With everything that has been going on the past week, since free agency started, the picture in Dallas not only has changed, but has a whole new color scheme. The releases of Terrell Owens and SS Roy Williams drastically change both the offense and defense, and while one of those positions has been taken care of, for the most part, the safety position still needs help.
Since we last saw Darren Woodson and Roy Williams both back at safety, this team has struggled for consistency at the position, one that requires a fair bit of solid play, great athleticism, and quick thinking.
The release of Owens, merely a year after paying him almost a $13 million signing bonus on a new four year deal, without having seen any solid production from his replacement is a gamble. Albeit one that has been taken already, many fans are concerned about WR Roy Williams and the fact that despite joining the team in week 6 of the 2008 season, he failed to live up to even the number 2 position on the team after Dallas traded multiple picks for him, one of which being a first rounder, and resigned him to a lucrative deal.
But many people seem to forget one thing ... you can find transactions in the NFL where a player warrants a first round pick in a trade without deserving a value that high, but it's hard to say that when a first, third, and seventh round pick were all traded for one guy. Some may point to the near-infamous trade for Joey Galloway a while back, but that situation was different from the one Dallas and Williams are in.
Williams is younger, been stuck on a team that has now posted the worst season record ever, and he still managed to have 1,000+ yard seasons there. To make that deal even sweeter, we now have the quarterback on staff that helped Williams to stand out from the pack a couple of years ago. Sure, Kitna won't play a down, unless Romo is either injured or plays so badly that he's benched, but there's a lot that goes into the relationship on the field for a quarterback and his receiver.
Take it from Kurt Warner who said that he had to re-learn what open meant when he arrived in Arizona and saw Fitzgerald play. Imagine that, a veteran quarterback that led the Greatest Show on Turf to a Super Bowl not so long ago saying that he had to learn what it meant for his number 1 receiver to be open. It comes down to trust, also to experience and to practice, but most of all it means trusting your receiver to take care of business if you get it to him.
Last year, Williams and Romo didn't get a chance to build that trust. Either Romo was hurt and out or playing with that split on his hand, or Owens was making a stink about getting the ball more and his perceived notion that Romo and Witten were hooking up intentionally whenever possible. Whether that was true or not, the distraction it caused leaked onto the field during games, and it hampered the progress of Williams.
Now you might say that with Owens gone you won't have those problems anymore and that that should help, but it goes much deeper than that. You lose some major distractions with Owens gone, but you also make Williams the top guy, a guy who ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds at the 2004 combine. A big, physical receiver that knows how to win the jump ball and has always been a smart route runner. Any of this sound familiar?
He had the number 2 spot in Detroit, but not because he wasn't good enough to be number 1, but because that spot was already filled. He came to Dallas and found the same situation, until now. Now he's the guy that will be on the field every single offensive down, he'll get the practice reps, he'll be the guy Garrett designs the passing game around; he'll be the guy Romo will throw to aside from Witten, he's the new deep guy.
He won't draw double coverage, not at first, but if he can prove that he deserves it just for a couple of games, then he'll get it and free up everything else like Owens did. Then it'll be Jason Garrett's job to make the most of that situation, the defense sacrificing balance to put an extra guy on him. But they'll be doing that anyway because Witten still deserves the double-cover now. If Felix Jones is on the field, linebackers will be keeping a close eye on him just for being there.
It's just going to take time for Williams and Romo to get in sync with each other, and time is what we have right now with the off-season conditioning program scheduled to start in about three weeks.
Things have changed in Dallas; Marion Barber giving two interviews in one day should show that much. On paper it may look like we've taken away talent, but really we've just allowed the talent that's there to step up. We've taken away that constant nagging of the media, the constant speculation that the Dallas locker room is in shambles. That's a remarkable feat in itself, but we do have the talent, and barring any further injuries we've got a roster full of it and with a year of experience for most of these guys.
Things have changed in Dallas, and it's going to be some time for the direction of that change to be fully realized. It's a process that I can't wait to see.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Seahawks
Like the majority of you, I was expecting the Dallas Cowboys to build off of their win over the New York Giants and put together a much better performance than they did against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, I should've remembered that the Cowboys don't have the best track record when playing in Seattle.
If I would've been paying attention to the Cowboys history when playing in Seattle, I would have been much more prepared for the manhandling that took place a few days ago. Dallas just seems cursed when they play Seattle at home. It doesn't matter if it's a regular-season game or preseason.
I hate to say it, but maybe we should start calling it the Tony Romo curse. Maybe this all started with his botched snap that ended the Cowboys playoff run in 2007. Let's not forget Seattle is also where Romo's career probably ended when he hurt his back in a meaningless preseason game in 2016. As you can see, history doesn't lie.
If I would've remembered this, I probably still wouldn't be feeling a little sick to my stomach. Unfortunately it is what it is and all we can do is move on. But, that's not going to keep me from sharing with all of you what I believed to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Cowboys against the Seattle Seahawks in the Week 3 of the 2018 season.
After pretty much getting completely manhandled by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon, I had a pretty difficult time to find some good to put in this section about the way the Dallas Cowboys played. I really had to take a deep breath and put my emotions to the side for a little while, but I did discover a few individuals that deserved recognition.
