Is there really such a thing as a Monday morning quarterback for the season? That's about what I feel like for the last few weeks watching the (Va)Giants not only make their way into the playoffs but win out the hard way - one game at a time; no byes, no advantage, just good tough football.
I still firmly believe Eli Manning is a child and want Osi to slam him to the turf every time he sulks and pouts after a play gone awry, but he did his part. So congratulations go out to the Super Bowl Champs.
Now that I've vomited and rinsed, let's talk some Cowboys...
Jason Garrett had his blunders - and oh were they stupid and agonizing to watch - but overall I think he made a positive impact on this team. He's still too iffy about the running game but it doesn't appear his personal style as a quarterback has anything to do with it. When he had a capable back he used him and we were better off for it. Here's hope DeMarco Murray returns to health quickly and hasn't lost a step. Garrett can call the plays and do it well when he's got capable - not great - receivers, tailbacks, and quarterback on the field. The opposing defense is an after-thought, this team can make any play they want when they execute properly.
Houck - He's been a great coach for us in the past and that's probably the doom for us. He's been good and Garrett knows that as well Jerry Jones does and for his past contributions we would have never fired him, damning these 'Boys to an archaic running game that doesn't work anymore. So my hat's off to him for retiring. What's coming next is a surprise for us as we get a change of pace, but with Murray we should be able to make it work. Fingers and Toes crossed!
When Dave Campo returned I thought it would be a good thing. At the time we still had Roy Williams I playing and he was in a slump, a slump that Campo couldn't bring back despite his success with Roy years earlier. And Maxie wasn't getting it done either. Both are solid changes and again I have to thank Maxie for making the change, considering the Cowboys offered him a new contract.
The offense for next year really boils down to three things - The line, the back, and the receivers.
The offensive line got a shade better this year with Tyron Smith coming into his own. He's an athletic giant on the line and though he had a few mistakes, the rookie proved himself. Now the question is will he make the switch to the left side and will he be able to perform at the same level on the left - I say yes. He's young and learning.
But Doug Free is a pussy cat who needs either a major attitude downgrade or a nice and cozy bench to keep warm. He's got all the make-up of a good lineman but he's just too tame - he needs a bigger bite to go with his bark. Phil Costa is simply bad. I know he's young and has a lot of learning to do but damn son, how do you forget the snap count more than once? I think he's scared and unfocused. He snaps when he should hold, and he snaps badly in anticipation of the defensive linemen coming.
DeMarco Murray has the ability to become a great running back in this league and he was well on his way when injury forced him to a stop. He's got speed, vision, quickness, and he's tough enough to withstand a few tackles (attempts). Add in Felix "Greatest running back in the NFL - NOT" Jones to give some relief and a change of pace at the line and we've got a duo that is easy to maintain, easy to game-plan for, and about as effective as any tandem in the league since Smith and Moose tore it up back in the day. High praise I know, but it's mostly for Murray. That kid has something special.
By the by - anyone else find it strange that two years in a row, in the first meeting of each year the Giants have broken one of our primary producers bones? First Romo's collarbone and now Murray's ankle... Just saying.
Dez is doing whatever the hell he's doing to undermine his potential, but we still have Austin (Fad) and Robinson (Hype). Miles Austin has flashed brilliance a few times but a number one receiver he is not.
His break out game against the Chiefs a couple of years ago was mainly due to the fact there was little to no game footage on him - he was an unknown for the Kansas defense. He had some good games after that but once an off-season came and went he lost his edge.
Bryant is our number one and Robinson our number two. Robinson isn't real flashy but he's consistent and can make the big plays when the ball is within his arm span. He's just one of those pieces of a puzzle that you can't make a full picture without. Then again, if Bryant doesn't step up and focus and execute then we're in trouble. During the final minutes of the Jets game it was all Bryant. People look back now and say it was Revis verses Bryant but it really wasn't. It was a short route and Bryant had position on Revis - just not the position Romo was throwing to. Bryant goofed on a fundamental aspect - run the route, catch the ball.
