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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 Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @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

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: DeMarcus Lawrence, ¿Etiqueta o Contrato?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Broncos

El pasado martes 20 de febrero, comenzó a lo que se le puede llamar una especie de "prólogo" a la agencia libre. Esa fecha marcó el primer día para que los equipos de la NFL designen jugadores franquicia o de transición. Alrededor de la liga, muchos nombres como el de Le'Veon Bell resaltan en esta conversación.

Y uno de los más grandes y conocidos, es el del defensive end de los Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Lawrence.

Hace unos días, se reportó que los Cowboys le darían la etiqueta franquicia a D-Law, algo que todos veíamos venir desde hace rato. Sin embargo, aún no se le otorga dicha etiqueta, sino que lo harán más cerca de la fecha límite para hacerlo, el 6 de Marzo.

En enero escribí un poco más a fondo sobre como funcionan las etiquetas franquicia en la NFL. 

Al inicio de su carrera, Lawrence fue un tanto decepcionante. No logró mantenerse sano, recibió una suspensión de cuatro juegos en el 2016 y antes de la última temporada, no había sido nada especial. Sin embargo, en el 2017 estuvo entre los mejores defensivos de la liga.

Lawrence logró capturar 14.5 veces a los quarterbacks contrarios (había conseguido sólo nueve en toda su carrera) y 35 tackles. No sólo mejoró increíblemente presionando el juego aéreo, sino que también se convirtió en una fuerza contra el juego terrestre.

Podemos hablar de estadísticas todo lo que queramos, pero creo que todos vimos lo que sucedió en el campo semana tras semana.

Un jugador que juegue de la manera que jugó DeMarcus este 2017, merece un gran, gran contrato. El problema es, que esta ha sido su única buena temporada. Y ahora la administración tiene que decidir que hacer respecto a este joven talento de sólo 25 años de edad.

¿Dejar que juegue en el 2018 bajo la etiqueta franquicia? ¿O darle un contrato a largo plazo, asegurando que use la Estrella por varios años?

Definitivamente no es una opción tan fácil como parece. Stephen y Jerry Jones han sido criticados por mucho los últimos años (bastantes veces erróneamente), y Lawrence es una oportunidad perfecta para lucirse... o quedar mal con su afición por muchos años.

Cowboys Planning

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

¿Qué si le dan una jugosa extensión de contrato y nunca volvemos a ver al mismo jugador que vimos dominar líneas ofensivas en el 2017? ¿Qué pasa si por alguna razón juega en otro equipo tras el 2018, y termina siendo uno de los mejores de la NFL?

Según reportes, Lawrence está pidiendo 17 millones por año, lo cuál lo pondría entre los mejores pagados de su posición actualmente. El DE de los Giants Olivier Vernon promedia esa cantidad, y sorpresa, sorpresa... ambos jugadores cuentan con el mismo agente.

Finalmente, por años hemos ansiado un caza cabezas para los Dallas Cowboys. Año tras año, hablamos de novatos como Joey Bosa o agentes libres como Dwight Freeney que podrían cambiar el rumbo de la defensiva de este equipo.

Pues ahora, los Cowboys cuentan con uno.

Sí, no se mantuvo sano durante los primeros tres años de su carrera, pero cuando lo estuvo demostró ser un jugador de mucha calidad. Quizá esta vez, si sea la ocasión para romper el cochinito y pagarle su merecido dinero a Lawrence.

Y con un poco de suerte, seguirá siendo el mismo que fue la temporada pasada y los Cowboys contarán con un excelente jugador en su línea defensiva.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: DeMarcus Lawrence, ¿Etiqueta o Contrato?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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

Will Jeff Heath be a Starter or Backup in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys' Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season 1
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be quite a bit of optimism surrounding the Dallas Cowboys secondary after the hiring of Kris Richard. A lot of Cowboys Nation is hoping that he can re-create the "Legion of Boom" here in Dallas, but do the Cowboys have the personnel to do it?

There's no denying the Cowboys have some very talented young defensive backs. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods all had fantastic rookie seasons and they have only started to scratch the surface of their true potential. We could even throw Anthony Brown into that conversation as well, even though he struggled at times in 2017.

Kris Richard definitely has something to work with, at least at cornerback. But, the safety position for the Cowboys could probably use an upgrade.

I wouldn't be all that surprised if we see completely new faces starting at safety for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. There have already been rumors Byron Jones might be moving back to cornerback. That would leave Jeff Heath as the only Cowboy safety with any kind of starting experience.

Unfortunately, Jeff Heath has been the favorite whipping boy for a lot of Cowboys fans. When there was blame to be placed in the secondary, it usually fell on Heath's shoulders whether it was warranted or not.

Jeff Heath

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath

Kris Richard will probably have a pretty big input on who the Cowboy starting safeties will be next season. You can bet he has already evaluated every single one of his secondary players and already has a pretty good idea of how he wants to deploy them.

Right now, the biggest enigma in the Cowboy secondary has to be the safety position and more importantly what to do with Jeff Heath. Will he be a starter or backup in 2018?

Heath actually performed pretty well in 2017. He finished the season with 71 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions. That compares pretty favorably with the safety everybody wants to bring to Dallas, Earl Thomas, who finished last season with 88 tackles, one forced fumble, and two interceptions. But, we all know statistics don't show the big picture.

We all know Earl Thomas is the more talented of the two players, but that's not to say Jeff Heath isn't worthy of his starting job. I know some of you will disagree, but I believe he proved that last season.

What happens to Jeff Heath in 2018 will likely depend on what the Dallas Cowboys are able to do in free agency and through the draft. Adding another safety at some point is definitely an offseason priority, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be an upgrade over Heath.

As things stand right now, Jeff Heath is still penciled in as one of the starting safeties heading into the 2018 season. The other starting safety spot is up for grabs. Who knows, maybe we'll see completely new faces at the safety position, much like we did at CB last year.

Do you think Jeff Heath remains the starting safety?


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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.

I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.

It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.

You on board?

Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.

You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.

I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!

So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?

Shaquil Barrett

Denver Broncos OLB Shaq Barrett (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.

You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.

I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.

With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.

Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.

I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.

The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.

Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?


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