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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers
(Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys first game of 2018 is in the books. Although it goes as a loss on the scoreboard, last night was a win for the Cowboys in the important areas. Above all else, the team avoided any major injuries, and navigated Quarterback Dak Prescott through his first scoring drive.

There's plenty for the Cowboys to like about what they left on the field in San Francisco before returning to Oxnard, as well as plenty of room for improvement. Here is my first official Sean's Scout of the season, on some takeaways from the Cowboys performance against the 49ers.

  • Great block from Tight End Dalton Schultz to seal the corner for Rod Smith's first run of 15 yards.

The rookie was able to come off the ball with good explosiveness, using his quick hands to sustain the block downfield. This relentless blocking ability is Schultz's best trait, and if he can continue to show it off on the second and third level of the defense, he's going to earn snaps in this offense.

  • Dak Prescott continues to be a "gamer", finding rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup for a 30-yard touchdown on the Cowboys first drive.

Prescott had been struggling to connect on deep passes like this one in practice. As we know about the Cowboys third-year starter though, Prescott continues to be better in real game situations. The protection was perfect for Prescott to deliver this ball to Gallup, but his small window of opportunity to do so didn't allow Dak to step up in the pocket.

The throw was still perfect to Gallup, who uncovered right as he ran under the scoring pass -- his first of what the Cowboys can expect to be many more receptions this season.

  • Jaylon Smith's first signature "swipe play" of the game was really set up by Linebackers Joe Thomas and Damien Wilson.

Take nothing away from Smith, who looked fantastic running around last night, but the Cowboys got everything they could ask for out of their veteran linebackers in this game too.

As a defense, the Cowboys excelled at containing the edge all night long. On this play it was Wilson motioning down from his SAM position before the snap to do just that. Joe Thomas also stayed home to meet the runner in the hole and Smith was there to finish off the play.

Later in the same drive, on a third and long, Smith carried a 49ers tight end down the seam to force the ball underneath. The Cowboys got off the field, and it was an even better sign seeing Smith plant and flip his hips in coverage.

  • I really wish we got to see Defensive End Taco Charlton at LDE since the start of his rookie season.

The Michigan product always projected best as a left end. Drafting for need at 19th overall though, the Cowboys felt the need to try Charlton at right end at the start of 2017. This was a less than ideal position for him to begin his career, and it made his strong push at the end of the season from the left side even more impressive.

Above all else, Charlton looked like he had a plan for every rush off the strong side in this game. With Taco off one edge and Tyrone Crawford on the other, the Cowboys deep defensive line has a chance to be great against the run.

Charlton looked much more comfortable turning the corner and avoiding blocks with quick change of direction ability, which led to him being in the quarterback's face multiple times.

Sean's Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 49ers 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas, S Kavon Frazier (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

  • That's a perfect angle from Kavon Frazier on the blitz to tip a pass that was intercepted by Joe Thomas.

I already mentioned the Cowboys ability to play contain defense very well, and this was an area that Frazier brought some juice to. Reading the eyes of the QB on this pass play, Frazier avoided a low block to time his run and leap for the ball.

If Beathard held onto the ball for another second, he likely would have been sacked by rookie Defensive End Dorance Armstrong, who also did a nice job collapsing on the play. Instead, his pass resulted in one of two turnovers Dallas came up with last night -- both on deflected balls.

  • Nice job by Blake Jarwin to look back for the ball as he converted a third down in the red zone to set up a Bo Scarbrough touchdown.

Jarwin ran wide open on the wheel route underneath. It would have been easy for him to continue the route up the field into the end zone. With Cooper Rush needing to throw the ball under pressure, Jarwin turned back at the perfect time and presented his quarterback with a big target.

Jarwin's athleticism and size really stands out at TE, catching this pass easily and turning up field to move the chains.

This drive ended with Bo Scarbrough crossing the goal line from one yard out, pushing behind rookie Left Guard Connor Williams. Though it was nice to see Scarbrough score in a short yardage situation, I thought Rod Smith had the much better overall game, and is nearly a lock to be this team's second running back.

I don't know how far Scarbrough has to rise up the depth chart to make the Cowboys roster, but spots behind Ezekiel Elliott and Smith should be at a premium given both backs completeness.

  • Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has to absolutely love Defensive Tackle Brian Price running down a screen pass to knock Ricky James out of bounds.

The Cowboys play caller on defense is all about effort from his defensive line, and there's no better example of this than Price's effort here. Playing without a true 3T in David Irving's absence to start the season, the Cowboys are more than prepared to still hold up at defensive tackle thanks to their depth at 1T.

Collectively, this group has the size and range to hold up on the interior for Dallas. Brian Price -- whose first season was cut short due to injury last year -- deserves a chance to start at 1T over Richard Ash and Antwaun Woods.

