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.
Cowboys Twitter Tuesday: Addressing the 2019 53-Man Roster
For the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL, and the NFL fanbase, the waiting game for the start of training camp has begun. As Tom Petty says, "the waiting is the hardest part." The Dallas Cowboys go open training camp in about five weeks. The first preseason game is 53 days away and week one is less than three months away at this point. It's so close we can taste it.
Each week, I'll gather questions from you the Cowboys Nation community. Each week, we'll hone in on a specific topic based on your questions. So whether it's roster related, salary cap focused, or you have a fantasy football question, don't hesitate to send it to me on Twitter.
This week, we're going to take a look at the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster.
@john9williams Who contributed to last year's team that won't make this year's team?
The 53-man roster will be one of the more debated topics over the next couple of months as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for training camp and the preseason. Every year there are surprises and we should expect the same this year. The Dallas Cowboys have incredible depth through the roster and so there will be at least one name that doesn't make the final 53-man roster who had an impact in 2018.
To answer Jesus' question, I think the easy answer is one of the wide receivers be it Noah Brown, Allen Hurns, or Tavon Austin. This might be a hot take, but I'm going to go a different direction and say guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.
In 2018, Su'a-Filo started eight games for the Dallas Cowboys and though he started out strong for them midseason, his play tailed off before he was injured allowing Connor Williams to regain his starting spot at left guard. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff loves position flexibility, especially along the offensive line. Su'a-Filo, though he's a solid backup guard option, doesn't have the ability to play multiple positions along the line like his teammates.
Connor Williams can play guard and tackle. Connor McGovern will get snaps at guard and center, and to hear him talk, he can play tackle as well, though that's probably a bit of a stretch. Joe Looney, the Dallas Cowboys starting center for 2018, has the ability to flex out to guard if you need him to.
Because the Dallas Cowboys will have difficult decisions to make at wide receiver and defensive line, they can afford to go light along the offensive line because of the flexibility of players like Williams, Looney, and McGovern.
@john9williams #CowboysQuestions do we extend Dak before game #1? How many WRs on 53?
I'm gonna leave the Dak Prescott question for another day and address the wide receiver question as several people asked about that position group in particular.
The wide receiver group is a really deep group. With Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Allen Hurns, it features three guys who've had at least one 1,000 yard season in their career. Michael Gallup is an ascending player. Tavon Austin is a really nice punt returner and offensive puzzle piece that can take the top off the defense with his downfield speed. I think four of those five are locks to make the roster.
According to Jeff Cavanaugh from 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the team really likes Allen Hurns and his ability to play inside and outside in the formation. He's solid veteran depth at a low cost.
Then if you include Noah Brown's ability as a receiver and as a blocker, I think you have a very versatile and dangerous group in the passing game. Though the coaches really like Brown's ability to block in the run game, if they don't use him in the passing game, it tips their hand to the defense that the team is going to run. If they're going to keep him on the roster, they have to use him. It's a waste otherwise.
Brown and Hurns to me are on the roster bubble at wide receiver. Talented players like Cedric Wilson, Devin Smith, Jon'vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton, and Reggie Davis have all stood out at one point in time or another during OTAs and minicamp and will make the decision difficult for the coaching staff.
In my most recent roster projection, I had the Dallas Cowboys keeping six wide receivers; Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Being a team on the verge of contending for a Super Bowl, I think they go with veterans who can help them win now.
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That'll do it for this week's edition. Make sure to get your questions in via Twitter, or you can leave them in the comment section for next week's post. Also, don't forget to check out Inside The Star's newest podcast, Cowboys Weekly featuring Managing Editor Bryson Treece and Senior Writer Jess Haynie.
Does Darius Jackson Have A “Puncher’s Chance” Of Landing On Final Roster?
Remember Darius Jackson?
The sixth round running back was an instant fan favorite of Cowboys Nation, as the fanbase hoped Dallas had found the explosive RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott they needed in the very same draft. Jackson, however, had an up-and-down preseason in 2016 and ended up being waived from the team to make room for Darren McFadden later in the year.
Jackson has bounced around the league a bit since then, joining both the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers at different points. He's back with the Cowboys, however, looking to fight his way onto the team's final roster.
But does the fourth year running back have more than a puncher's chance to do so?
The Cowboys spent much of the 2019 NFL Draft rebuilding their running back depth. First, they drafted Memphis back Tony Pollard hoping to find a versatile and dynamic threat to compliment the workhorse that is Ezekiel Elliott. Then, in the seventh round, Dallas took another Ohio State running back in Mike Weber who fits more of the "traditional" running back form.
