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Smooth View Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys Vs. New York Giants

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Cowboys Blog - Smooth View: What To Look For New York vs Dallas

As we all eagerly await the Sunday Night Football game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, I will break down what we should look for, including matchups at each phase of the game and projected inactives going into Sunday.

I do not take these projections lightly, research has gone on from watching tape, reading what scouts say, and what those following each team also have said going into the game. Yet, I will not simply regurgitate information, I firmly believe everything listed below. With that let's get this underway.

Cowboys Projected Inactive List:

  • Christine Michael
  • Lucky Whitehead
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Jordan Mills
  • La'el Collins
  • Ken Bishop
  • Damien Wilson

Yes, I am making the assumption that some highly talked about fan-favorites will not dress Sunday Night.

I cannot see Lucky dressing if Cole Beasley is returning Punts and Lance Dunbar is returning Kicks. With additional spots needed elsewhere, I foresee Lucky being inactive for at least the first few weeks.

La'el Collins? From everything that I have read and heard it does seem like the Coaching Staff is more comfortable with Mackenzy Bernadeau at this point. He is a veteran that has flexibility at Guard and Center. As of right now Collins is really only a Left Guard. If a critical situation arises, Bernadeau provides the most insurance at the most positions as a backup.

Michael and Mills are listed as inactive due to just getting to the team and probably not having a grasp of the system as of yet. It would be a bit premature to throw either one on the field against the Giants, especially Michael as I feel there's already an advantage in the running game. More on that later. Also, Mills making the injury report Thursday with a foot injury makes this an easy decision. Unless they do not trust Darrion Weems in the slightest.

With Nick Hayden and Terrell McClain likely to play 1st and 2nd down at the One Technique, I cannot see room for Bishop on the 46. He does not present any position flex, so he will simply be the odd man out along the deep Defensive Line.

Damien Wilson is the one I am not sure on.

As while looking at the roster, I definitely want to take six Linebackers to the game, but that would bring up several different scenarios. If Wilson dresses it probably would come down to making Corey White or Byron Jones inactive. With how White looked during Training Camp and Preseason games, there is no way I would sit him for this game.

Byron Jones sitting would create a number of stories within the media that would jump to the conclusion that Jones is a bust. I do not feel the Cowboys really care about that aspect, but I do feel they will avoid that for the player's sake. Jones also provides a flexibility that could put the defense in quality matchups against the Giants.

Danny McCray and Jeff Heath are core Special Teams players and with how the unit looked during the Preseason, I can see Rich Bisaccia asking to have both active. The only aspect here to look at is McCray's neck, if it's not at one-hundred percent going into the game, Wilson should remain active.

Cowboys Offense vs Giants Defense

Without any bias whatsoever, this is by far the biggest mismatch on paper heading into Sunday night.

The Giants have five Safeties on their Injured Reserve list. Listed starting Strong Safety Cooper Taylor missed all of last season with a foot injury and has limited experience being a down after down player.

While the Giants' starting Free Safety and this year's second-round pick, Landon Collins, is a player with limited range and coverage skills, he is practically a Strong Safety lining up at the Free. If either one of these Safeties gets trapped in one on one coverage, it will be a matchup to watch as they will be at a major disadvantage.

Even their corners do not really seem to be the players you expect to shut down the Cowboys weapons.

The Giants front seven does not present many problems on paper either. Their starting Mike Linebacker Jon Beason missed practice today and their only down lineman that I have any major concerns over is Jonathan Hankins on the inside. But with the combo of Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin I feel they will be able to handle him.


Key Match Up: Scott Linehan vs Steve Spagnuolo 

This comes down to how Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo calls the game. If he trusts his Corners with one on one Coverage against Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley, they will bring blitzes all game long. If he wants the Cowboys' running game to prove itself, we could see more zone, forcing the Cowboys to drive the ball down the field.

Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will have to recognize Spagnuolo's gameplan then dictate the game the way he wants to call it. I see a huge game for both Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle. Linehan sees the same defense that I do, and the running game will be used to set up throws down the field. If the Giants are unable to get pressure on Tony Romo, it will be a very long day for the Giants defense.

The Giants simply do not have the Secondary to hold up in Man Coverage for long.

Once Safeties start creeping toward the line, the Cowboys will be able to exploit these matchups and march up and down the field.

Strong Advantage Cowboys


Cowboys Defense vs Giants Offense

This is a slightly more intriguing matchup which hinges on the health of Wide Receiver Victor Cruz, who missed the first two days of practice this week with a calf injury.

Without Cruz, the attention turns towards Odell Beckham Jr. and Larry Donnell. The Cowboys struggled at times last year against Tight Ends, so it will be interesting to see how they attempt to cover Donnell.