Meanwhile Romo had a great year, but ESPN pointed out the tell... Romo had a record passer rating and yet the 'Boys were middle of the pack on scoring. Those are two things that shouldn't go together. I don't blame Romo - he did his job. He threw short, long, low, high, whatever was asked of him. He had his mistakes as any QB does but his team didn't help. His receivers need to focus and run their routes, they need to be mindful of where defenders are, and they need to catch and then run. And in Bryant's case he needs to run up the field a little more. That kid is like a hamster in a wheel - legs are churning but he's not going anywhere. As an added bonus, we see him take on three and four times the hits for it too.
There's no great mystery to this offense for 2012 - if healthy they do what they did mid-season with a solid mix of run and pass. It worked. Not because the other guys' defense was off but because it was a powerful combination that worked.
They say defense wins championships and while that's hardly accurate in the full spectrum of things, it's a damned fine place to start for these 'Boys. The line played well for what they are - you don't get huge sack totals from the line in a 3-4. They're merely for blocking and redirection and they did both effectively.
The linebackers fell a little short though. I'm not saying the line shouldn't do more because they always should, but the obvious miscommunications and confusion behind them was a serious problem that can't be repeated without the same 8-8 result. Lee was a bright spot and from what I'm hearing he'll take over signal calling next year. He's young and that could creep up into an issue but for now he's our top defender hands down.
I love Ware, the guy gets it done, but in 2011 he was swimming upstream far too often. Spencer again lacked any demonstration that warranted his praise or pay. James and Brooking signed their names next to Missed Tackles most of the year and missed assignments the rest of it. A few rookies got some play and managed when more than managing was needed - not exactly their fault what the other linebackers and secondary do or don't do.
I'm one of these types that believes you can't cure an illness by fixing a symptom and 2011 seemed like a whole lot of symptoms were trying to be fixed with personnel. Look at ILB - Brooking and James, two very experienced and previously dominating forces rotating at the head spot, signal caller. Why on earth do you need that much experience to point out a run or pass? It comes down to the coach usually, the guy saying what's to be done when a certain condition is met. Maybe it was the lack of an off-season or maybe it was an overcomplicated scheme; either way, these Cowboys did not get it. Some plays worked great, others were just disastrous. But who says the coach is to blame for this teams defensive woes?
T-New is all over the place. From hurdled to beat, missed catches to penalties, he's simply not worth a rookie salary anymore. It was said during the year that the game plan was to play him off his receiver 10 yards, we universally balked at that and for good reason - why is a formerly great cover guy playing 10 yards off the ball? Because he lost a step, guts, and because all the corners were playing off! They simply did not have the confidence in the corners to play press or man coverage and get it done. 70 yard TD passes over their head will do that. But why is Ryan making a defense centered around making up for what his guys can't do? It makes no sense.
I see the 'Boys drafting hard in the DB market this year to get some fresh and able blood at corner. Jenkins played with a ton of heart but he missed the mark as well - probably due to his constantly injured shoulder, probably. But Scandrick was horrible, as was Ball. Sensabaugh actually didn't do as bad as the others but he's still just an average safety. Of course when you have catastrophic failures in every other part of your coverage game, an average guy looks like a new contract.
Many think he should be dumped as well as Newman, Scandrick, and Ball but the basic truth is that they're going to have a hard enough time replacing the corners, never mind adding a safety into the mix. Elam isn't great but he's a good start. Essentially, the safety spots are both filled by average players who aren't glaring liabilities at present, so leave them and focus on the liabilities around them. Down the line, theoretically, you'd reach a point where those average safeties become the liability and that's when you deal with them.
Rookie kicker had a few tough games, but let's remember two of them were directly because of his own head coach. Garrett icing him certainly did the trick and literally cost us the game as he made the first kick, but it also paved the way for the second iced kick by showing how well it worked on our boy. Bailey is good though, and will get another season to show it.
McBriar says today that he feels the surgery to remove a cyst believed to be causing his nerve issues is all he needs to return to form, and a mere recovery is all he needs. He's a rock at punter and we need him back. He's also a free agent and will just be getting healthy again around the week free agency starts. I predict we'll resign him if he can pass the physical and kick the ball. His skill isn't a question, only his health.
