball out in front of Cooper and gives him an opportunity to run under it.
Amari Cooper's ability to use his speed and body positioning to go from out of position to make the play in an instant is an incredible thing to watch. Unlike Dez Bryant, he's not using a jumping ability to beat these defenders to the ball, Cooper's simply using his frame and speed to get into a better position to make these over these shoulder catches down the field.
In three games now against the Philadelphia Eagles, Amari Cooper's caught 21 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, the Cowboys have recorded three huge wins against their NFC East rival in those games.
If and when the Dallas Cowboys extend Amari Cooper this season or in the offseason to a long-term extension, it should send shivers down the spine of the Philadelphia Eagles and their fan base. He's abused the Eagles over the last year and it's unlikely that they'll be better for the next meeting later in the season. At this point, Amari Cooper probably gets really excited to see the Eagles on the other side of the field from him, knowing that there isn't a defensive back that can hang with him in man coverage.
Jason Garrett Deserves Major Praise For Cowboys Week 7 Win
Jason Garrett's seat had never been hotter than it was entering Sunday night.
And that's saying a lot.
The much maligned head coach of the Dallas Cowboys has been fending off those who have called for his job since the very day he took the team over from Wade Phillips in 2010. Garrett has been called a yes-man, the "clapper," and flat-out a bad football coach by seemingly every national media outlet despite the success he's had as the coach in Dallas.
That's right, I said success.
Yes, there has been no championship level success under Garrett's regime, but there has been success. Since 2014, Garrett has led the Cowboys to 3 division titles in 5 years and has reached the Divisional round of the playoffs three times. He's 16-5 against the NFC East in the Dak Prescott era, and has the Cowboys in first place of the division through seven weeks once again.
So, there has been success. But certainly not enough of it to defend his every move.
Jason Garrett messed up in New Jersey. There's no way around it. Sloppy game management and poor control of the clock put his team in a tough situation against the Jets, and ultimately led to their disastrous week 6 loss. He was outcoached and out-prepared by a winless team, and suffered one of the worst losses in his era as the team's head coach.
Fans were calling for his job, and rightfully looking for answers as to why such a talented group of players was in the midst of a three game skid that no one had predicted after their fast start to the 2019 season. Dallas' backs were against the wall, and they had to answer against the Eagles in order to salvage a season which had such high hopes just weeks before.
And, as Jason Garrett's teams have done more often than not, the Dallas Cowboys answered. Garrett's Cowboys had been plagued by slow starts during their three game losing streak, but his team came out on fire on Sunday night. Dallas forced two quick fumbles, scored two easy touchdowns, and were up 14-0 before the Eagles had even blinked.
The game was over, and it had just started.
Jason Garrett is far from perfect as a head coach. He often deserves criticism, and he has some faults which are hard to look past as we project what the Cowboys will be down the stretch of the season. But he deserves major praise for this team's week 7 performance. It would've been easy for the Cowboys to once again come out slow on Sunday, get behind early, and fall into the shell they had found themselves in the previous two weeks.
But instead, they fought. They dominated. And they won.
Games like these are why it's so difficult for the Cowboys to move on from Jason Garrett as their head coach. These teams play hard for him, and they are rarely out of contention on any given Sunday, or during any given season.
Jason Garrett's seat is still hot. The Cowboys will need postseason success to ensure that it cools to a comfortable temperature for the coach this offseason. But kudos to him and the Cowboys for getting a massive win on Sunday night.
Takeaway Tuesday: DeMarcus Lawrence Silences Doubters vs Eagles
Dallas Cowboys fans should be happy about the change of pace in the conversation surrounding America's Team. A week ago, the talk in Cowboys Nation was all about just how hot was Jason Garrett's seat. Three consecutive losses will do that to most fan bases. Fortunately, though, we can put a pin on that conversation for a while after the Cowboys handily defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 37-10 last Sunday Night.
It was a great team performance all around, but we should dive in to the specifics. Overall, it was a good win to claim the NFC East division lead as the Cowboys get ready to rest this upcoming bye week. Let's get to this week's takeaways!
Ezekiel Elliott Played His Best Game of the Year
The way Ezekiel Elliott ran versus the Eagles' defense reminded me of his rookie season. Elliott has had a pretty good season even though the Cowboys haven't leaned as much on the running game as they had the last few seasons.
Last Sunday, he accounted for 111 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards. But it wasn't about his total yardage. What was special was the way he juked defenders, broke tackles and fought for the dirty yards.
There was a fire about #21 and I'm sure Cowboys Nation is just as excited as I am to watch it. He truly was something versus the Eagles.
Ezekiel Elliott's best game of the season BY FAR. Look at this chart from Next Gen Stats. Green lines mean 5+ yards gained or touchdown.
Not to mention, Elliott was extremely effective as he found multiple ways to have 5+ yard run after 5+ yard run. Simply put, an impressive performance from the Cowboys superstar running back.
DeMarcus Lawrence Silenced Doubters
I don't know if it was his huge contract that turned many fans against DeMarcus Lawrence early in the season, but the Cowboys' defensive end managed to silence doubters against the Eagles. On his way to one sack and one forced fumble, Lawrence dominated in the trenches.
He was solid versus the run and kept pressuring Carson Wentz all game long.
The truth is that D-Law has played well this offseason, but constant double-teams and the lack help from the interior defensive linemen have kept his box score stats down. However, when you look at more advanced metrics such as pass-rush productivity, you'll notice Lawrence is still playing at a very high level.
His play versus the Eagles proved that to many fans watching at home.
I was intrigued by the Cowboys lining him up against the Eagles' LT, trying to exploit the fact that Jason Peters was out injured. I wonder if Rod Marinelli continues to look for favorable match-ups in the future and keeps moving him around occasionally.
Amari Cooper is Fine
After Amari Cooper's quad injury against the New York Jets, reports emerged on him being in "terrible pain." Many doubted he'd even play against the Philadelphia Eagles but he did, along other key players who were dealing with injuries too. In his return to the field, Cooper led the Cowboys receiving core with 106 yards in only five receptions (five targets).
Once again, his route running was on full display. He managed to burn a secondary that has been far from great this year. The Cowboys needed him to show up, and he delivered. He even caught a 44 yard pass when he absolutely destroyed Eagles DB Rasul Douglas on a double-move. Cooper would also have a diving jaw-dropping catch later in the game.
It's fair to assume he's healthy and ready to go for the rest of the season.
Cowboys Run Defense Still an Issue
Takeaways and a strong defensive performance against the pass secured the win for the Cowboys, but the run defense continues to be a problem for Rod Marinelli's unit. The Eagles running backs combined for 103 rushing yards and Dallas was beaten in the trenches a handful of times on this game.
The linebackers looked drastically better, and Leighton Vander Esch had his best half this season so far. Fortunately, it seems like his injury isn't serious enough for him to miss any additional playing time.
However, there were a handful of plays in which the Cowboys' defensive tackles were pushed around again. If I had to choose one position to upgrade, I wouldn't hesitate to address the interior defensive line. It's a problem.
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