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Sean’s Scout: Early Lack of Depth In Running Game Not A Concern

Sean Martin

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There was a time when the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to begin their 2017 season without star running back Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games, ready to rely on Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and potentially Rod Smith to carry the load in Elliott's absence. The team knew for some time prior to Sunday night though that Elliott would play against the Giants at the very least (likely on the field for the entirety of the season now) and the Cowboys responded by running Ezekiel 24 times for 104 yards against New York.

How things shook out behind Elliott in the backfield came as a surprise though, as Darren McFadden was a healthy scratch and Rod Smith did not take a single carry. The only other Dallas RB to carry the ball was Alfred Morris, who ran four times for a net gain of one yard.

It is certainly no secret that the Dallas Cowboys want to lean on their bell cow in the backfield with Ezekiel Elliott in his second season, but the capable veterans behind him should be expected to carry a bigger load in their respective roles moving forward.

This Sean's Scout will evaluate the entirety of the Cowboys' running game against the Giants in week one.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

What makes Ezekiel Elliott such a special player is his ability to run the football with elite balance, power, vision, and elusiveness on every single play. Elliott's longest gain on the ground in this game was just ten yards, making his workmanlike performance even more impressive as he churned out tough yards against a very talented Giants defense.

If compared directly to Elliott, any RB on this Dallas team is going to look lackluster, and it is possible that the Cowboys are planning on playing the match ups more with how they utilize McFadden, Morris, and Smith behind #21.

Playing against a Giants front four that is in on every play, the need to take "ugly" yards while committing to zone runs throughout the night meant Morris got the nod over McFadden for limited reps.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

What the Cowboys of course missed in Alfred Morris was Zeke's ability to frequently make the first man miss, even if it is an unblocked MIKE linebacker in the backfield. The tape showed that Morris still followed all of his blocks as well as Elliott did on this night, lacking the finishing ability to maybe hit on a chunk play and change this narrative a bit.

Even Morris' -4 yard run that left him with a box score of one total rushing yard has a hidden positive for the Cowboys in it.

Cowboys Alfred Morris Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this snap, the Cowboys are in a 13 personnel package that worked very well throughout the night. The three tight ends in the game created favorable match ups for the interior linemen.

Particularly, C Travis Frederick was able to take advantage of Damon Harrison - likely the best run stopping DT in the NFL - the best he could out of 13 personnel, with Harrison forced to line up over him as a one or zero technique.

The adjustment the Giants made here to free up Harrison from the reach block of Frederick killed this play for Morris, as Harrison shifts to a penetrating 3T position. With Zack Martin going clear to the second level, Morris cannot escape "Snacks" Harrison in the backfield.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants (13) - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

For comparison, here is Elliott carrying the ball out of 13 personnel with Frederick's reach block and seal creating a crease for a solid gain.

Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

If given a chance to get into a rhythm, there is little on tape that Elliott did against the Giants that Alfred Morris could not replicate to a level that will be effective throughout this season. Head Coach Jason Garrett was quick to praise the Cowboys' ability to grind down the Giants in this game with the amount of plays they ran on offense as a key to the victory, so it makes sense that entering the night with Elliott and Morris was the plan all along.

It should also be no surprise in Denver this Sunday afternoon if the Cowboys roll with Elliott, McFadden, and Rod Smith against a Denver Broncos defense that can be over aggressive defending the run.

The Cowboys have players that can exploit match ups all over the field on offense, along with the luxury of the most talented and versatile running back in the game. While the rushing attack will be fine as long as Elliott is toting the rock, it should excite Cowboys Nation that the team is potentially looking at maximizing their weapons out of the backfield with unique pairings at running back based on the defenses in front of them.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

There's a bit of a theory going around that it might depend on the team we are playing as to who is RB2 from Week to Week. https://t.co/0kcZvLAaKb

Even if Alfred Morris proves to be ineffective with more reps, it should only open the door for fan-favorite Rod Smith to find a larger role on offense. The Cowboys will be just fine at RB.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Early Lack of Depth In Running Game Not A Concern" 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.

