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Sean’s Scout: RB Depth On Display, Collins’ Improvements, Concerns at LB

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Depth On Display, Collins' Improvements, Concerns at LB

The Dallas Cowboys’ 24-20 win over the Oakland Raiders in their 2017 preseason dress rehearsal left us with plenty to digest – including a potentially season ending injury to MIKE linebacker Anthony Hitchens. As expected, the Raiders were a fantastic test for the Cowboys across the board. Dallas’ starters remained in the game to some capacity through the first half, until Cooper Rush came in for most of the second half at QB and allowed us to continue evaluating this offense at a high level.

Here are my biggest takeaway’s on both sides of the ball in another edition of Sean’s Scout.

Sean's Scout: RB Depth On Display, Collins' Improvements, Concerns at LB 1

  • La’el Collins keeps finding his way into my notes for the right reasons, and it is because he’s done nothing but improve with every rep he gets at RT. Going up against one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Khalil Mack, Collins’ ability to flash his athleticism and steer Mack around the pocket multiple times showed off his mental sharpness at the position as well. It is well-known that Dak Prescott struggled as a rookie at sensing pressure off of that left edge as a rookie. With Doug Free as the starter at RT, his struggle was always allowing his rusher to flatten the corner and power right towards Prescott in the pocket. Collins’ play with his hands was also improved, as he did not overextend on many blocks. He will be just fine in protecting Dak Prescott this season and allowing him to step up in the pocket when needed.

 

  • Speaking of Dak Prescott, before he gets put in bubble wrap this week against the Houston Texans, his ability to throw the ball with confidence and elite accuracy down the middle of the field continues to be a thing of beauty. On Jason Witten’s touchdown, Prescott easily executed a play fake that opened up a throwing lane over the middle for Witten. Being so close to the goal line, the window was still tight with a DB breaking across on Witten. Prescott’s accuracy caused the DB to be flat on the play, giving him no chance as #82 simply had to catch it in stride and score. Even more impressively is that Prescott missed some shot plays down the sidelines earlier in that drive, but was able to recover and wear down the middle of the field to keep the offense moving. I’m not sure there’s a team in the league right now that feels good enough about their depth in the secondary if asked to defend Dallas’ spread looks on offense.

 

  • The Cowboys were 25th in the league last year at yards after the catch, and I expect this number to dramatically increase in 2017. So much of Prescott’s early success as a rookie was due to a simplified offense that allowed him to verify every throw with his eyes before he made it. With his pocket presence and movement ability improving by the day, Prescott is hitting his targets in stride all over the field. Brice Butler – who’s already been a fan favorite pick for the “breakout player” award – could benefit the most from this, along with of course Cole Beasley, a leaner Dez Bryant, and eventually Ryan Switzer.

 

  • Damontre Moore’s two game suspension to start this season is unfortunate, but I am hopeful that by week three he can help ease the loss of David Irving through the following week and continue to play well after that. Rod Marinelli has used him as a jack of all trades, reminding me of Irving in his ability to be disruptive inside and out. Moore may not have the same length, but his first step off the ball is probably unrivaled with these Dallas pass rushers right now. Moore has dominated this preseason with his ability to finish, turning this explosive ability into some bend and power on the edge – forcing a fumble in this game with a sack tightening off the corner.

 

  • Lewis Neal has been just about everything the Cowboys should have expected with their seventh round pick DT Joey Ivie out of Florida. Both may be long shots to make this team, but to this point the UDFA in Neal has outperformed Ivie at the 3T spot with his ability to play with his hands and read blocks. I’ve been critical of both of these areas in Ivie’s game, as he was a penetrating player relying on speed on tape in college. Neal has comparable speed, paired with the physical traits to shoot gaps and rally to the ball down the line.

 

  • It is hard to undermine just how valuable Damien Wilson has been this preseason, and his regular season value may have just increased dramatically with Anthony Hitchens injured last night. I’m not sure if Wilson is this team’s every-down MIKE LB, but he was out there nearly all night against the Raiders all over the field. Wilson has been one of the few constants at the LB position for the Cowboys through training camp and the preseason so far, as he’s excelled in a scheme that fits his ability to play in space at the correct depth and run hard to the football. Doing this at SAM is even more impressive, as Wilson still possesses the strength to hold the edge at this strong side position. Should he miss time due to a suspension the start the season the Cowboys are going to be in some serious trouble at linebacker.

 

  • This was likely the only chance we’ll get this preseason to evaluate the depth the Cowboys have at running back from Ezekiel Elliott all the way down. Elliott received six carries and looked just fine, slashing through even the smallest of holes in the offensive front while continuing to run with speed and power. You have to continue to be pleased with what the stable of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, and Ronnie Hillman are doing, but there is simply not a back on this team that can provide what Elliott does out of the backfield. Alfred Morris has run hard as always, but leaves a lot to be desired in reading his blocks quickly, sticking his foot in the ground, and banging up the field with any balance. Morris typically picks the right hole, but it takes an extra beat compared to Elliott – which leaves him stumbling across the line of scrimmage too many times. As a pass catcher, it was actually Ronnie Hillman that looked like the shiftiest back on this team aside from Zeke, but with limited reps this preseason he faces an uphill battle making the 53 man roster. Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal of his six game suspension to start the season is set for Tuesday.

