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Sifting For Gold…



As an analogy, you could apply "sifting for gold" to quite a few different aspects of football. Free Agency. The building of the infamous war room draft board. Wittling the training camp roster from 80 to 53. But the one science of football that typically escapes the thoughts of most fans is how teams decide which plays they will keep in their play book and which one's are dismissed as ineffective and/or are not complementory to the talent available.

That last bit is important to understand because the Cowboy's playbook from last year and this year should be very different. It's not so much because of the lack of success experienced with those plays, as it is due to the difference in the talent set and the difference in the coaches comprehension of said talent. Obviously, with T.O. gone, the plays that take a long time to develop very well may be all but extinct. Granted, Austin possesses some ability in stretching the defense, but it's not likely they will rely on his ability to ultimately win games, as they seemed to do to a fault with T.O..

With the trio of backs and duo of TE's the Cowboy's have, a quick strike offense is likely the direction this team is headed in. Furthermore, the Cowboy's now have a better understanding of what Felix, Choice, and Bennett can offer as weapons. The Cowboy's will be looking to put together a play book that exercises each of their talents in different ways to keep opposing defenses off balance.

With that, I would like to take a moment to remind those of you who are concerned about every report indicating that Romo and company don't seem to be insync, to consider that the play's they are likely running are new to everyone, including the veterans. The idea behind these practices are to familiarize the players with different plays and, more importantly, to slowly acclimate said players conditioning to football ready

Once preseason begins, the process of sifting for gold, so-to-speak, begins, as they determine against viable opposing team defenses what play's can be effectively ran, which players can execute said plays, and which players don't fit with the final playbook they are able to construct as a result of the success and failures they experience through trial and error.

I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

  • Football University

    It’s important for teams to really sift through their players and see who can make things happen on the field. All too often are players overlooked and not given the opportunity to excel and show their true potential. With T.O. no longer in Dallas, it’s time for the Cowboy’s players to really step it up.

    • bags030404

      Many times with the amount of money teams spend on premiere players, many are over looked. The time is now to find who on this team can perform. Those that cannot should be shown the door!

  • Doran Palmer

    You know Bags, that’s a really good point. Teams are spending so much money on players out there that the talent pool is kind of skewed. I mean look at Haynesworth – he played his ass off during two contract years in a row, but what if he slacks off now? It was a voiced concern all over the league when there were rumors that he’d be the 100 million dollar man about what a risk that was for a guy like him.

    He always comes to play, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he at least presented a good coincidence by doing so during contract years. If he slacks off now and doesn’t play like he has the past two years, even if there are other guys on the team that play better than he does, because of his contract he’ll be the one starting.

    Just as Jonathan pointed out with the playbook changing from deep and slow developing plays to shorter and quicker plays with TO gone – having TO here prevented slower guys from getting as many opportunities. Look at Crayton, the guy has great hands but isn’t a speedy receiver. Most of the time when he caught the ball it was only after Romo had waited for TO to get open and he didn’t.

  • Jonathan

    Anybody care to conduct a study measuring the productivity of players after being awarded a decent contract? I’d really be interested to see the results of that.

  • Doran Palmer

    Yes sir Jonathan, I’d be mighty interested to see that as well.

    I’d be more interested to see Ken Hamlin do better this year though, since he’s the one guy on our team that flopped the year after getting his contract. Maybe it really was Roy Willy screwing him up. I hope.

  • Jonathan

    I’m giving Ken Hamlin the benefit of the doubt. I think I may have mentioned this in an earlier comment: 1. Our pass defense finished the year ranked 5th in the league and FS was the only position that wasn’t an injury/suspension turnstile in our secondary. 2. Ken Hamlin is the QB of the defense. That means Hamlin was responsible for ensuring that everyone was in the correct position. Considering that he was dealing with several rookies and subpar SS’s, it’s easy to see why he didn’t have his best year. 3. Most of the criticism that is being levied on Hamlin are the result of two plays in the 4th quarter against the Baltimore Ravens. If Hamlin makes those critical endgame tackles, chances are the Cowboy’s would have made the play-offs, and since the Eagles game results wouldn’t have mattered, the Cowboy’s would have probably kept several starters off the field, including Romo. So who know’s what would have happened from there, but I do know that we probably wouldn’t be hearing too much criticism of Hamlin’s play.