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1 Comment
  • tom

    also gives rest of NFL look at RB2 just in case an injury presents trade value for either Morris or DMC

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Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams 2
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.

It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.

Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.

Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.

This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.

Calvin Watkins on Twitter

Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.

Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."

https://twitter.com/TheSupremeTaco/status/1072203745868554240

Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.

It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.

Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.



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Star Blog

Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC

2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.

Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.

The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.

Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.

The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.

For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.

Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to  square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.

For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.

Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC" 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

Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Al igual que el resto de la afición de los Dallas Cowboys, parte de mí se siente confiada respecto a este equipo visitando a Indianapolis Colts y resultando victoriosos. ¿El problema? Los Colts no son un rival sencillo de vencer. Si crees que la racha de los Cowboys los intimidará, piensa de nuevo. Los Houston Texans llevaban nueve victorias al hilo antes de enfrentarse a este equipo.

Siendo objetivos, este puede ser el partido que evite que los Cowboys cierren su temporada con ocho victorias al hilo para terminar el año con un récord de 11-5. Ni los Tampa Bay Buccaneers ni los New York Giants deberían presentar amenaza alguna contra Dallas. Lo mismo no se puede decir de Indianapolis.

Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, Andrew Luck está realmente de vuelta. Gracias a una reconstrucción de su línea ofensiva, su nivel de juego a regresado al nivel que conocíamos de él desde que llegó a la NFL. Afortunadamente para los Colts, Luck se ha mantenido sano toda la temporada y no se ve rastro alguno de sus lesiones anteriores en el emparrillado.

T.Y. Hilton está teniendo un muy buen año y sin duda alguna presentará un reto para Byron Jones y el resto de la secundaria de los Cowboys. Eric Ebron en la posición de tight end también será un dolor de cabeza para la defensiva.

Lo más interesante se dará en las trincheras. Los Cowboys han hecho un muy buen trabajo presionando quarterbacks opuestos en la temporada, pero si el centro de los Colts, Ryan Kelly está sano el domingo, se enfrentarán al mejor duo de centro-guardia en la liga actualmente. Con Quenton Nelson al lado, Luck estará muy bien protegido.

Sin embargo, Kelly no ha jugado debido a una lesión y aún está por verse si tomará el campo el domingo por la mañana. Los Cowboys hicieron un muy buen trabajo a la entonces ofensiva #1 de la liga, los New Orleans Saints, pero eso no significa que la ofensiva #8 que tienen los Colts no los retará.

Promediando 27 puntos por juego, la defensiva necesitará ayuda de Dak Prescott y compañía para ganar el partido. Dallas continúa moviendo el balón efectivamente, pero es tiempo de anotar touchdowns y no goles de campo.

Ezekiel Elliott será, una vez más, clave para la victoria. Enfrentándose a una defensiva Top 10 contra el juego terrestre, mover las cadenas con Zeke no será tan fácil. El novato Darius Leonard como linebacker ha sido algo espectacular otra temporada al igual que Leighton Vander Esch. Liderando a toda la NFL en tackleadas, estará listo para recibir a los Cowboys al Lucas Oil Stadium.

Lo más importante de este partido...

Por más impresionante que sea la racha de cinco victorias consecutivas, los Cowboys tienen que demostrar que pueden ganarle a un equipo fuerte estando de visita. Porque hay que admitirlo, Jason Garrett y su equipo no han tenido éxito fuera de casa. Claro, le ganaron a un equipo debilitado de Philadelphia Eagles y a unos Atlanta Falcons que va 4-9.

Este equipo "nuevo" de los Cowboys no ha ido contra un rival de calidad siendo el visitante. Es tiempo de demostrar que lo pueden hacer, ya que si quieren contender en postemporada, es justo lo que necesitarán... jugar bien de visita.

Sinceramente creo que los Cowboys ganan este partido. Principalmente gracias a su defensiva, pero también veo a la ofensiva dominar el tiempo de posesión en un juego de pocos puntos. Es tiempo de mantener esa racha.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival" 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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