Ash did push the pocket with a spin move that put him in position to tip a pass that was intercepted by Cornerback Duke Thomas in the fourth quarter.

Not only is Price hard to move off the spot, but he is freakish in his pursuit of the football once disengaging. As the 49ers failed to get a seal on Price for this screen play, the 318 pound DT flew to the sideline and made the play 21 yards downfield.

San Francisco would score their first points of the game on this drive, but that shouldn't matter when the team reviews the tape to see Price's effort.

  • Lance Lenoir's awareness in a tight space set up his touchdown reception from Rush.

We've said all along that a talented wide receiver is going to miss the Cowboys final cut, and Lance Lenoir continues to do everything he can to assure it won't be him. Not on the active roster in 2017, Lenoir did show enough as an undrafted rookie to stick around on the practice squad, and has shown significant improvement this year.

Lenoir is the type of route running technician that Sanjay Lal is looking for. With his defender planted in the back of the end zone at the stem of his route, Lenoir knew he would have little room to work with in selling the route to the inside before breaking out.

It was a violent and quick move from Lenoir that gave him some separation towards the sideline, gathering himself to tap both feet in bounds and score. It's hard not to be impressed with the way Lenoir shows up and competes every day at training camp, and it was great for the whole Cowboys offense to see his efforts rewarded with a touchdown.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys will return to Oxnard to prepare for the second week of the preseason now. A home game at AT&T Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals awaits them - another opportunity for the players fighting to make this team to prove themselves.

The Cowboys should be impressed by their depth at OL, TE, and DL based on this performance against the 49ers. Having depth in the trenches has gone a long way for this team before, as competitions for playing time are sure to heat up this week.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Offense, TE Usage, Defensive Line Rotation Stand Out at 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.

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2 Comments
  • Daniel Bollman

    Taco was taken with 28th pick. I thought backup O-Lineman, Martin, Flemming and Green really struggled, didn’t you see that?

  • Sexcdex Xfact

    Schultz, Jarwin & Rico blocked wrll
    Rico’s block freed up Bo Scarborough gotcha huge run
    I think Swaim had a critical block also

    Then they all had receptions
    I know Rico, Swaim, & Jarwin did
    I read one article saying all receivers, including TE’s had 2 catches a piece

Game Notes

What We May Have Learned From the Cowboys Week 1 Preseason Loss

Brian Martin

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5 Things We Might Have Learned From Cowboys Preseason Week 1

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately came out on the losing end of the battle in their first preseason contest against the San Francisco 49ers, despite pretty much dominating the majority of the game. The good news is it was just an exhibition game and means relatively nothing in regards to the upcoming 2018 season.

Last week was the first chance for a lot of us to see what this years Dallas Cowboys team could possibly look like. There was a lot of roster turnover this offseason, which means there were quite a few new faces on the field for the Cowboys Thursday night. But, I can't say that I was disappointed in what I saw, at least so far.

Now that I've had time to study and evaluate the Dallas Cowboys game against the 49ers, I wanted to share with all of you some of the things we may have learned. Up until this point we were left speculating about certain things, but I think the picture is much clearer now.

To keep myself from going overboard here, I decided to narrow it down to just five things I think we may have learned about the 2018 Dallas Cowboys last Thursday night. Continue to read below to see what they are.

✭ Rookie WR Michael Gallup the Real Deal✭

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

With so much unknown surrounding the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver position, it was really good to see rookie WR Michael Gallup play well against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night. Despite being a rookie, Gallup looked like the best WR on the field for either team. I don't believe I'm exaggerating the slightest either.

The highlight of the game might have been when he and Quarterback Dak Prescott were able to hook up on a 30 yard touchdown pass to close out the Cowboys first offensive series. Gallup might have scored a second TD later in the game if QB Cooper Rush's pass wouldn't have been under thrown. But, that's neither here nor there now. If Gallup continues to play like he did Thursday night, he could easily be the Cowboys top WR in 2018.

✭ Blake Jarwin Favorite to Replace Jason Witten✭

Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim

Dallas Cowboys TEs Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim

Geoff Swaim may have gotten the start and provided some good blocking Thursday night against the 49ers, but it was Blake Jarwin who may have ended up becoming the favorite to replace Jason Witten this season. Out of all of the options in the receiving game for the Dallas Cowboys, it was Jarwin who was on the receiving end of Dak Prescott's first pass of the game. And, if he hadn't had stepped out of bounds later in the game he would've found himself in the end zone.

Now, it's a little early in the process to claim Jarwin as the victor in the Cowboys TE competition, but he was able to carry over what he's been doing in practice into the game. That's no small feat to accomplish. I'm sure we'll see some of the other TEs on the roster receive opportunities to prove themselves, but for now, it's looking as if it could be Blake Jarwin's job to lose.

