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Saints vs. Cowboys: The Less Than Stellar Side of Sunday

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Cowboys Blog - Saints vs. Cowboys: The Less Than Stellar Side of Sunday

Admittedly, there is very little to not like about that win over the Saints.  The domination - particularly in the 1st half - put my chin on the floor and I was unable to recover my chin until the Saints finally were able to muster together an offensive effort that resulted in a field goal in the 3rd quarter.

Watching, you could not help but consider the story behind the game - the Cowboys were utterly embarrassed last year by the Saints to the tune of 49 points compared to a measly 17 points, most of which was garnered during garbage time when the Saints had shifted their offensive machine in neutral.

Sunday night the Cowboys were granted an opportunity to return the favor and they delivered in convincing fashion, excluding a brief scare in the early minutes of the fourth quarter as the Saints attempted to mount a comeback.

All of a sudden, the playoff talk has skyrocketed into the stratosphere and more literally the blogosphere, as fans and fair-weather fans alike are beginning to strap themselves into what looks to be the first really good year for these Cowboys since 2007, starting 3 and 1 for the first time since 2008.  The Cowboys' victory over the Saints has analysts and experts donning bibs as they stuff their mouths with crow, suggesting these Cowboys are a different breed; a harkening to the old school smash-mouth run it in your face regardless if you expect it Cowboys led by none other than Emmitt Smith.

Tap the breaks please.

I really hate to be a bad news bear, but I honestly have just one question I’d like answered before I buy into these ridiculous dynasty comparisons:  Where is the Cowboys quality win so far this year?  Are we calling the Titans, the Rams or the Saints a quality win?  How do you define a quality win?  Do you simply accept how a team is perceived based off of their nationally conceived reputation or do you feel Parcells was astute in his declaration that your team is what their record is?  If you chose the latter, let’s keep in mind that this year’s iteration of the Saints just fell to 1 and 3, the Rams are 1 and 2 (week 4 bye week), and the Titans are 1 and 3.

I get it.  The Cowboys looked really, really good and played a complete game; they executed cleanly with few penalties – and have done so much of the year, I might add - and the game Sunday night against the Saints, and arguably one of the most intelligent Head Coach / QB duos in the league, was clearly managed to perfection by Head Coach and both the offensive and defensive coordinators.

The machine ran very well, all said and done.  Again, not a lot to - if anything - complain about – save maybe that heart attack they nearly gave me when the Saints came within 2 touchdowns of tying the game.

I absolutely loved how the defense attacked the ball.  Every Saints offender who happened to touch the ball received several different hand slaps from several different Cowboys that night, as the Cowboys made it their personal mission to force incompletions and turnovers.  If the Cowboys play like that, they have a chance against every team on their schedule.

But there is a question that still floats around my mind like a bloated cadaver in a vast turbulent sea, origin and destination unknown – was it truly a quality win, or are we simply allowing the Saints' reputation and their embarrassment of our Cowboys last year to cloud our judgment when assessing the weight that win carries?

The Cowboys have a running back who has run for over 100 yards and scored at least 1 touchdown in the first four games for the first time since Emmitt Smith did it in 1995, which is very good company to be in.  You could further say, with little to no argument from the masses, that here we have the best running back of the Cowboys since 1996, Emmitt Smith falling off somewhat in the later stages of his career.

You could even say Dez Bryant is the most naturally gifted receiver the Cowboys have ever had; albeit, it is still too soon to say the “best” since Michael Irvin, when you consider T.O.’s complete body of work.  Nevertheless, Dez Bryant doesn’t even have to catch the ball to have an impact on the game.  His reputation alone affects the passing to other receivers almost as much as play action, since his presence on the field demands the attention of at least two defenders at all times.

But was it a quality win?

You could make a similar argument about the offensive line; not just dominating, but executing intricate pulls and quickly moving from their first blocking assignment to their second assignment with ease - it was truly a thing of beauty.

The Cowboys may not ride this line into the championship this year, but if the Cowboys can keep these boys intact and add a similar talent to replace Doug Free, this offense will be a force to contend with for years.

No argument on that here.  But bringing the narrative back to this year, was it a quality win?

You could contend Romo is easily the best QB the Cowboys have had since Troy Aikman donned a helmet.  This year has served as somewhat of a microcosm for Tony’s career.  His first game and possibly the worst showing of his career, gave us a glimpse of the Tony we all know and hate – bad-decision-Tony.  Against the Titans, he was demoted to bus driver, while Murray served as the engine that powered the Cowboys back into our collective consciousness as a potential playoff team.

Against the Rams, while the Cowboys smartly ignored the temptation to give up on the ground game despite being down 21 points early, Romo showed his ability to seamlessly maneuver from bus driver to stunt driver, when necessity demands.

Against the Saints, the element that truly made the world take notice of the Cowboys, we witnessed the culmination of every working part explode on the Saints, including the Romo Houdini act often affectionately referred to as Romdini.  You could make a logical argument that the season opener against the 49ers may have been a win, had Tony felt then like he looked on Sunday night.  It certainly would have been a much easier game to watch, on this I believe we all can agree.

But even had the Cowboys won and sat atop the NFCE with a 4 and 0 record today, could we call any of these victories definite members of the quality win club?  The 49ers are struggling as well, sitting at 2 and 2, doing so with a defense that is missing many of the faces that established their identity last year.

So, are we calling game one - if there is such a thing - a quality loss?

You could point to the fight the Cowboys have played with; the never-give-up-ness if you will, particularly on display against the Rams two weekends ago.  You could highlight that for once the Cowboys have the offensive line to run the ball effectively.  And you could further debate that with an effective run, the avenues for passing open up in direct correlation to a defense's innate response to effective running – bringing the safety up in a support role.  You could further surmise that with that same effective run, the play action becomes a kill-shot, the final touchdown to Dez Bryant Sunday night serving as an exemplary illustration of that point.

To that, my friends, I would likely look like a proverbial bobble-head toy as I shake my head somewhat “yes” and somewhat “no.”  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the above formula; it is a tried and true method of getting wins in any iteration of the NFL, pass-happy or not.

But returning to the prevailing question:  what quality team has this method worked against?

Truth be told, we cannot make an argument to say that any of the teams the Cowboys have faced are quality or not because it is honestly way too soon to say – this regrettably applies to our Cowboys, as well.  You cannot use a team's production last year to assign a current grade because of roster turnover, the inevitable decline in ability that comes with age, and the handful of other reasons that lead to degeneration in talent.  Austin Davis of the Rams very well may be beginning a career that ends with his bust in Canton.  Or he could be another mediocre talent in the long line of QBs that the Cowboys defense made look as though they were world-beaters.

Therein is my struggle and my reason to recommend we remain cautiously optimistic as a fan base.

We may not have had as many reasons stacked together simultaneously as we do now since the Cowboys' last hey-day – true story – nevertheless, I suggest we take this ride one game at a time and resist the temptation to offer predictions on how this will end.  Sip and savor each victory as you would a vintage spirit of your choosing – be it wine or liquor – but abstain from killing the whole bottle now, because with our senses inebriated the fall is often far more devastating to our well-being than when otherwise sober and alert.



I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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