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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

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

  • 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.

✭✭✭✭✭

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

Sean’s Scout: Dak’s 1st Loss at Redskins Leaves Cowboys Losers Before Bye

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Dak's 1st Loss at Redskins Leaves Cowboys Losers Before Bye

The Dallas Cowboys went in to Washington losers of their last three road games this season, in position to change that behind Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott's previously undefeated record against the Redskins. In the end, the ball was ultimately taken out of their hands as the Cowboys played for overtime, watching their effort come up short again with Brett Maher's miss from 52-yards out.

As was the case two weeks ago in Houston, the Cowboys multitude of errors have been focused into one play, with L.P. Ladouceur becoming the scapegoat for his penalty that pushed back the Cowboys final field goal attempt. With an unmanageable 14 days before their next game, the real issues inside this Cowboys team have plenty of time to surface, as enough were on display Sunday for Dallas to miss out on another shot at the division lead.

Here's a look at my initial notes from this Cowboys loss, sending them into their bye week at 3-4 and 1-1 in the NFC East.

  • This was yet another game where the Cowboys dealt with the ups and downs of rookie Left Guard Connor Williams.

On the same drive that Prescott left the field to be checked in the medical tent following a big hit out of bounds, Michael Gallup was able to provide a spark with a 22-yard gain on a perfect strike from Dak.

Williams helped make the play possible by holding off a bull rush from Daron Payne. The Redskins feature both Payne and his former Alabama teammate Jonathan Allen at defensive tackle. They ensured the Cowboys would get nothing going on the ground in this game.

Five plays later, Williams would be called for a chop block that put Dallas behind the chains. The drive stalled and the Cowboys punted, which was a much better result compared to Prescott's attempt at overcoming Williams' holding penalty in the fourth quarter.

Erasing a first down to Cole Beasley, Prescott ran into pressure in his own end zone on third and long, inexcusably fumbling the ball for an easy Redskins recovery and touchdown.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

Y'all are really going to make me do this... okay. Here we go. https://t.co/awNm55TxnH

  • Michael Gallup finally scored his first career touchdown, and has to be asking himself if they can really be so easy, as he ran wide open down the left sideline to score from 49-yards out.

Gallup sold his route brilliantly, getting his defender to bite hard on the stop route before releasing over the top. Even with some pressure in his face, Prescott delivered a perfect pass that allowed Gallup to walk in.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

I truly love me some @michael13gallup. https://t.co/KEjh9BDUPS

Give credit to the receivers around Gallup for setting up this play. Allen Hurns caught five passes, his most in a game for the Cowboys, many of them coming on the same route that Gallup faked before running vertical.

The Cowboys have deserved criticism for their lack of route designs on the outside, but when they execute well enough to win as they did here, it's easier to see the trust that remains in this team for Scott Linehan as their play caller.

It's unfortunate we didn't get to see Prescott throw at least two more passes down the stretch. Beasley was having his way with a depleted Washington secondary, and with a timeout in their pocket the Cowboys could have worked the middle of the field to attempt a winning touchdown.

Instead, their tying field goal attempt left them with plenty to think about over the bye, including if the kick would have been good from 47-yards out.

  • The Cowboys red zone defense stood tall once again, keeping the Redskins out of the end zone both times, including at the start of the third quarter thanks to a DeMarcus Lawrence stop on Adrian Peterson.

There were plenty of plays in this game where the Cowboys made Peterson look a few years younger, but the timeliness of DeMarcus Lawrence's splash plays against the run were all they needed to get the Redskins off the field in big spots.

It's not often we talk about a defensive end being clutch, but that's exactly the type of player the Cowboys have in their franchise left end.

Instead of going up 14-7 and forcing a Cowboys three-and-out on the next series, the Redskins 10-7 advantage would stand through the third quarter. These three points came on a 21-yard Hopkins field goal, set up by Lawrence screaming off the edge on third and a yard to plant Peterson for a loss of two.

  • This play may get lost in the shuffle when breaking down the Cowboys miscues for a whole extra week, but one that will stick with me for a while is Prescott's missed swing pass to Elliott.

As Tony Romo was keen to point out on the call of this game, Prescott left plenty of throws on the field, including one to Gallup on his decisive fumble. Where most of these missed chances were passes Prescott didn't pull the trigger on, the one he did against the blitz that resulted in an incomplete pass to Elliott was stunning.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

How does this happen? Seriously. How? HOWWWWW?!?! https://t.co/40V9Jx5EEP

The Redskins had scored their first touchdown of this game by throwing to their running back against the blitz, and the Cowboys could have been set up to do the same if Elliott catches this ball on first down.

The clock was a factor at this point, as the Cowboys took another 20 seconds to score on a third down rush by Prescott. The Redskins failed to take much time off the clock on their next series, with Alex Smith going out of bounds on third down.

The Cowboys' final drive began with 1:09 remaining, and it's anyone's guess as to how the game would have ended if they had just a few more seconds to manage.

