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Sean’s Scout: Offense Gets Back To Basics In Win Over 49ers

Sean Martin

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Welcome back to Sean's Scout - and welcome back to the win column, 2017 Dallas Cowboys! Coming off of the bye with a decisive 40-10 win at the San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys finally showed off 60 minutes of football that displayed who this team is.

As the reigning NFC East champions, the Cowboys improved to 3-3 behind a rushing attack that gashed the 49ers for a season high 265 yards and a defense that created two takeaways while sacking rookie QB C.J. Beathard five times in his first start.

Even with the victory coming against a win-less, outmatched 49ers team, there was plenty to love from the Cowboys' performance. While I can't wait to dive into the coaches film and evaluate just how this team responded the way they did, here are my initial thoughts on Dallas' week seven performance in another Monday morning edition of Sean's Scout.

Sean's Scout: Offense Gets Back To Basics In Win Over 49ers

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis

  • Leading up to this game, it appeared that Chaz Green was going to be the team's starter at LG. I wrote up that news here, endorsing a healthy Green as the best option between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, and had an incredibly hard time finding anyone that felt the same way. After watching Jonathan Cooper once again start and perform well, it is easy to see why. The Cowboys understand that they must set the tone with their running game, and Cooper has helped them do that up front. Cooper's game has played very well to the offensive line's overall ability to dominate athletically, on the move, and with power. Not a truly overpowering player, Cooper was solid at the point of attack against the tough DeForest Buckner Sunday. When he was able to clear to the second level, Cooper did so with great pad level and an above average punch to move bodies in the running game. Add in his performances against the stout defensive fronts of the Rams and Packers, and the Cowboys have a starter to trust at left guard moving forward.

 

  • Speaking of the Cowboys' running game, it was refreshing to see this team execute what they do best with all eleven guys on offense. Major adjustments were not needed for an offense that had scored at least 30 points in consecutive losses, and this 40 point outburst started with everyone recommitting to running this offense through Ezekiel Elliott. As Cooper tightened up Dallas' offensive line play, it was the inspired blocking performances from Jason Witten and the WRs on the outside that helped Elliott grind for 5.65 yards a carry. Zeke Elliott also took a screen pass 72 yards to the house in the first half, with Noah Brown and Brice Butler doing work downfield to lead him across the goal line. From here, the rest of the Cowboys' offense showed off their lethal simplicity, as Dak Prescott did not have to win this game with his arm. Instead, getting Prescott outside of the pocket and finding ways to stretch the 49ers defense while playing ahead of the chains let Scott Linehan dictate this game - in an offensive performance that resembled many from a year ago, 13 of which went for wins.

 

  • Getting a season high seven receptions from Dez Bryant was also a great sign that the Cowboys' offense was firing on all cylinders this afternoon, and it was great to see Bryant consistently find ways to win with his size and strength. Too much has been made about Bryant's game regressing to a point where Prescott struggled to utilize his skill set effectively, but this simply wasn't the case against the 49ers' man coverage. Bryant was able to work inside of his defenders with ease, once again serving as a massive target for Dak to hit in rhythm. It was the touch from Prescott on Bryant's touchdown reception that made the difference, as his man was able to recover late in the down with not a ton of room to work with in the end zone. The pass hung in the air for the perfect amount of time, allowing Bryant to make a play "above the rim" on it for a circus catch and score.

 

  • On the defensive side of the ball, the difference that Sean Lee makes at linebacker was of course felt against a San Francisco offense that has struggled to get out of their own way for much of this season. The Cowboys' defense with Sean Lee is conceding just 16.3 points a game, compared to an unmanageable 35 a game without their leader. What was fascinating about Lee's performance was the way he moved around to all three linebacker positions and was effective despite visibly limping a bit through the second half. With hopes that Lee at WILL and Anthony Hitchens at MIKE would fix a lot of this defense's problems, it was Lee lining up to start the game at SAM as his replacement from the past two weeks in Damien Wilson remained at WILL. I had been skeptical of Wilson's performance at this spot, but with Lee taking on blockers and finding the football, Wilson was just fine in flying around and finishing at the point of attack as he does best. Lee also helped take Jaylon Smith off the field by shooting gaps as a MIKE linebacker numerous times. This was as inspired a performance as I've seen Lee play, and it helped Rod Marinelli's unit put a lot of moving parts into place at all three levels on defense.

 

  • The level where the Dallas defense has faced the most uncertainty in is the secondary, with inexperience and injuries causing a major lack of continuity in the back end. Having a rotation of safeties was so important for a defense that thrived in 2016 with heavy doses of Nickel and Dime sets. The Cowboys' pass rush is improving, but it is still not consistent enough to shut down opposing passing offenses, meaning the Cowboys must change up looks in coverage. Trusting Xavier Woods more and more has allowed them to do just that, as the rookie sixth round pick has flashed the ability to play comfortably at all levels of the defense. On the 49ers' first drive of the game, CB Jourdan Lewis was matched up with Pierre Garcon as the lone receiver on the weak side. With Lewis trailing on the corner route, Beathard saw an opportunity to throw the ball over the smaller defender for a first down. With great anticipation and burst, Xavier Woods was able to break over the top and tighten the throwing window as the pass was thrown too far outside and incomplete. Woods' steady play has been absolutely critical for the Cowboys, as it has helped both Byron Jones and Jeff Heath alongside him to constantly play to their best traits.

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The Cowboys will have a much better time reviewing the film from this game at The Star compared to their previous two weeks before the bye. As mentioned, I'll be doing the same throughout the week here at Inside The Star as Dallas prepares for a much more difficult test in the Washington Redskins on the road.

The Redskins will be in action on Monday Night Football tonight at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Until then, enjoy the fact that we made it back to Cowboys game day in emphatic fashion yesterday - and that this team is far from finished on the 2017 season.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Offense Gets Back To Basics In Win Over 49ers" 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.

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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