Beckham has the opportunity to be an All-Pro Wide Receiver in the NFL. Whether he lines up against Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, or Tyler Patmon, extra attention will be paid to him. I personally expect to see him in the Slot a great deal against Patmon and lining up against Carr. Giants Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo could look to exploit Carr's lack of quickness and Patmon's inexperience. I feel Claiborne has the best opportunity to compete against Beckham.

Wherever he lines up, there should always be a jam at the line of scrimmage. Giving him a free release allows him to get into his route far too easily.

Much attention has gone to the Cowboys' new-look Defensive Line.

To minimize the effects of Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jeremy Mincy, and Randy Gregory the Giants may attempt to establish the run right out of the gate. With uncertainty at the Cowboys Mike Linebacker - Anthony Hitchens being projected to start coming off of missing several weeks of practice - they may attempt to run straight at him. If Hitchens is not at full strength, I have a lot of confidence in Andrew Gachkar as he has shown he can be a physical Mike Linebacker.

Related: Listen to Andrew Gachkar's exclusive interview with Cowboys Cast before the game at 11 AM CDT via Sound Cloud

This is where a healthy Sean Lee comes into play. If Tyrone Crawford and Nick Hayden can eat enough blocks up front, Lee will be able to roam clean from his Wheel Linebacker position and attack the ball carrier. I expect him to tally anywhere from eight to twelve tackles in this game.

If either Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams get going, it could really change the dynamic of this game.

Aside from Beckham, the one other mismatch in favor of the Giants is Shane Vereen. He has a reputation for being a solid receiving Running Back and him leaking out of the backfield could be a method to slow down the Cowboys pass rush. I expect him to have a bigger game than their projected Slot Wide Receiver, Preston Parker.

Where Corey White and Byron Jones are really beneficial is on obvious passing downs. I could see them both back there at Safety not allowing either JJ Wilcox or Barry Church to be exposed in the passing game.


Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Giants Offensive Line

No matter what comes out of the Giants camp, their Offensive Line has to be of concern. They played quite a bit during the Preseason, but you cannot expect their group to be a strength of their team.

Eli Manning struggles when he has to throw on the move or throw moving to the side, he needs his feet set to be effective. With Giants First Round Draft Pick Ereck Flowers starting at Left Tackle, I feel he will struggle to protect Eli, as he does not have the feet of a natural pass protecting Left Tackle.

It will be up to Lawrence, Mincey, Gregory, and Ryan Russell to move him off his throwing spot. When he attempts to climb the pocket, hopefully Tyrone or Jack Crawford is there to deliver a hit.

Eli is not in the slightest bit mobile and I expect Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli to bring some blitzes early to make Eli uncomfortable off the bat. Look for Sean Lee to come several times this game.

With that being said, if the Cowboys can get pressure with their front four then the game becomes a lot more difficult for the Giants offense. This will be one of the more interesting matchups of the game, especially with the hype surrounding the Cowboys Defensive Line.

Slight Advantage Cowboys


Special Teams Matchup

This is not just a discussion of Dan Bailey against Josh Brown, as obviously most would take Bailey without any hesitation. Nor are we just looking at Chris Jones against Brad Wing. This is a look at the entire group.

This is where the Giants could flip the game in their favor.

We all saw the struggles of the coverage units during the Preseason. Jarryd Hayne of the 49ers was made to look like a Hall Of Fame caliber return man; it was rather hard to watch at times. Which brings us to the Giants' new Return Specialist...

Dwayne Harris
Whatever you may think of him after comments he made about Cowboys practice, his proficiency as a return man is difficult to argue. He is dangerous when he gets the ball so it is paramount that the Cowboys are disciplined on their coverage teams and maintain gap integrity.

This is where you hope guys like Dunbar, Keith Smith, Heath, McCray, and Gachkar make a difference on the Special Teams units as Harris returning a Punt for a touchdown could change the entire outlook of this game.

I do not see the same threat with Beasley returning Punts if he is chosen to do so on Sunday.

Slight Advantage Giants


Final Result?

I don't like to guess scores, but I feel the Cowboys should win this game by at least ten points. It is hard for me to believe the Giants Offensive Line will keep Eli clean on a consistent enough basis to make up for their defense.

The Cowboys can get into trouble through sloppy Special Teams, Turnovers, and not stopping the Giants' run game. Where they can thrive is by simply executing on offense and keep the Giants from making big plays.

When it comes down to the Giants and Cowboys, Dallas is the better team on paper and hopefully they play like it come Sunday Night.


Avid Cowboys fan that will provide analytical analysis to the Draft, Film, and everything related to the team. You can find me @TheRealSmoothG on twitter.

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!

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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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