The special teams units looked good all year - most of the year - had a few run backs gone too far late in the season but otherwise it was a solid unit for once. And luckily DeCamillis is here to stay for another year.
All-in-all this team needs a lot of work and much of it is now down to new players - through the draft, free agency, and our own talent pool (practice squad and backups). The offense needs health and the defense needs better players. It's at least an easy problem to figure out, even if the solution isn't quite so clear.
Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie Becoming a Red Zone Liability?
Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is arguably as talented as just about any defensive back in the NFL. He still young and has quite a bit he can do to improve his game, but there's no denying his talent. One of the things he may need to work on right now is his awareness and discipline in the red zone.
In back to back games No. 24 has been caught out of position and as a result surrendered points in the end zone. Just this last Sunday he gave up a two point conversion to Minnesota Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph. The week prior he gave up a touchdown catch to New York Giants Wide Receiver Cody Latimer.
Does this make him a liability in the red zone?
I know if I've noticed Chidobe Awuzie getting victimized in back to back weeks in the red zone opposing offensive coordinators around the league have done the same. As a result, they're going to test Awuzie to find out if they can have the same kind of success.
If I'm Kris Richard I'm personally going to be working on making sure Chidobe is fully aware he needs to be more disciplined with his play, especially in the red zone. He's been caught out of position in back to back games and that can't be something that continues from here on out.
I'm sure Awuzie would tell you himself this is something he needs to clean up. He takes pride in his abilities and knows he can still improve. Hopefully he can take it to heart and better prepare for what's to come. Whether that means just executing his assignments better or maybe studying a little more film. It's up to him to figure out what he needs to do.
As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, they may need to start giving him a little more help over the top if this is something that continues. And if worse comes to worse, they can always see if Jourdan Lewis or Anthony Brown can be more consistent. I doubt it would come to that, but it is an option.
I for one am hoping No. 24 will just hunker down and figure out what he needs to do in order to take his game to the next level. If he can do that the Cowboys defense will be much better for it. I don't know about you, but I will be keeping a close eye on him for the rest of the season.
Do you think CB Chidobe Awuzie has become a red zone liability?
Maliek Collins has a Breakout Opportunity Against the Minnesota Vikings
It's been a quiet 2019 for one of the Dallas Cowboys' preseason breakout candidates, Maliek Collins. Heading into training camp, and then the regular season, Collins was the healthiest he'd been at any point in his previous three seasons. That combined with another year in the NFL, led many to believe that Collins could become a dominant 3-technique defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. Collins has been good, but perhaps not as productive as many might have predicted.
On the year, Maliek Collins has three sacks, which is third for the Dallas Cowboys behind Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence. Per Pro Football Focus, Collins is tied for 17th in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. Tied for 17th might not sound very good, but when the league leader in sacks among interior defensive linemen has just six, Collins isn't far off from threatening for the league lead. In fact, Maliek Collins is tied with All-Pro Defensive Tackles Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones, and Geno Atkins in sacks.
In total pressures, Collins is tied for eighth in the NFL per Pro Football Focus with 27 along with Quentin Jefferson and Vita Vea.
Though he's not racking up a ton of tackle this season, Collins has been excellent as a pass rusher. On Sunday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, he'll have a tremendous opportunity to build on his first-half numbers.
Against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, Collins has an enormous opportunity. Among quarterbacks with at least 196 drop backs, Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been under pressure at the fourth highest rate in the NFL. His 40.8% pressure rate is only better than Daniel Jones, Russell Wilson, and Sam Darnold.
Vikings Guard Pat Elflein has allowed five sacks on the year, which is tied for the third most in the NFL this season among interior offensive linemen and his 20 pressures allowed is tied for eighth. When Maliek Collins gets an opportunity to line up across from Elflein, he's going to have a chance to get home.
With teams having to pay so much attention to DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and newcomer Michael Bennett, Collins should be freed up to face more one-on-one blockers.
Collins hasn't had a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but he hasn't necessarily been the dominant player we thought he could be after his strong preseason. That perception could change when the Dallas Cowboys play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. The opportunity is there for Collins, he just has to seize it.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Quietly Having a Good Season
The Dallas Cowboys started to get the return on their investment of Jaylon Smith in a major way in 2018. He finished with 121 tackles (six tackles for loss), four sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a touchdown.
