When the lights went out at Super Bowl XLVII, a game was still played as the Ravens became world champions. When the lights went out from a power outage on Saturday night from my New Jersey Cowboys headquarters, I was forced to go without watching the team's trip to Los Angeles live.
After getting the chance to review the tape between the Cowboys and Rams though, we're back with another edition of Sean's Scout - discussing what jumped out from a 13-10 loss Dallas suffered at the hands of LA in their second preseason game of five.
- There were more positives from this game on the defensive side of the ball, where we can start with the Cowboys' first round pick Taco Charlton. Recording his first sack of the preseason, Charlton did a much better job throughout this game of playing with improved awareness compared to a week ago. This allowed the lengthy pass rusher to get up the field and flash some of the explosive traits he did at Michigan by not only holding the point of attack but disengaging and flowing to the football. Steady improvement is all the Cowboys can ask for in Taco, as he'll likely be taking meaningful snaps as early as week one at both defensive end positions - getting to the quarterback Saturday night as a RDE.
Congrats to @TheSupremeTaco on the sack last night! ✭ https://t.co/m9YIsRwnUS
- Seeing Damien Wilson take further strides with his game is both encouraging and worrisome, as league discipline could still of course be in play following his July arrest. Against the Cardinals, Wilson lined up almost exclusively at SAM and did not look like himself, playing too fast for his own good and running himself out of position with bad form. Not only did Damien Wilson clean these things up impressively against the Rams, but he did so at both SAM and WILL. Freeing Wilson up to run to the ball some in this game had great results, as the tackling range and speed was there - as was the patience and strength he'll need to play with on the strong side.
- Another player that I thought displayed even more than he did in college was rookie FS Xavier Woods, who was constantly around the ball to the tune of seven tackles. Last week, I wrote about the concerns I had about one of these young players emerging in the third safety role for the Cowboys, but now believe Woods could fit nicely as a more athletic Barry Church-like player in Rod Marinelli's defense. The ability to run to the football and diagnose plays in front of him quickly was always there for Xavier Woods at LA Tech, but it seemed like he had an extra gear to him moving around that was incredibly fun to watch. By far the best thing about Woods' playing speed is his ability to stay in control and still deliver punishing tackles with impressive stopping power, making him a player that can become interchangeable with the rest of Dallas' safeties and give them that true rotation they want in the secondary.
Xavier Woods seems to have a habit of doing this. And look at how quickly he realizes where the ball is going. https://t.co/KXDw3D5zwl
- As a seventh round pick at a position of strength for the Dallas Cowboys, rookie DT Joey Ivie has no shot to make this football team if his pad level does not improve. Ivie's draft-able trait out of Florida was his speed and burst to disrupt as a 3T - something Rod Marinelli has always coveted in his defenses. On more than one occasion though, the Rams hit on big plays by pinning Ivie at the point of attack, who took himself out of these plays from the start by playing above his hands and not getting any push.
- The Damontre Moore hype is real. The Dallas coaches have not only put him out there with every pairing on the defensive line as well as on special teams because they'll need the depth across the board, but because he simply has the ability to greatly help this team everywhere. Focusing on what he did once again off the edge, Moore makes it look easy capturing the corner on a consistent basis, where he has a solid repertoire of rush moves to rally to the football with a contagious relentless effort. If you want an example of what a DE should be doing for the Cowboys to help themselves right now, look no further than Damontre Moore with his bend, bull rush, and hands play.
- For a final note on the defense as a whole, this game provided a pretty good example of what this unit will look like schematically - improving drastically from the Hall of Fame game. A defense built to protect leads, prevent big plays, and always play in front of the ball, the Cowboys were coming downhill and hitting everything that moved across the first, second, and third units. Even more exciting is the fact that the Cowboys did this without rookie CBs Chidobe Awuzie or Jourdan Lewis, who both add more play making ability against the pass.
- Moving on to the offense, the highlight of the night was again a Rico Gathers touchdown that was delivered beautifully by instant fan-favorite QB Cooper Rush. Kellen Moore played the entire first half, and made it very difficult to properly evaluate the rest of this offense. Not only did Rush help himself once again with a confident performance, but he led Gathers perfectly into the end zone to cap off a play that Rico did everything right on. Throughout this game, I saw Gathers moving much more fluidly and not getting caught up as much with defenders going across the field. This allowed for him to celebrate his second touchdown in as many games and further make his case for a 53 man roster that better have Rico Gathers penciled into it at the moment.
- I have a feeling Zack Martin and Travis Frederick are about to prove their worth more so than ever this season at RG and C respectively for the Cowboys, with La'el Collins going through some natural growing pains out at RT. Collins' biggest issue has been allowing rushers to get wide against him, where he will then struggle to reach his man and keep him from disrupting the QB. With Dak Prescott noticeably struggling to feel pressure off of that edge very well in his first year, his ability to climb the pocket will be crucial this season - where Martin and Frederick are as reliable as any at keeping things clean.
The Cowboys play again in five days against the Colts at home, and having already provided us with two games to evaluate the depth on this roster the early reports are that more starters will play including LB Jaylon Smith.
Heading towards their first game at AT&T Stadium for 2017, the Cowboys have to feel pretty good about where they are at just about every position following this loss to the Rams.
Young players are pushing veterans, and literally all 53 spots are being fought for both in these preseason games and through training camp in Oxnard. I have a feeling the September 2nd cut down from 90 to 53 players is going to be one of the most memorable in years, as it will also be a first for the NFL with the elimination of the earlier cut to 75 players.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook
Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
The Dak Stats
Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.
Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.
When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.
Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.
Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.
Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.
Questions Still Loom
This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.
But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:
- Philadelphia Eagles -167
- Dallas Cowboys +350
- New York Giants +650
- Washington Redskins +750
NFC East Week 1 Predictions
The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.
The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.
The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.
The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.
This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.
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