  • The Cowboys were without Tavon Austin, taking away their outside threat in the running game, and turned to Cornerback Jourdan Lewis to handle their only jet sweep of the game.

The Cowboys knew Lewis better than most teams in the 2017 Draft, the cornerback out of Michigan that never carried the ball in college. The Cowboys had a few options in replacing Austin if they wanted his speed threat to remain in the game, instead doing away with most of these plays.

Instead of Deonte Thompson, Rod Smith, or even Beasley handling this role, the Cowboys ran one jet sweep to Lewis for seven yards.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

So I'd wondered if we might see Zeke as the jet motion/sweep guy with Rod Smith at RB sometime. But CB Jourdan Lewis? Interesting. Creative. I like it. https://t.co/KC3pZL1glI

Lewis has been getting more involved in Kris Richard's defense, and it was certainly different to see him used on offense for the first time.

  • The Cowboys welcomed back Sean Lee in this game and proceeded to allow over 100 rushing yards for the first time since week three - Lee's last game prior to Sunday.

In no way are the Cowboys a better defense without Lee, but they would be wise to spend a significant portion of time over the bye week figuring out their linebacker rotation with Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch.

Vander Esch was the Cowboys leading tackler coming into this game, and a huge reason why this defense held the Lions, Texans, and Jaguars in check without Lee. Playing 21 snaps against the Redskins to Lee's 38, there were snaps where LVE was noticeably missing.

The Cowboys have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground 72 times since Lee's arrival in 2010, playing to a 23-49 record in these games. In the 63 games they've held teams under 100 rushing yards, the Cowboys are 48-15.

This makes getting to the bottom of how Adrian Peterson was able to go for 99 yards at 4.1 yards per carry a key for this Cowboys defense by week eight - where they'll attempt to keep an offense that can hopefully find answers of their own in yet another game, this time on Monday Night Football against the Titans.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The feeling that the Cowboys have already missed on enough opportunities to contend in the NFC East this year will be hard to shake as the Cowboys return to Dallas on Tuesday at 3-4. This won't stop these players and coaches from doing everything they can to get back to .500 and remain in the hunt at 4-4.

In a league where fortune favors the bold to go above eight wins, the Cowboys will have to wait even longer than their 14 days between games to prove they're not another 8-8 Jason Garrett team. With poor coaching decisions and a quarterback incapable of overcoming them, the Cowboys remain in the midst of an identity crisis at week eight, thanks in large part to the left upright at FedEx Field.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Dak’s 1st Loss at Redskins Leaves Cowboys Losers Before Bye" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

L.P. Ladouceur Insists “Nothing Different” on FG Attempt

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur Is Greatest 91 In Dallas Cowboys History

There were other plays that certainly had as much of an impact on the outcome of the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. However, sequence of events surrounding L.P. Ladouceur and the game-tying field goal attempt are front and center.

Prior to Brett Maher's game-tying 52 yard field goal attempt clanged off of the left upright as time expired, backlash on social media had already begun to spread about the so-called "snap infraction" that moved the Dallas Cowboys from what would have been a 47 yard field goal attempt to the 52 yarder that Maher pulled.

Five yards closer and Maher gets that kick through the uprights and the Dallas Cowboys go to overtime with a chance to take the division lead. It didn't and the Cowboys fell to 3-4, now a game and a half behind the Washington Redskins as the Cowboys head into the bye.

After the game, many of us were watching the snap and trying to figure out what exactly he did wrong to warrant the penalty. According to L.P. Ladouceur, he did nothing wrong and was adamant about that in the rare post game interview.

“I just adjusted down so I could put my hands on the bottom of it so I could snap it in the right direction. Exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years … I’m not even trying to get him offside. I know the situation. Just too bad.” 

L.P.Ladouceur - via Todd Archer, ESPN.com

It was a rare "miscue" for the 14 year veteran deep snapper. Seriously, I can't remember a time when this call was made on a deep snapper or when Ladouceur had a bad snap. He's been excellent. If deep snappers could get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, L.P. would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He's been that good.

As Cowboys Nation attempted to make sense of the call, the NFL Officials Twitter account had an explanation of the penalty call after the game, which may give you more understanding, or more frustration.

NFL Officiating on Twitter

The illegal ball movement by the center in #DALvsWAS causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman." -AL https://t.co/Cv8Ugwb99p

Their argument was that Ladouceur moved the ball in his snap and that is an "illegal ball movement." It was that movement which caused the defender to come into the neutral zone and make contact with the offensive lineman.

I'll have to admit, watching deep snapper All-22 film is not something I'm going to find myself doing and so, we'll lean on Mike Garafolo here.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Just watched a few of L.P. Ladouceur's snaps in recent weeks. He moves the ball a lot at times. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The difference could be that nobody jumped on previous snaps. https://t.co/kc10gtMJ11

If what Garafolo says is true, that L.P. Ladouceur does move the ball a lot on his snaps, then how come he hasn't been called for it before. Mike could be right in that he hasn't been called for this before because no one has ever jumped offsides when he moved before. Regardless, the call has me wondering one of two things as to why they called it all of a sudden. 1) Either the officials don't usually see the ball movement or 2) they don't care. And both leave me a bit frustrated.