  • Doran Palmer

    I was thinking that Hamlin wasn’t performing well enough since week three or four, I forget which. The runs from Baltimore were the result of several guys out of position presnap, Hamlin just couldn’t wrap up the bigger backs.

  • Jonathan

    The significant difference, statistically speaking, from 07 to 08 is interceptions (2007 – 5/2008 – 1). In term’s of overall tackles and solo tackles he actually improved. I think the dip in interceptions might be due to teams not needing to go deep on the Cowboy’s considering the 10 yard cushion our CB’s were giving WR’s. In fact, only 7 passes for the entire season went above 40 yards, which ties for 6th place in the league. There were 37 passes that went beyond 20 yards in 08 and the Cowboys were tied for 3rd in the league.

    What specifically about his play do you feel declined from 07 to 08? To me, in many cases, he was a bright spot on defense, laying the proverbial wood on quite a few players if my memory serves me correctly. Though, admittedly, my specific memories of games and his play in particular is fading with the advance of the new season.

  • Doran Palmer

    And that’s where I’m at on it too, they are fading and most have faded out.

    I remember seeing him a little late getting to plays and being out of position a couple of times. But as Bags has pointed out to me a few times now, Hamlin had to compensate for poor SS play a lot more in 08 than in 07.

    So I’m not sure if he slacked off or if he just wasn’t in as good of a position to stand out. I just hope we find out this year because Sensabaugh should be able to hold his own quite well, compared to Roy Willy and Keith Davis.

  • Jonathan

    I can’t wait to see the results. I think it’s a safe assumption that we can expect quite a few more interceptions for the Cowboy’s defense. Of course, that isn’t saying much.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

The Dallas Cowboys are returning home for Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record, needing to earn road wins at Philadelphia and Atlanta in the last two weeks to do so. Sunday's revenge win at the Falcons did not come easy, as the Cowboys conceded their first touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation to tie the game.

Missed opportunities in the red zone and penalties all had a say in the Cowboys needing a walk off Brett Maher field goal to win. Running Back Ezekiel Elliott once again sparked the offense in the second half, as the Cowboys defense assured this game wouldn't be a shootout in the first 30 minutes.

Here are my observations on the Cowboys latest thrilling win, greatly increasing their chances at reclaiming the top spot in the NFC East considering the Redskins home loss to the Texans.

  • A great down-the-line play from rookie Dorance Armstrong on the Falcons' opening possession to set up DeMarcus Lawrence's first sack.

The Cowboys came into this game thin across the defensive line. Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins and Defensive End Dorance Armstrong really took advantage of the opportunity, pushing the pocket against Matt Ryan and freeing up the Cowboys linebackers to be themselves.

Lawrence's sack was the play that got the Cowboys off the field on third down, but Armstrong meeting Ito Smith in the hole for no gain was as big of a play on second down. The Falcons were smart to test the interior of the Cowboys defense and use the power run to set up their vertical passing game, but Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard simply had their guys ready to play.

If Collins and Armstrong can sustain their high-energy level of play with Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross working their way back into the Cowboys rotation at DT, this defense can reach a new level of play given their speed in the back seven and ability to give opposing offensive lines fits with just four up front.

  • Cole Beasley did more than enough to make up for it, but his drop in the end zone on the Cowboys first scoring drive is one he'll want back for a while.

The Cowboys play calling on their first goal-to-go situation left a lot to be desired, but Beasley was still able to make a scoring play with the ball in his hands at the pylon. Beasley bobbled the ball going to the ground and couldn't come up with it.

On the next play, the Cowboys finally targeted Amari Cooper, although without Ezekiel Elliott on the field. It was the combination of Cooper on the outside and Elliott in the backfield that provided a boost to the Cowboys offense last week at the Eagles, and for whatever reason they went away from it consistently against the Falcons.