So with two new touted rookies behind the veteran Elliott, and fullback Jamize Olawale more than likely having a roster spot as well, there doesn't seem to be room for Darius Jackson on the Dallas Cowboys.
That didn't stop him from competing at OTAs, however. DallasCowboys.com named Darius Jackson one of their top ten "head turners" from the OTA practices, and considering that Mike Weber is banged up at the moment, Jackson will certainly have his opportunities to fight for that spot.
Still, the odds suggest that Darius Jackson will not be with the Cowboys come the Fall of 2019. Though he entered the league with some fanfare for a day three pick, his production has been more fitting of his draft grade than of his fan hype.
Jackson hasn't been the explosive player/receiving back that they're hoping Tony Pollard will be, nor has he been the every-down type backup runner that they seem to hope Mike Weber will be.
In the end, the Cowboys-Darius Jackson story is likely to close during this year's training camp.
Cowboys Camp: Strong Safety Battle One to Watch
When the Dallas Cowboys head to Oxnard, California for the start of training camp in late July, they'll have most of the roster settled. On paper, they're a team that doesn't have many holes on the depth chart.
They've added depth at every position and added playmakers on both sides of the football. On defense, there appears to be only one position where the starter heading into training camp may not be the starter come week one. Strong safety.
Veteran Safety Jeff Heath is currently running with the first team defense through the offseason portion of practices. George Iloka and Donovan Wilson were added to the strong safety depth chart featuring Heath and special teams ace Kavon Frazier.
While most teams would be excited about having a returning starter at the position, Heath's 2018 left a lot to be desired. Per Pro Football Focus, Heath missed 19 tackles on the season, which was second in the NFL. It seemed that Heath became more interested in attempting to strip the ball out of the ball carrier's hands than actually making the tackle, which became increasingly frustrating as he forced only a single fumble all season long. Though he had a lot of missed tackles, Heath did finish 15th in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops," which are defined as a "play that results in a loss for the defense." Heath was third on the team in total tackles with 85 and tied with Jaylon Smith for third in tackles for loss with six.
The biggest competition for Heath at strong safety will be veteran George Iloka.
Signed to a one-year contract after spending time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings, Iloka comes to the Dallas Cowboys adding depth at free safety behind Xavier Woods. He also creates competition for Heath at strong safety, which should help Jeff Heath raise his game and get more consistent with his tackling. Iloka has experience and brings good size and length to the secondary, which should help them defend tight ends in the passing game.
Because of his injury, Kavon Frazier could see his playing time evaporate heading into 2019. If he's unable to get healthy and make an impression early, Frazier could miss out on the 53-man roster when the team makes their final roster cuts.
The player that stands to benefit the most from Kavon Frazier's injury, and the one I'm most interested in watching in the Dallas secondary the rest of the preseason is sixth-round draft pick, Donovan Wilson. The rookie from Texas A&M has made several plays in the secondary that stood out during OTAs. Here's what Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com had to say about Donovan Wilson during last week's minicamp.
"I haven’t written much about Donovan Wilson since rookie minicamp, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to mention a nice play he had during the two-minute drill. Kris Richard came with a blitz, which forced Cooper Rush to throw “hot” to Dalton Schultz. Wilson, from several yards away, saw Schultz look up and drove on the ball, arriving at the exact time it hit Schultz’s hands. With his left hand Wilson was able to drag the ball away, knocking it to the ground."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
Wilson will be a player to watch in training camp. The Cowboys have had success finding defensive backs in the late rounds of the draft. Anthony Brown was a fifth-round pick in 2016 and Xavier Woods was a sixth-round selection in 2017. Now Wilson, with his aggressive and physical demeanor will have an opportunity -- this year or next -- to carve out some playing time in a secondary that needs more players who can create turnovers.
Strong safety is one of the few starting spots where there is actual competition for the incumbent starter. Pretty much every other position has returning starters locked into the starting lineup or, in Travis Frederick's and Robert Quinn's cases, a significant talent upgrade that makes them day-one starters.
The competition at strong safety should help everyone be better for the Cowboys in 2019. If Heath is able to hold off Iloka and Wilson to remain the starter, then he will have once again earned it. With the depth they have this season, including two guys who won't be liabilities in pass coverage, the Cowboys have options if Heath misses tackles in 2019 as he did in 2018.
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