Ever since the first day of the 2015 off season, Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere have been calling for this team to address the defensive end position. The pass rush was severely lacking, Greg Hardy was gone, and nobody in the front office seemed to care that one of our Staff Writers was dangerously close to appearing on the depth chart at DE by the time the preseason rolled around.
Suddenly, Benson Mayowa was here to save the day. A restricted free agent, the Oakland Raiders did not match the Cowboys three-year deal offered to the young edge rusher, sending him off to Dallas to work with defensive-line guru Rod Marinelli.
After dealing with injuries through the preseason, Mayowa started and saw 45 defensive snaps against the New York Giants in week 1 - getting off to a good start by sacking
the most incompetent quarterback in the division not named Kirk Cousins Eli Manning once.
However, since then, Mayowa has failed to record a sack, seeing a drop in his playing time with just 35 and 28 snaps respectively against the Redskins and Bears. This dip in playing time is concerning for a number of reasons, mainly because Mayowa is just a few weeks in to a three-year deal with the team. While the signing might have been sparked by the large need that the team had at his position, the Cowboys clearly saw some long-term potential in Mayowa (he did have flashes in Oakland) that he has yet to display.
His failure to make a larger impact is also concerning because of the players behind him taking his snaps at RDE, mainly Jack Crawford, who hasn't fared much better playing well out of position as a weak side edge rusher.
I watched Benson Mayowa's tape against Ereck Flowers of the Giants - a struggling second-year left tackle - and Trent Williams, who is one of the best in the business for the Washington Redskins.
Its time for some "Reel Talk" on what I saw:
All Some Trades, Master of None
In starting with Mayowa's performance against the Redskins, it was clear why this team simply needed to take him off the field at times. While nobody not named DeMarcus Lawrence may have been able to generate pressure off the right side in this game, Mayowa was a liability in the running game.
On Matt Jones' touchdown run, Mayowa completely conceded the edge by getting off the ball unbalanced and falling to his knees. Sean Lee and Barry Church were unable to ever recover from Jones receiving a clear lane to the outside, as he stretched the play to the pylon for a score.
As a pass rusher, Mayowa also had issues with his balance, especially when trying to get wide around the edge and finish. This is a player that is forced to resort to getting wide and trying to use his strong legs to capture the edge, because he simply looks lost trying to set up blockers with any rush moves.
While Mayowa will turn in some positive plays thanks to his legs and power, he is just not strong enough or quick enough laterally to consistently make any impact.
Instead, Mayowa needs to focus on his bend as a RDE, as he was caught too many times bending into a good position before coming back upright and allowing his blocker to sit on him and disrupt the angle towards the quarterback. To me, this is Mayowa's most workable trait, but it is only going to be more difficult to refine considering how predictable of a player he is.
Mayowa will get his hands inside on blockers and show the ability to steer them and eventually rip his hands through to disengage, but #93's lack of knock back on first contact makes it hard for him to get home in time.
As you'll see in these pictures, even his sack against the New York Giants was a result of Eli Manning being forced to hold onto the ball and then slide in Mayowa's direction, after he did a nice job beating Flowers for the edge.
Right here, you would love to be able to see Mayowa set up his blocker with another move and use his long arms to get to Manning.
Instead, you see him get lucky to be put in a position to finish off this play, after essentially losing contain. When Manning slides to his left, Flowers could not contain the quick reaction from Mayowa, as he eventually freed himself for the hit from behind.
A Positive Outlook
All is not lost through three games for Benson Mayowa. As we know, Dallas' defense is built around throwing different looks at opposing offenses at the defensive end spot, relying on waves of pass rushers to get the job done.
The team's best pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, will be back after this Sunday's game against the 49ers, which will help the entirety of the line.
Some are speculating that Lawrence will be called upon to kick over to the right side of the line, where he played his injury-shortened 2014 rookie season. If this is the case, Mayowa could find himself in a much more rotational role, where he can be much more effective.
Also factoring into the team's plans for the following two years under contract, Mayowa has a chance to be here as the Cowboys hopefully put some serious work into revamping the depth chart at defensive end entirely.
If this turns out to be the case, Mayowa can absolutely shine as a situational pass rusher, coming in with fresh legs to pressure quarterbacks with his speed.
The Dallas Cowboys are in San Francisco on Sunday with a chance to get to 3-1 on the season - an absolutely huge opportunity for a team that has help on the way at numerous positions.
One of those positions is at defensive end, where they must first rely on guys like Benson Mayowa to get the job done this week. We'll keep an eye on how much Mayowa gets onto the field against Chip Kelly and the 49ers' up tempo offense, and how much of an impact he can make when he lines up.
What are you hoping to see from Mayowa as the season goes on? Comment below to share your thoughts, or email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.
Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line
The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.
Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.
Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.
Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp
What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.
The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.
Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.
To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.
Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.
If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.
Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles
You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.
THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX
This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.
The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.
Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.
A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.
If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.
Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.
Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.
As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.
Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.
Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.
It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.
Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.
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