Beasley's 19 yard catch and run on the Cowboys final drive set them up to run Elliott and kick the game winning field goal, giving Prescott an easy target on a crossing route. These are the types of inconsistencies the Cowboys will have to happily live with as they review this win and prepare on a short week for the Redskins.

  • Head Coach Jason Garrett should be questioned about how his offense handled the last drive of the first half.

Trailing by three in a game still looking for its first touchdown, the Cowboys came out firing with 29 seconds left in the first half before shutting the drive down themselves. After Elliott advanced the ball to the Cowboys 35 and prompted a timeout, his catch and run for eight yards was the final play of the half.

I have no problem with the Cowboys getting the ball safely into the hands of Elliott, but after gaining positive yards on two receptions it's inexcusable to sit on a timeout without attempting a pass to the end zone.

  • The Cowboys play calling improved in the second half, evident on Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown to give the Cowboys a 12-9 lead.

Again, taking the good with the bad, the Cowboys did go to this zone read look one too many times in the second half. From four yards out against a defense playing without one of their most talented players in Linebacker Deion Jones, Prescott faking to Elliott and keeping himself is as smart and safe a play as Linehan could have called.

Prescott's score was followed by Leighton Vander Esch's second interception in as many weeks, allowing the Cowboys to go right back to hammering the football. It took just two carries for Elliott to cover 31 yards and put the Cowboys ahead 19-9 off the turnover.

His 23-yard touchdown was sprung by Right Guard Zack Martin, who deserves a ton of credit for not only dealing with an injury sustained last week but seemingly finding an even higher level of play since then to motivate his teammates.

Joe Looney filled in well for Travis Frederick once again, and Xavier Su'a-Filo replaced a now-healthy Connor Williams for the second straight game, making Martin's elite level of play much more important.

Martin's lone mistake in this game came at a costly moment though, as a false start penalty backed the Cowboys up before punting it back to the Falcons for the tying score. Although the penalty created a third and 13 that Dallas used to keep the clock running on a dump off to Elliott, their second down play call to go with another zone read was costly as well.

Prescott lost two yards on a play that didn't fool the Falcons in the slightest, creating the original third and eight situation.

  • Chidobe Awuzie was actually in good position on Julio Jones' fourth quarter TD, but as has been the case all season he reacted late and was beat with the ball.

Awuzie ran stride for stride with Jones, doing his best to force the Falcons best receiver towards the sideline. To Jones' credit, he was able to stay true to his route and run under a perfect pass from Matt Ryan.

Awuzie's fate was sealed on the play when he failed to react in time to jump with Jones, who simply elevated over the Cowboys struggling cornerback to give the Falcons new life in this game. Awuzie has been given every opportunity to be the Cowboys starter across from Byron Jones, trusted by Kris Richard to be a valuable part of this defense.

Quarterbacks in need of a completion have been able to pick on Awuzie far too much this season. The Cowboys don't appear to be in any rush to change this, as Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is designated to handling jet sweeps for the Cowboys offense while Anthony Brown remains the starter in the slot.

It was Brown that struggled through all of 2017 before finding his form again this year, perhaps giving Awuzie some hope that he can respond sooner rather than later.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The early slate of games proved to be a massive one for NFC East implications. The Cowboys escaped Atlanta with a win, and minutes later the Texans put the finishing touches on a win at the Redskins. Much earlier in the afternoon, unbeknownst to the Cowboys fighting for their life at the time, the Redskins also lost Quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith broke his tibia on a hit from J.J. Watt, and will need season ending surgery according to his Head Coach Jay Gruden.

This division has been waiting for a team to seize control of it all season. Realizing this, the Cowboys didn't sulk through their poor start and made the right moves to play into contention - playing as the desperate team that often achieves a lot in this game through their last eight quarters.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Enjoy Double Win as Redskins Lose

Mauricio Rodriguez



3 Reasons Why RB Ezekiel Elliott Will Dominate in 2018

The Dallas Cowboys looked great on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. There were very few things to complain about their last showing and now that they're back at .500, the season doesn't seem lost as previously thought. After all, the NFC East has been a mediocre division so far in 2018 and the division title is not that far from the Cowboys' grasp.