✭✭✭✭✭

Just one more preseason game remains for the Cowboys to evaluate this roster and cut it down to the 53 players that will host the Giants on September 10th. Getting young players, particularly this 2017 draft class, back onto the field during practice this week would be encouraging as most starters will likely sit out the entire game on Thursday night.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Depth On Display, Collins’ Improvements, Concerns at LB” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

Star Blog

A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can’t Be Taken For Granted

Mauricio Rodriguez

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A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can't Be Taken For Granted 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming from a bounce-back win versus the Washington Redskins in which they blew out their divisional rivals 38-14. The New York Giants are coming from a week in which Head Coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese were fired. The former is 6-6, and the latter is 2-10. You tell me which organization is getting the W this Sunday.

Easy, right? Well, no. Not really.

All week long, most of Cowboys Nation has been taking this win for granted. Understandably so, since New York is only a two-win team. However, this is certainly one of those games with a “trap game” feel to it.

It wouldn’t be the first time we see a football team being led by a new coach to a surprise victory. Hell, we saw a very similar situation when Jason Garrett debuted as the Cowboys interim head coach in 2010… against the Giants. 

 Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee, New York Giants QB Eli Manning  Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

On top of that, you have Eli Manning back at the wheel after he was benched for Geno Smith a week ago. Even though the guy who made that decision is out of the picture, you have to imagine the veteran quarterback will go out to play with a chip on his shoulder.

And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, this Cowboys’ team still has a lot to prove. Let’s not forget the fact that they lost three consecutive weeks. That’s why we´re trying to find which NFC teams need to lose certain games. Because the Dallas Cowboys put themselves in this position.

Dak Prescott is the future for this franchise, and despite having some tough games this year, I still believe he’s the guy. However, as Staff Writer Kevin Brady recently wrote here at Inside The Star, Dak Prescott must overcome his struggles when facing the Giants:

“Prescott played his worst game of that spectacular rookie season when he traveled to East Rutherford, New Jersey as the Cowboys prolific offense was only able to score 7 points during their key loss.”

Although they have a 2-10 record, the Giants’ defense shouldn’t be underestimated. They still have personnel that can give the Cowboys’ offense a bit of trouble, especially without Ezekiel Elliott running the ball.

Sean Lee should be ready to go this week, and while many discuss whether or not the coaching staff should give him an extra week of rest, the truth is that’s something the Cowboys can’t risk to do. At the end of the day, lose one game and forget about playing in January.

You need 50 on the field. If at some point in the second half they manage to get a big-lead, securing a win, then let’s hope they take him off the field and let the guy rest. But until then, Sean Lee should be playing.

Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys Defense?

Dallas Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Dallas is expected to start three rookies at cornerback. Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Wood could be the guys who line up to start the game in New York. Naturally, this is the case because they’ve proven to be solid players.

But it’s inevitable to be a bit scared of this situation when you’re facing Eli Manning. Say what you want about him, but you never know what might happen when a player like that is on the other side of the field.

I’m picking the Cowboys to win this football games for at least a touchdown. But let’s not think of this game as if it were the Browns. If this ends up being a trap game and the Cowboys manage to get their seventh loss of the year, it’s over.

We’re 14 weeks into the season and it feels like we don’t know what this team is capable of doing with Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott starting at the same time. But this week will prove a lot of things about the Cowboys and their quest for the Playoffs.

Tell me what you think about “A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can’t Be Taken For Granted” 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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Star Blog

Week 14 Playoff Projection: Cowboys Still In Striking Distance

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Dak Prescott #14 Según los Jugadores, ¿Realmente Lo Es? 1

The Cowboys are one of three 6-6 teams still hoping to find a way into the NFC playoffs. Even if they win out and get to 10-6, they will need help based on tiebreakers and the superior records of the teams ahead of them.

Last night, Dallas’ hopes took a kick in the teeth when the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta not only moved to 8-5 but also holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys, making them a major threat in the Wild Card race. The Falcons need to start losing, fast, for Dallas to have a shot at overtaking them.

Atlanta’s not the only team that Dallas should be concerned about, though. Here are the current NFC playoff standings, including last night’s result:

  1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
  6. Carolina Panthers (8-4)
    ————————————–
  7. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
  8. Detroit Lions (6-6)
  9. Green Bay Packers (6-6)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Vikings are ahead of the Eagles thanks to the common game tiebreaker, since they are both 8-1 against NFC opponents.
  • Seattle (6-3) is ahead of Carolina (4-4) thanks to a better record in NFC games.
  • Detroit has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Packers and a common games tiebreaker over the Cowboys.
  • Green Bay has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys.

With the Falcons’ win over New Orleans already in the books, here are the other playoff-relevant games for the NFC in Week 14.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

This is the easiest game let on Dallas’ schedule (assuming Philly doesn’t rest starters in Week 17). The Giants will have a new coach and have changed back to Eli Manning as the starting QB. Will they be galvanized by these changes or only in even greater disarray? We certainly hope for the latter.

Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns

At 6-6 and with Aaron Rodgers potentially returning next week, the Packers are looming as a real threat. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas from a win earlier this year. The hapless Browns winning this one is certainly faint hope, but it’s still Brett Hundley out there at QB instead of one of the league’s MVPs.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The other team in the 6-6 tie, Detroit needs to go away. The Bucs are 4-8 and a non-factor now, so we can root for the pirate people without hesitation.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are another key target for us in the Wild Card race. Minnesota should run away with the NFC North, so they’re a non-factor for Dallas’ concerns. A Carolina loss is clearly better for Dallas, dropping the Panthers to 8-5 and within reasonable range with three weeks left to go.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

Last week, Dallas fans were put in the unfortunate position of having to root for the Eagles against the Seahawks to help our playoff chances. We’re back in that same boat this week as a Rams’s loss would be more damaging for the Cowboys than Philly losing.

Because L.A. has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas, our best bet is for them to win the NFC West and stay out of our way. We have a much better shot at catching the Seahawks, especially since we get to play them in Week 16 when Ezekiel Elliott returns.

Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars

So yeah, as just said, the Seahawks are one of the teams we have the best chance of beating out for a playoff spot. Last week’s win over Philly hurt, but a road loss against the 8-4 Jaguars is certainly possible and would go a long way to helping our cause.

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Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys 2017 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2

La verdad es que, los Dallas Cowboys se pusieron en una posición en la que no deberían de estar. Y a pesar de que podemos pasar días discutiendo quien merece la culpa, ahora la preocupación en la mente de todos los aficionados es la misma. ¿Veremos a los Cowboys jugar en enero?

Primero que nada, los Cowboys necesitan ganar los últimos cuatro juegos de su temporada, lo cuál no será un trabajo nada fácil. Aún si ganan los próximos dos juegos sin Ezekiel Elliott, los últimos dos partidos de la temporada son bastante complicados.

Sólo para darnos una idea, así se ve lo que resta del calendario para Dallas:

  • @ NY Giants
  • @ OAK Raiders 
  • VS SEA Seahawks (Regreso de Zeke)
  • @ PHI Eagles

Nada fácil para un equipo que ha tenido bastantes problemas. Porque, a pesar de extrañar a jugadores como Ezekiel Elliott, Sean Lee y Tyron Smith, perder seis juegos nunca debió de suceder.

Sin embargo, aquí estamos. A un par de días de ver a los Cowboys tomar el campo en New York para enfrentarse a un equipo de Giants, mientras esperamos con ansias ver como este equipo gana sus últimos cuatro juegos para entrar a playoffs.

Pero, hay un detalle. Pues todos sabemos que aún con Dallas cerrando su temporada 10-6, necesitamos ayuda exterior. Y es aquí donde entra una preocupación enorme en la mente de todos los aficionados empedernidos de los Cowboys.

Ayer por la noche, los Falcons vencieron a los Saints en el Thursday Night Football de la semana. Y sin darnos cuenta, pudieron haber terminado la temporada de nuestro equipo favorito. Actualmente, los Cowboys se encuentran en la posición #10 de la tabla de la NFC.

Por encima, peleando por los puestos de comodines están los Seahawks, Panthers, Falcons, Lions y Packers. Como aficionados a la Estrella Solitaria, no será suficiente apoyar a nuestro equipo mientras busca sus victorias. Sino a unas cuantas cosas más.

Cowboys' TE Position Hurting Offensive Production?

¿Qué combinaciones necesitan nuestros Cowboys?

  • Terminar la temporada con un récord de 10-6.
  • Dos derrotas de Seahawks, incluyendo una contra los Cowboys.
  • Dos derrotas de Falcons o…
  • Dos derrotas de Panthers MÁS una derrota de los Packers y una de los Lions. 

Es agotador, lo sé. Después de una temporada en la que dominaron la conferencia nacional, no esperábamos esto. Hace un año, hacíamos cálculos para analizar cómo podían asegurar el sembrado número 1 de la conferencia. Ahora, para poder tener una oportunidad de brillar en pos- temporada.

Y al final de cuentas, no sabremos que sucederá. Ni siquiera en cuanto a la temporada de los Cowboys. Suponiendo que ganen los siguientes dos, y tengan un equipo listo al 100% para cerrar contra Seattle y Philadelphia… no conocemos el nivel de este equipo.

Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde que vimos a este equipo con todas sus piezas claves en el campo, y no lo hemos visto ganar contra un equipo con récord ganador en todo el año. Duele admitirlo y es fácil olvidarlo cuando venimos de una semana en la que vencieron a Washington 38-14, pero este equipo no ha sido lo que queríamos.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) 

El problema este año, es que ni siquiera se trata exclusivamente de si este equipo puede o no lograrlo. Sino que se trata de que pasará con otras franquicias. Y aún si llegan a playoffs, ¿se lo merecen?

Como fan a morir de mi equipo, estaré apoyando con todo mi ser a todos los escenarios necesarios para ver a Dak Prescott y compañía en enero. Pero con tantos requisitos, es difícil mantener las esperanzas tan arriba como quisiéramos.

Tell me what you think about “Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys” 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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