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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Green’s Struggles, Shaky Secondary Cost Cowboys At Falcons

Sean Martin

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So this is what life is like for the Dallas Cowboys without Ezekiel Elliott...maybe. Losing 27-7 to the Falcons yesterday to fall to 5-4 on the season, the Cowboys dealt with a dangerous Atlanta team without Tyron Smith nor Sean Lee, who exited in the first quarter.

While the amount of absent stars the Cowboys had provides some hope that things can improve without Elliott, the simple fact that Zeke was sorely missed can't be hidden. Rushing for just 107 yards, Dak Prescott was under fire all afternoon, standing no chance on most of his 30 drop backs thanks to the performance of Chaz Green at LT.

Facing essentially a must-win game this Sunday at home against the Eagles, the Cowboys won't have much time to recover from this potentially demoralizing loss and more importantly nurse these key players back to health.

For now, here are my scouting notes on Dallas' performance in Atlanta as always in another edition of Sean's Scout.

Sean's Scout: Green's Struggles, Shaky Secondary Cost Cowboys At Falcons

  • We don't have to dive too much into Chaz Green's nightmarish day, because anyone watching this game saw just how much he cost the Cowboys any real chance of sustaining drives offensively. Simply put, Green had zero success putting all of the traits needed to play left tackle against the speed of the Falcons' rushers together from snap to snap. When he was alright in his movement or slide ability, Green was broken down due to repetitive hand placement and poor play strength. On the rare occasion that his upper body wasn't the issue, Green conceded the corner and was beaten with speed numerous times as Adrian Clayborn got to Dak Prescott six times. Tyron Smith was missed dearly on Sunday, to say the absolute least.

 

  • It wasn't only Green that struggled on the left side of Dallas' offensive line in this game. I thought that Jonathan Cooper was well below average compared to the dominant level of play he's been at the previous few weeks. Some of this can surely be attributed to Cooper not having the same confidence that he would if Tyron Smith was next to him, but there were plenty of snaps where Cooper was forced to catch his man thanks to poor balance and technique. When Cooper struggles with his balance, he is simply a very beatable football player - as this leads to issues with his power and hands. Unable to deliver his normally strong initial blows to defensive linemen before clearing to the second level, Cooper was not nearly as effective on the afternoon moving defenders or anchoring in his pass sets. For these reasons, I believe the Cowboys can still be effective rushing the football without Elliott - assuming Cooper regains his form following this off day for the entirety of the Cowboys' offensive line.

 

  • Dak Prescott's fourth rushing touchdown of the season was the only score of the game for the Cowboys, and rookie WR Noah Brown deserves some credit for allowing the play to develop as easily as it did. The only defender that had a chance to contain and close on Prescott was rookie DE Takk McKinley. A very tough blocking assignment, the willing blocker in Brown rode McKinley behind Prescott before forcing him to disengage and chase the ball from behind. Already turning the corner and gaining speed, Prescott beat the backside pursuit to easily cross the goal line.

 

  • Adding another sack on the day, DeMarcus Lawrence continues to prove that he is one of the most versatile pass rushers in the entire NFL. What gives Lawrence so many ways to get to the quarterback is his quick hands. When Lawrence can use his hands to either take away a blocker's ability to reach on him or to stab and sharpen the corner, he becomes impossible to block. Lawrence is equally dominant bending towards the quarterback with great speed and drive or countering inside to get in a QBs face. There is no doubt that a healthy DeMarcus Lawrence is going to continue to be a player opposing offensive coordinator's dread game planning for.

 

  • I am hopeful that the Cowboys' coaches on the defensive side of the ball saw enough from UDFA Lewis Neal (playing in his first regular season game) at the 1T DT position for him to replace Richard Ash. Ash has not played poorly, doing his job by eating up space on the interior, but the Cowboys are just noticeably better with an athletic 1T in the game like Maliek Collins or Neal. The penetration these players create is unique for a 1T, but it helps the Cowboys' linebackers do what they do best in shooting gaps and finding the football. Lewis Neal's best trait is his superb lower body strength, which keeps him from getting cut low by blockers. Both Ash and Neal freed themselves up to make plays down the line in this game, but it was Ash failing to get in position to stop the run at the line numerous times while Neal flashed some speed along with his high motor to make a noticeable impact playing next to David Irving.

 

  •  There weren't many bright spots for a Cowboys secondary that was simply outclassed by the Falcons receiving corps, but Xavier Woods' interception was sure one of them. The play was perfectly executed by both him and Anthony Brown. Dropping to the right depth in coverage, Brown put himself in position to drive on a Matt Ryan pass to Mohamed Sanu at just the right time - arriving as the high throw sailed into his hand and deflected into the air. Continuing to impress with his range and instincts, Woods saw the ball shoot behind Brown and, with his momentum going towards the sideline already, rallied to the football to grab a tip drill interception that set up his team's only touchdown.

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The Cowboys chances against the Eagles will rest on the health of the simply irreplaceable players that were missing in this ugly loss to the Falcons. Nobody with the Cowboys this week should believe that not having Ezekiel Elliott on the field cost them this game, and Alfred Morris along with Rod Smith will be even more motivated to respond with better performances on the ground.

Maintaining balance to their offense is the only way the Cowboys can control games still and ultimately win enough to remain in the playoff hunt. This, and continuing to see young defenders like Xavier Woods take strides will help Dallas focus on the few positives heading into week eleven.

For now, this concludes another Monday post game Sean's Scout. Stay posted to Inside The Star as we look further at this Falcons game and move on to the Eagles before Sunday.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Green’s Struggles, Shaky Secondary Cost Cowboys At Falcons" 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
  • John Williams

    I agree. I thought Jonathan Cooper wasn’t good either. The whole left side of the line had a hard time creating any running room. Cooper was decent in pass protection though, from what I can recollect. He didn’t have a whole lot to do with any of Chaz’s issues. It’s obvious that Tyron Smith raises Jonathan Coopers’s game.

    That was Dak’s fifth touchdown.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" 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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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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