The first person I want to identify is Cornerback Byron Jones. He continues to play at a really high level and is finally playing up to that first-round pedigree. It was also really good to see Running Back Ezekiel Elliott finally find some running room and look like his old self, although he probably could've done without the fumble. Lastly, how good is rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch playing? He finished with 11 total tackles against the Seahawks.
I know it doesn't provide much comfort in the way these individuals performed since the Cowboys couldn't come away with the victory, but at least it wasn't all bad. All we can do is hope they can clean things up and take this as a learning experience.
There was no shortage of bad for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks, but for me it had to be Quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing game. The struggles in the passing game is completely hamstringing the offensive productivity and unfortunately I have a hard time seeing them improving much right now.
Prescott is only averaging about 160 passing yards a game and that's just not going to cut it if this team is planning on winning many games this season. He has thrown just as many touchdowns (2) as he has interceptions (2) this year. To make matters worse, it looks as if there's a void of playmaking ability from his pass catchers.
Honestly, I don't really know where the blame should fall right now. Is it Prescott's fault or does it fall at the feet of his receivers? Unfortunately, it doesn't really matter because nothings working for either of them right now anyway.
I was going to go with the stupid "mental" penalties the Dallas Cowboys had against the Seahawks yesterday for the ugly, but instead decided to go with the blown coverages in the secondary.
The Cowboys secondary has been playing really well so far this season, but unfortunately they blew a few assignments yesterday against the Seahawks which resulted in touchdowns. I really thought they would be better prepared considering Kris Richard has spent nearly his entire coaching career in Seattle before joining the Cowboys, but maybe I was expecting too much.
I really thought the Cowboys secondary would shut down the Seahawks passing game, especially after what they were able to do in Week 2 against the New York Giants. The Giants have much better weapons in the passing game, but somebody forgot to tell Seattle's receivers. I still have high hopes that this was just a fluke, but I think I may temper my expectations a little moving forward.
What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Seahawks?
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott Takes Accountability for Week 3 Loss
Despite breaking 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott took the blame for Dallas' loss in Seattle yesterday.
A 31-yard touchdown reception was called back in the second quarter because Elliott stepped out-of-bounds prior to making the catch. Dallas would go on to kick a field goal, making the score 7-3, but Zeke's error cost the team four points on the drive.
Early in the fourth quarter, with Dallas trailing 24-6 but starting to find offensive rhythm, Elliott ripped off a 26-yard run. But the play ended with Zeke getting caught from behind and the ball knocked out of his hands, and the Seahawks recovering.
While many might argue the the Cowboys' inept passing game was the real reason for the loss, Elliott took full responsibility when talking to the media afterwards.
"I had a poor performance today," Elliott said. "Did well in the run game, but overall, I dropped the ball. That loss is on me."
"You can say whatever, but at the end of the day, when you've got the ball in your hands, that's the team in your hands," Elliott said. "Me being a leader on the team, me being a better player on this team, I got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. That cost us the game."
While Zeke may not have loved his leadership yesterday, these comments show that the 23-year-old is developing into one.
Last year, Elliott had little to say to the media. That was likely for the best, though, while he was embroiled in all of the controversy surrounding his suspension and appeals.
But now, a year removed from that issue and in his third year with the Cowboys, Zeke appears to have found his voice again. He is still the catalyst for the Dallas offense, and the highest-drafted player on the entire roster.
For a player whose maturity has been called into question during the first two years of his NFL career, Ezekiel Elliott showed a lot of it yesterday. Hopefully, it helps his team to regroup and get back to winning as the seasoning continues.
Sean’s Scout: Poor Execution, Timely SEA Passing Game Doom Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have yet another disappointing loss to put behind them, or at least attempt to, as their struggles on offense carried into Seattle for week three. A desperate team in search of their first win at home, the Seahawks took full advantage of the Cowboys lack of preparation in the first half before capitalizing on mistakes to pull away 24-13.
The Cowboys dropping their second game in three weeks, both in similarly lackluster fashion, this will be a long week at The Star before Dallas kicks off against the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday.
Perhaps the Cowboys need not look any further than their next opponent to realize not all hope is lost for 2018. Like the Seahawks, the Lions were fighting to save their season yesterday, and did so with a home win against the now 1-2 New England Patriots.
If the Cowboys are going to reclaim their status atop the NFC East at any point this season though, some drastic changes are needed on offense. As always, here are my immediate notes on a Cowboys team that relied on their defense a few too many times in this latest loss.
- I understand the Cowboys plan to use heavy personnel on offense against a defense with as much lateral speed as the Seahawks, but once again the execution from their wide receivers and tight ends was very poor.
By inviting defenders near the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys were challenging their offensive line to beat the Seahawks off the ball and potentially create some big plays for Ezekiel Elliott on the ground. Elliott did find some success as the game became further out of reach for his team, partially because of his own miscues.
The Cowboys' offseason approach at WR is yielding no immediate results, but so too is their confidence in Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and Rico Gathers to step up in the absence of Jason Witten. While Witten isn't the missing piece for the Cowboys pushing the ball down the field, their lack of a threat at tight end is a serious detriment to Dak Prescott.