If they don't typically see the ball movement, then that means they didn't see the movement on Sunday and relied on the movement of the interior defensive lineman jumping offsides to make the call. To me, that is a problem. The officials need to be the ones making the call in these situations, especially a game-tying field goal attempt where five yards can make a huge difference. A defender is always going to act like he got drawn offsides. It's the officials job to make that call. Not the defense's.

If they don't typically care what long snappers are doing with the football prior to the snap, then why did they call it this time? A long snapper, like a kicker and punter, has a routine they go through prior to the snap to get their mind and body right. There's zero chance after 14 years in a game-tying situation that L.P. Ladouceur changed his approach to snapping on this particular field goal try.

The NFL Officiating body of the NFL says what he did is a penalty. Ladouceur says that's how he's always snapped.

So it begs the question, "why now?"

If that's always been a penalty and he's always snapped it like that, why did they pick that time in that situation to make that call. It may have been the right call, but it was a ticky-tack call and it inserted the officials into the outcome of the football game. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys killed themselves with a lot of penalties in really bad situations on Sunday. Like the Connor Williams hold to negate the Cole Beasley first down reception prior to the Ryan Kerrigan strip of Dak Prescott that led to a touchdown. However, you never want a penalty to decide a game.

On Sunday, the officiating crew asserted themselves to call a penalty on a play they either didn't see or didn't care about in L.P. Ladouceur's 14 year career to date. And while, Maher still could have -- and should have -- made that kick, there's no denying that the penalty had an impact on the game.

You never want to point to officiating as the reason your team loses a game, because there are always calls that go against either team that you could argue were bad calls. Unfortunately, this bad call pushed Brett Maher's field goal attempt back five yards, which had a direct impact on the game.

It may have been a penalty, it was a weak call at a really bad time for the Dallas Cowboys. With only nine games remaining in the 2018 NFL season, that call certainly hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

It's just another in a long line of officiating decisions that has hurt the Dallas Cowboys and that act is getting old.



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Cowboys Loss to the Redskins

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. That's where we stand after seven games with the Dallas Cowboys alternating home wins and road losses and through nearly half the schedule en route to their 3-4 record.

It was a disappointing loss after a defensive effort that held the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day. The offense had some good moments, but the road inconsistency and penalties killed throughout the NFC East matchup. The Dallas Cowboys playoff chances took a substantial hit with the loss. With only nine games left in the season, the Cowboys are probably going to have to go 7-2 to make the playoffs.

It's not impossible they could get on a run, but it certainly looks bleak.

Before we move forward, let's look back and highlight this week's 3 Stars of the game.

First Star

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

There were several players that gave the Dallas Cowboys offensive line fits on Sunday, but Ryan Kerrigan's strip-sack of Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter was the difference in the football game.

The Cowboys were trailing by three and after being backed up because of a holding penalty on Cowboys' Left Guard Connor Williams. Dallas was facing a 3rd and 14 at their own 10 yard line. Dak Prescott had good initial protection, but held the ball too long allowing Kerrigan to get to him, strip the ball, and Preston Smith recovered in the end zone to put the Redskins up by 10 with less than five minutes to play.

Kerrigan finished the game with five tackles (4 solo), two sacks, one tackle for loss, a pass deflection, the forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. It was a strong day for one of the longtime Redskins greats.

Second Star

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins didn't really have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal aside from Tight End Jordan Reed and Running Back Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson had a good game against a stout Dallas Cowboys run defense, which kept the Cowboys defense off-balance most of the afternoon.

His 22 carries for 99 yards may not be the best game ever, but his ability to hit some big runs early and run with consistency early in the game put the Redskins ahead of the chains. On a day when the Redskins were down three of the top four receiving targets, Peterson needed to be effective for Washington to have a chance. He was a big reason the Redskins put up the 13 points on offense that they did.

Peterson ran hard "All Day" and made life difficult for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Third Star

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

After last week's performance, I wrote a piece predicting that a breakout game was imminent for rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

He delivered the best game of his career Sunday afternoon against the Washington Redskins hauling in three receptions on five targets for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Gallup's touchdown reception was a beautiful double move that left the Redskins corner in the dust on his way to his first career touchdown. It was a huge play at the end of the first half that put the Dallas Cowboys on the board. They hadn't really gotten much going prior to that drive. It was a nice step forward for Gallup who has been making strides since some early season struggles.

The Dallas Cowboys have needed someone to step up on the outside to take some of the pressure off of Cole Beasley in the slot and Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With another solid performance under his belt, Gallup is proving that he is a starter for the Dallas Cowboys now and in the future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game in the Cowboys disappointing loss Sunday?



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