✭ Tavon Austin More Than a "Gadget" Player✭

Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon

Dallas Cowboys RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon Austin

When the Dallas Cowboys traded for Tavon Austin earlier in the offseason no one really knew exactly what kind of offensive role they had in mind for him. Since arriving in Dallas, Austin has been described as a "web-back", but that made things even more confusing because it sounded like a made up position. The only thing anybody really knew is that Austin has been mostly a "gadget" player since entering the NFL.

I know it was just Week 1 of the preseason, but if Thursday night was any indication of how the Cowboys plan to use Austin, then he will be more than a "gadget" player this season. Austin didn't line up in the backfield or receive any handoffs. He didn't even return any punts or kickoffs against the 49ers. The only thing he did do was lineup at WR and run routes. His role could change and expand later, but it looks as if he will be more involved offensively than we had originally thought.

✭ DE Taco Charlton Looks Much Improved in Year 2✭

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

The Dallas Cowboys defense may not have recorded a single quarterback sack Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers, but they did put consistent pressure on the opposing QBs. One of those pass rushers to consistently pressure the QB was the Cowboys second-year Defensive End Taco Charlton, who looks like an entirely different player this year. He was getting after the QB, making tackles, and deflecting passes.

Charlton is starting to look more and more like the first-round draft pick the Cowboys were hoping he would be last year. He looks bigger, stronger, faster, and more technique sound than he did a season ago, which should be good news for the pass rush this season. He also showed that his knowledge of the game has improved. Last season he would've been fooled by some of those bootlegs, but it doesn't look to be the case now.

✭LB Depth No Longer a Concern✭

Joe Thomas

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas

The Dallas Cowboys played the entire game against the 49ers Thursday night without Sean Lee, their best defensive player. Unfortunately, it may have provided a glimpse of what we could see at some point during the 2018 season since #50 has a problem of remaining healthy. The good news is, it looks like the Cowboys have covered themselves for such scenario.

Yes, all eyes were on Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch against the 49ers Thursday night, and rightfully so. Both players didn't do anything to disappoint, but it was the Cowboys free agent addition, Joe Thomas, who stole the show. Thomas was filling in for Sean Lee and did an outstanding job doing so. He was all over the field and even ended up getting an interception off a Kavon Frazier deflection. The way all the Cowboys LBs played should ease any concerns with the depth of the position heading into the 2018 season.

What stood out for you in the Dallas Cowboys game against the 49ers?



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Game Notes

LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco

Kevin Brady

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LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into last night's preseason opener Cowboys fans had their minds on three linebackers: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. Of course, they were right to focus on those three. They are the three most talented linebackers on the roster, and each were taken within the first two rounds of their respective drafts.

During the game against the San Francisco 49ers, however, an under-the-radar linebacker stole the show for the Dallas Cowboys. If you were watching you know that linebacker is Joe Thomas. With Sean Lee out Joe Thomas got a chance to play with the first team defense, and boy did he take advantage of that opportunity.

Joe Thomas finished his night with five tackles, one TFL, and an interception on the play below. Thomas was relentless in pursuit, flying all over the field and keeping himself near the ball at all times. This relentlessness put him in position to capitalize on Kavon Frazier's pass deflection, and come away with the pick.

Multiple times during the first half Joe Thomas made everyone in Cowboys Nation ask "who is that!?" And in the preseason, that's at the top of the to-do list of every lesser-known player.

NFL on Twitter

On the very next play... PICKED. #DALvsSF https://t.co/X62FGTNpKV

Over the last few seasons the Cowboys have severely lacked depth at the linebacker position. When starting WILL Sean Lee is out, which happens quite frequently, the entire unit seems to fall apart. Their attempts at bargain shopping at linebacker, or snagging mid-round depth in the draft, hasn't necessarily worked all that well.

Adding Leighton Vander Esch during the 2018 draft was a step towards building the linebackers as a complete unit, but Joe Thomas' performance last night adds even more stability.

No, Thomas isn't going to take a starting role from Sean Lee, but he does add quality depth behind what are high profile linebackers. Jaylon Smith looked better and healthier last night than he has during his entire time as a Dallas Cowboy, Vander Esch looked like an athletic freak at times, and Sean Lee is still Sean Lee.

If Joe Thomas is going to show up like he did against the 49ers on a nightly basis, the Cowboys suddenly possess one of the deeper front sevens in all of football.



