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Sean’s Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams 2

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.

Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams

  • 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.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

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.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

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.

Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams 1

  • 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.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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