An early second half sequence that really hurt the Cowboys in this game began with a Gathers false start, the team's second straight penalty. Byron Jones' holding penalty on a Seahawks punt backed the offense up to their eleven yard line, and Gathers' ensuing procedural penalty had Dallas driving from their own six.
The Cowboys would do well to earn a manageable third down, despite a predictable run for no gain on first and 15, but Michael Kendricks' sack of Prescott forced a three and out.
- This will do little to take the heat off Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, but the Cowboys bigger issue on offense was execution compared to play calling in this loss.
Yes, execution is also part of coaching, which makes not only Linehan but the rest of the Cowboys coaches along with Head Coach Jason Garrett responsible for the team's floundering 1-2 start.
The Cowboys finally saw Elliott involved in the passing game on an apparent second quarter touchdown, only to have Elliott step out of bounds before the catch. Settling for early field goals with good field position is typically a sign that a team is in for a long day on the road, and this is exactly the type of afternoon it was for Dallas.
Adding another Elliott fumble and two Dak Prescott interceptions only provides further context on how well the Cowboys defense is playing, keeping this game within reach until the closing minutes.
The Cowboys offense is a house of cards right now, deliberately played by those that should have been held to higher standards as early as last season. With enough talent on this side of the ball to turn things around, the Cowboys must quickly figure out the right layers to peel away before discovering the root of their offensive woes.
Whether or not this ends up being Linehan, or if he simply becomes the scapegoat for a team that's never truly wavered in their commitment to Prescott, it's hard to argue with a change in philosophy for a Cowboys offense still searching for identity.
The Cowboys certainly weren't more creative in this loss, even on their deceptive pitch to Tavon Austin for his second touchdown in as many weeks. That exact play has been used by plenty of teams in that situation this season. With each successful conversion, more teams will add it to their arsenal - the Cowboys being the latest, with nothing to truly show for it.
That Tavon Austin TD? Yep, it's a copycat league. https://t.co/ggILr2TRGi
- The Seahawks first touchdown came as a result of two of the worst defensive plays of the year for the Cowboys.
After being a great blitzing team through two weeks, the Cowboys poorly executed an aggressive third down blitz with the Seahawks on their 35-yard line. The result was a 19-yard conversion to running back Chris Carson. Both Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith were picked up easily by the Seahawks pass protection on the play.
On the very next snap, the Seahawks' speed beat the Cowboys as Jaron Brown freed himself for a 16-yard touchdown. Of course, Seattle would never look back after this second quarter score to open a 7-0 advantage.
The Cowboys issues in coverage didn't stop here either, with Russell Wilson making the timely plays that Prescott left on the field. On Tyler Lockett's touchdown, pushing the Seahawks lead to 14-3, Kavon Frazier was beat to the spot in helping Chidobe Awuzie down the sideline.
Expecting the safety help to be there as it had been with Jeff Heath or even Xavier Woods (playing in his first game of the season), Awuzie still struggled to slow down Lockett, giving a below average cover player like Frazier no chance to get back in the play.
The Cowboys are committed to rotating their linebackers and safeties this season, and while the results have mostly been positive, they simply got caught with the wrong safety in the wrong spot here.
To make matters even worse, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas made these gaffs a "what could have been" moment for the Cowboys, turning the game with two interceptions against a team that may still make a push for his services.
Earl Thomas said a couple of Cowboys coaches said to him before the game, "You ready for the trade tomorrow?
- It took a rough outing from Chidobe Awuzie to be fully appreciated, but Byron Jones was able to show why he's the best cornerback on the Cowboys right now.
On a positive note, the Cowboys are absolutely being rewarded for moving former first-round pick Byron Jones back to cornerback. This was one of the first decisions Kris Richard made upon his arrival to Dallas, looking to bring the Seahawks model to the Cowboys secondary.
Jones size and frame gave him a great chance to succeed under Richard before ever suiting up, but his awareness at cornerback has been off the charts. As opposed to dealing with players already at full speed or at the catch point when he was a safety, Jones is embracing being able to break on the ball and make more plays.
When the Seahawks needed a play through the air, they picked on Awuzie, who was exposed a bit for his tendency to sit on deep routes and react late to anything across his face. To start the game though, the Seahawks learned quickly that targeting Jones was a losing battle, unable to get anything behind him.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Week three was a great example of how much the NFL is a week-to-week league. Before kickoff in Seattle, the Cowboys were perceived to be entering an easier stretch to their season. Now, the Seahawks look like a team that can climb back into the playoff race, as do next week's opponent in the Lions for the Cowboys returning to AT&T Stadium.
It feels safe to say that at least two things are true of the Cowboys through these trying three games however. The Cowboys defense is already one of the best in the league, with the potential to get even better. Meanwhile, their offense is objectively one of the worst.
Whether or not the Cowboys offense is fixable is a question this staff must answer between now and next Sunday. As mentioned, it may feel like a long time until then, but for a team with as many issues as Dallas right now there will be little reprieve from salvaging relevancy (or trying to) in week four.
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