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Game Notes

Cowboys en Español: 5 Conclusiones de la Primera Semana de Pretemporada

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: X Conclusiones de la Primera Semana de Pretemporada
Kelvin Kuo / USA TODAY Sports

Aprendimos muchas cosas durante el primer partido de la pretemporada de los Dallas Cowboys que se jugó en San Francisco contra los "nuevos" 49ers de Jimmy Garoppolo y Kyle Shanahan. En un partido que terminó como una derrota para los Cowboys, los aficionados realmente deberían evitar sentirse abrumados por el marcador y empezar a sentirse bien por las cosas que vimos en el campo.

En la pretemporada, el resultado final es lo menos importante. Agosto se trata de ver el desempeño de ciertos jugadores y por breves momentos, el desempeño de los titulares. Para Dallas, tanto la primera ofensiva como la primera defensiva dieron un muy buen papel. Hay cosas por las cuales celebrar y otras por las cuales preocuparnos.

Este viernes en "Cowboys en Español," les comparto unas cuantas conclusiones del enfrentamiento de la noche del jueves.

Dorance Armstrong es real.

Claramente el jugador más sorprendente del partido fue el Defensive End Dorance Armstrong. Como un novato de cuarta ronda, las expectativas rodeando al producto de la universidad de Kansas no son muy grandes. Claro que se espera que sea parte del roster, pero si mantiene el nivel de juego que mostró en su primera experiencia en la NFL, Armstrong será un jugador muy importante para la defensiva.

Vistiendo el #74, Armstrong causó presión a lo largo de toda la noche. A pesar de no conseguir ninguna captura, su impacto se sintió casi cada vez que estaba en el campo.

Sorprendentemente, no es del todo descabellado asumir que tendrá un mejor que Taco Charlton, por ejemplo. No es algo en contra de Charlton, al contrario. Taco también tuvo una buena noche. Armstrong es real.

Jaylon Smith está listo.

Vimos a Jaylon Smith como nunca lo habíamos visto. Han pasado más de dos años desde que los Cowboys seleccionaron al producto de Notre Dame en la segunda ronda del NFL Draft 2016 y a pesar de que recibimos una pequeña muestra de su nivel de juego la temporada pasada, su versión 2018 se ve mucho mejor.

Sus movimientos fueron más fluidos, demostró explosividad en las jugadas. Buenas cosas se vienen para el grupo de linebackers y Smith puede ser la mejor de todas ellas.

Rico Gathers está en peligro.

Rico Gathers tiene que hacer mucho para ganarse un puesto en el roster. Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin y Dalton Schultz parecen estar por encima de él en la posición de ala cerrada y Gathers vio un rol muy limitado anoche.

Las expectativas para la ex-estrella de basketball han sido enormes desde que llego a la liga y finalmente parece que está en peligro de conseguir un puesto en el equipo. Para ganarse un puesto, tendrá que depender de lo atlético que es y su talento "crudo."

Por ahora, claramente no está por encima de ningún otro tight end. 

Anthony Brown no volverá a su forma del 2016.

A pesar de que esperábamos que Anthony Brown se convirtiera en el futuro de los cornerbacks en Dallas tras su impresionante temporada de novato, la verdad es que el esquinero de 24 años ha ido declinando poco a poco.

En el 2017 lo vimos perder su puesto de titular y lo que ha demostrado hasta ahora en training camp y ahora en pretemporada no ha sido suficiente para cambiar la perspectiva. Bajo el comando de Kris Richard, los Cowboys tienen un grupo prometedor liderado por Chidobe Awuzie y Byron Jones.

Brown seguramente se mantendrá en el roster, pues es una buena opción de profundidad, pero es difícil imaginarlo con un rol de la importancia que se esperaba en el 2016. La pregunta es, ¿será efectivo en rol nuevo y menor?

La situación de corredores es perfecta.

Todos conocemos a Ezekiel Elliott, por supuesto. Es simple y sencillamente uno de los mejores corredores en toda la NFL y está en la misma conversación que Todd Gurley y Le'Veon Bell. Pero detrás de Elliott, los Cowboys no podrían estar en una mejor situación.

Rod Smith y Bo Scarbrough serán un buen apoyo para Elliott en su tercer año en la liga. La cantidad de veces que Zeke toca el balón es muy alta y le vendría bien apoyarse en ambos. No me sorprendería si vemos a los coaches abordar el segundo cuarto de cada partido como lo hicieron en el 2016: dejar descansar a Elliott repartiendo el balón entre otros RBs.

Pero ahora, los "otros" serán un par de corredores jóvenes que tienen mucho por ofrecer. Rod Smith es un corredor que podría tener bastantes acarreos en otro equipo. En Dallas estará bajo la sombra de Elliott, pero no perdamos de vista el potencial que tiene como jugador. Ese #45 es especial.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: 5 Conclusiones de la Primera Semana de Pretemporada" 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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