In fact, if they win this Thursday on Thanksgiving, the Dallas Cowboys would become the NFC East's division leader. The Washington Redskins were off to a great start on the season but after falling to the Houston Texans on Sunday, they only hold a one game-lead over the Cowboys.

This will be the second time of the year these two teams face each other. Back in week 7, the Cowboys played one of their worse games on the year in Washington. Many times the Cowboys shot themselves on the foot until they failed to get to overtime as Brett Maher's FG attempt bounced off the goalpost.

This time though, things should be different.

The team is on a two-game winning streak on the road against the last two NFC Champions. Of course, neither of these teams are the same than they were in previous years, but Dallas has done a good job these past two weeks. Some staff members might be coaching for their jobs as the team approaches "now or never" territory to contend in 2018. Although play-calling and execution haven't been perfect, at least the offense is showing signs of life.

Both the Cowboys and the Redskins suffered key injuries on Sunday. Towards the end of the game, Cowboys' LT Tyron Smith went down injured and headed to the locker room. With his injury history and a short week on deck, it's tough to imagine Smith will suit up on Thursday.

David Helman on Twitter

Tyron Smith, as only he could say it: "It didn't feel good, but I'll be alright." #cowboyswire

However, the more serious injury came for the Redskins. Quarterback Alex Smith suffered a broken tibia and fibia and will end his season due to surgery. With Colt McCoy playing at QB for Washington, winning the NFC East will become an easier task for the Cowboys.

But they can't take the win for granted. This is a flawed, inconsistent team we're talking about. On a short week, it'll require a lot of effort to beat their hated division rivals.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Enjoy Double Win as Redskins Lose" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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

DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win

Jess Haynie



Ezekiel Elliott

A last-minute field goal by Brett Maher lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. On the strength of 201 yards of total offense out of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas improved to 5-5 and arguably saved their 2018 season.

Elliott had 122 yards rushing and 79 receiving today, plus scored one touchdown, to make up well over half of the team's offensive production. Dak Prescott was also solid, throwing for over 200 yards and committing no turnovers.

Dallas and Atlanta traded field goals in the first half, and the Falcons took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. But the Cowboys answered with a tying field goal on their first second-half possession, then scored a touchdown on their next drive.

Maher was 3/3 on his field goals today, which included a 50-yarder. A missed extra point created concern, but the Cowboys kicker delivered in the biggest moments.

Once again, Dallas' defense was impressive and played a major part in the win. The Falcons never got into the endzone until their last possession.

Game Notes

  • Leighton Vander Esch had another interception, securing a tipped ball that lucked its way into his grasp. He also made some big tackles and continued last week's exceptional play.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence was credited with 1.5 sacks, getting him back among the league leaders with 8.0 on the year.
  • Elliott was Dallas' leading receiving today. Next up was Cole Beasley with five catches for 51 yards, and Cole's day could've been better if not for a dropped touchdown pass.
  • Jeff Heath nearly had his second interception of the year, but Falcons WR Julio Jones made an impressive play to hit Heath and break up the catch.
  • Tyron Smith left the game on the final drive with an injury, but Cam Fleming came in and the team didn't suffer for it. We'll have to see what the short Thanksgiving week means for Smith's status against the Redskins.
  • Speaking of Washington, the NFC East leaders fell to 6-4 today at home against the Houston Texans. Even worse for them, QB Alex Smith suffered a nasty ankle injury is almost assuredly out for weeks to come. Colt McCoy will be their starting QB on Thursday against Dallas.
  • If Dallas wins next week, they will pull even with Washington in overall record, division record, and split the head-to-head series. With the Eagles facing a tough road game today in New Orleans, and with Alex Smith going down for Washington, the NFC East may have just become the Cowboys' to control.

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