With that type of production comes lofty expectations. Dak Prescott is off to the best start of his career, All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott has found his groove with three consecutive 100-yard performances, and Amari Cooper is on pace for his best season as a pro. However, quietly, Smith is on pace to have the best season of his young career so far.
In the season opener vs the New York Giants, the Cowboys completely dominated the game virtually from the start defensively. After a touchdown on their first possession, the Giants were shut down and only scored 10 points the rest of the game. Smith would register only six tackles for the game but the Cowboys were up as much as 25 points so it wasn't really necessary for him to ball out in this contest.
Week 2 vs the Washington Redskins on the road was another solid effort defensively for the Cowboys. They held the Redskins in check behind Smith's team-leading 11 tackles as the Cowboys only allowed 255 yards of offense and two conversions on nine third downs.
The Miami Dolphins came to town in Week 3 as the Cowboys looked to improve to 3-0. The Dolphins offense never got on track as they only managed 283 total yards, went a pedestrian three of 15 on third down, gave up three sacks, and scored six points. Smith once again led the team in tackles with 10 and also forced a fumble in the red zone that was recovered by All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence when the Dolphins were driving to take the lead before halftime. Very productive game for Smith in this one.
Week 4 was a defensive battle between the Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football. The Saints came out on top 12-10 giving the Cowboys their first loss but one of the bright spots was the play of Smith. All around it was one of his better performances of the season with nine tackles (two tackles for loss), one quarterback hit, and a sack. This performance gave him 30 tackles over a three-game span which is his best stretch of the 2019 season.
The Green Bay Packers arrived at AT&T Stadium in Week 5 having won three consecutive games there, and it was quickly apparent they would win their fourth straight. The Cowboys had two turnovers on their first three possessions that led to two touchdowns for the Packers and the Cowboys never recovered. Despite holding Aaron Rodgers to zero touchdowns the Cowboys gave up a career day to Aaron Jones with 182 all-purpose yards (107 rushing, 75 receiving) and lost 34-24. Smith finished with nine tackles (tied Leighton Vander Esch for the team lead), one quarterback hit, one pass defended, and a sack. In a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated Smith was one of the few bright spots for Dallas.
The Cowboys entered Metlife Stadium for their Week 6 matchup with the New York Jets completely spiraling and it wouldn't get any better. Defensively, the Cowboys started flat by allowing 21 points in the first half. Even though they only allowed three points in the second half, Sam Darnold had a career-high 338 yards and the Jets handed the Cowboys their third consecutive loss. This would be Smith's most underwhelming performance of the season with a pedestrian four tackles. None of the impactful plays we saw from the previous three games showed up in this one.
Before the bye week, the Cowboys hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in a battle for first place in the NFC East. Smith wasted no time making an impact in this game as he forced a fumble by Tight End Dallas Goedert on the Eagles first possession near midfield which set up the Cowboys first touchdown. This set the tone for the entire defense as they held the Eagles to 283 yards total yards, only allowed 10 points and forced four turnovers. Smith tied Sean Lee and Jeff Heath for the team lead with seven tackles while also registering a pass defended and a forced fumble. Just the type of performance you'd hope for from Smith after his worst game of the season.
This past Monday night saw the Cowboys return to Metlife Stadium but this time they would take on the arch-rival New York Giants. Smith spearheaded a dominant performance by the Cowboys defense as they held the Giants to 271 total yards, five out of 16 on third down, and forced three turnovers. He finished tied with Lee for the team lead with 12 tackles while also adding a half-sack and a quarterback hit. With the Eagles on the Cowboys heels for the division lead, they needed their best players to perform vs the Giants and Smith definitely delivered on his end.
Jaylon Smith is currently on pace for 136 tackles and five sacks which would both be career highs. In five of the Cowboys eight games, he's either led or been tied for the team lead in tackles. He has continued to show that he's worth every penny of the five-year 64 million dollar extension with 35.5 million in guarantees he signed in August. His "Clear Eye View" has him playing the best football of his career in 2019.
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