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Sean’s Scout: Prescott’s Improvements, Front Seven Stand Out Vs Chiefs

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Prescott's Improvements, Front Seven Form Stand Out Vs Chiefs

The Dallas Cowboys put their backs to the wall when they began this 2017 season at 2-3 through five games. With Super Bowl aspirations put on hold for a moment, and the team forced to fully take Head Coach Jason Garrett's "game at a time" approach, we've seen the Cowboys return to their winning ways for the last three weeks now - looking again like one of the best teams in the NFL.

Lacking a true statement win, the Cowboys defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 28-17 (allowing an unimaginable touchdown before the half to keep the Chiefs around) yesterday from AT&T Stadium.

With 375 more yards of total offense and a defensive performance that included intercepting Alex Smith for the first time all year, the Cowboys are winning in every phase of the game right now.

Let's take a closer look at a few things that stood out to me in another edition of Sean's Scout.

Sean's Scout: Prescott's Improvements, Front Seven Form Stand Out Vs Chiefs 1

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

  • Xavier Woods has a strong case to be a starter on this defense right now, and early on it appeared that he would be thrown into the fire after Jeff Heath exited the game following the Cowboys' first punt of the day. Heath returned  to his usual safety spot and battled through the game to finally make a splash by picking off Alex Smith late in the fourth quarter, but it was Xavier Woods that introduced himself right away by ending Kansas City's opening drive playing coverage with Byron Jones. Jones drew the tough assignment of Travis Kelce, and on this third down Smith had more than enough time to allow Kelce to overtake Jones and free himself for a first down. Reading the play the whole time, Woods did not bite on any underneath routes as he mirrored Smith and drifted towards the middle of the field. Finding himself in position to attack the football, Woods did what he does best and laid a hit on Kelce that ensured the pass would not be caught.

 

  • The Cowboys are getting an amazing level of cohesive play in their front seven despite naturally rotating in so many bodies across the defensive line and at linebacker. The high level of play that Dallas is getting at LB from starters Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens along with Damien Wilson and Jaylon Smith shouldn't go without a lot of credit towards these defensive tackles. Once again finding value in pushing pockets from the interior of the defensive line, imposing DTs like Maliek Collins and David Irving have forced opposing offenses to play from their own backfield. This had made it so much easier for Lee and the rest of these linebackers to clean up plays in the run, and there were a number of times yesterday that pressure in Smith's face forced an underneath throw into the coverage of either Lee or Hitchens. With Brian Price exiting this game late due to injury, it was even more important for the Cowboys to see the strides Maliek Collins made as the 1T DT in this game.

Ezekiel Elliott TD Vs Chiefs - Streamable

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  • We don't talk enough about Dak Prescott's pocket presence in making the slight adjustments needed to deliver accurate strikes as consistently as he does. Already known as an elite ball handler, decision maker, and runner, there were so many times against the Chiefs that Prescott's ability to slide marginally to his left or right extended drives with big time throws. The moving pockets and other misdirection elements that the Cowboys dominated with in 2016 are proving even more lethal in 2017, mostly because of Prescott's improvements as a cerebral pocket passer that can navigate the limited pressure he faces to get the ball downfield.

 

  • Speaking of Dak Prescott and Dallas' passing game, this game was likely the best example we've had since Brice Butler arrived in 2015 of why he hasn't overtaken Terrance Williams. With a career high nine receptions for 141 yards, Williams proved again how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands on the move - something Scott Linehan found more of with not only Williams but Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley too. Meanwhile, Butler's opportunity down the field resulted in a drop as he closed his hands running towards the sun prior to the ball arriving. This inconsistency has frustrated the Cowboys, who could have an even bigger role for Brice Butler if he made plays like these. With that said, Terrance Williams is firmly in place as this team's second receiver.

Taco Charlton Sack Vs Chiefs - Streamable

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  • Taco Charlton was more noticeable yesterday afternoon than he had been all season, and the very simple reason for this was because the Cowboys found snaps for him at LDE. Even from as far back as my own college scouting report on Charlton, I projected him as an ideal LDE in the NFL. With their "war daddy" pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence holding down this spot, Dallas tried the rookie first round pick on the right side to start his career - with the expected awful results. Able to generate push and capture the corner much easier as a left end, Charlton was able to put together some rush moves and set the edge with his solid base and strong hands. Breaking through for his first career sack in the clip above, Charlton notices the right tackle drop deep into his pass set. Instead of trying to run the arc and get to the quarterback, he keeps his momentum and rush going right at the blocker, who recovers to get Taco behind Alex Smith. With Charlton keeping his man away from his frame though, Smith holding onto the ball allows him to disengage and drill Smith in the back for a third down sack. There's no telling what a performance like this, capped off with a fourth quarter sack, will do for Charlton's confidence moving forward as a member of an amazingly productive defensive line in Dallas.

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The Cowboys' crucial stretch prior to their first meeting with the NFC East leading Eagles has gone as well as it could so far, with three wins against the 49ers, Redskins, and Chiefs. With the Eagles on a bye prior to week 11 in Dallas, the Cowboys are one game away from hosting Philadelphia with a chance to win and close the Eagles' lead to just one game.

Playing at the sputtering Atlanta Falcons this Sunday, the Cowboys are on a mission to prove that their slow start will absolutely not define their 2017 season, dominating with complimentary football and elite quarterback play once again on Sunday.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Prescott’s Improvements, Front Seven Stand Out Vs Chiefs" 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
  • Hammer33

    You’re right of course, the woods breakup was much more impressive that the Heath pic.

    Woods is going to possibly be a good player one day, though you couldn’t tell that from last weeks performance. Heath had what, 6 solo tackles against SF?

    And not acknowledging Jones’ struggles tells me you have something against a perticular player.

    When a player does something well don’t just give them a backhanded sentence. Woods will not start for Heath this year. The coaches, team and front office know what he does well. If you want to dog him for tackles missed may I suggest you look at the entire league as everyone is struggling.

    With each article you prove exactly what you don’t know. Which is considerable.

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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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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