The Dallas Cowboys suffered their first loss of this young 2017 season yesterday, showing up flat in the high altitude of Denver as the Broncos handled them for an easy 42-17 win.
Coming into this game, the Cowboys seemingly had another chance to control the action with Ezekiel Elliott on the ground and a defense that swarmed to the ball in a week one win against the Giants.
Elliott carrying nine times for a career-low eight yards while Trevor Siemian and the Denver offense put the game away behind his four touchdown passes was hardly an expected outcome for Cowboys Nation, but it is the reality the team will have to live with as they learn from their week two mistakes and begin preparing for a week three Monday Night Football trip to Arizona.
As always, here are some of my immediate thoughts on the Cowboys’ performance in Sean’s Scout:
- There is no question who the most encouraging player on Rod Marinelli’s defense has been through these two games, as DE DeMarcus Lawrence added two more sacks by winning his favorable match up against Menelik Watson. What continues to stand out from Lawrence is his ability to effectively rush inside of his blockers, which keeps them guessing and makes his edge ability even more dangerous. Lawrence has never been a rusher that will capture the corner with great initial quickness, speed, or bend. This isn’t to say that he won’t convert his power into the ability to “run the arc” and finish at the quarterback, but it is the consistent use of this power as an inside and outside rusher that has him leading this Dallas pass rush – with help on the way in the form of Damontre Moore set to return for week three off of his two game suspension.
- The ability to tackle underneath is so incredibly important against a Broncos offense that will scheme plenty of ways for their receivers to catch the ball on the move, and it was the lack of execution in this area on all levels that really wrecked the game for the Cowboys yesterday. Nolan Carroll’s rough day was cut short when he entered the concussion protocol, but prior to that he struggled to react on the boundary and give the Cowboys anything on his side of the field. An underrated part of Anthony Brown’s game is his ability to play with this toughness and technique against the run, which could go a long way in ushering in a secondary of Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie as soon as this week. The failures to wrap up and limit the damage against Denver extended to players you would never expect it from on Rod Marinelli’s defense as well on Sunday though, as Sean Lee had one of his worst games reacting to the breaks in front of him and getting to the ball on time. When Lee visibly struggles the way he did, it is going to be a long day for the Cowboys defense, and some added breakdowns from Jeff Heath and Byron Jones at safety only put this game further out of reach early.
- This was obviously not the performance that Dez Bryant was expecting to have after struggling once again with Janoris Jenkins to start the season, but he was able to get the best of Aquib Talib on a touchdown reception to tie the game in the second quarter. The play was an example of where this Dallas passing offense is hopefully heading as Prescott has better days, with Bryant taking advantage of how Talib wants to play his route at the stem on a great play call. Using his size and physicality, Bryant caught Talib with a lower center of gravity trying to break on the route, but the throw from Dak was timed so well that all Dez had to do was extend against Talib and snag the pass in the end zone above the outstretched arms of Aquib.
- Anytime this Cowboys team rushes for 40 yards in a game, it is safe to say that the offensive line hardly achieved what they set out to do each and every week. As we continue to monitor La’el Collins’ progress at right tackle though, I thought his ability to deal with Von Miller was nothing but another positive in his development back at his college position (where he played LT at LSU). Collins’ technique is where it needs to be, and he’s made the mental adjustments to deal with speed rushers like Miller without feeling like he needs to initiate contact – a difference from his previous experience at guard. Collins’ hand placement against Miller was also a noticeable positive, while his strength and light feet allowed him to steer Von behind the pocket when needed.
- There are plenty of reasons I always expand on these takeaways in Sean’s Scout after getting to the tape of the game, but the most important one is to hopefully gain context on player’s assignments that are lost during the live broadcast of the game. With that said, I’ll be hoping to be proved wrong on Jaylon Smith during tape study this week, as it appeared he was well off with his depth on drops at MIKE linebacker, creating even more windows for the Broncos to exploit throwing the ball and running away from both Smith and Sean Lee at will.