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#SmoothView Pregame Report: Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints



Cowboys Blog - #SmoothView Pregame Report: Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints

Cowboys Inactives:

This is the week where I would have Christine Michael on the 46. He received some first-team snaps on Wednesday, therefore this would be a great time to see him take the field. Despite having a quality day on the stat sheet there were plays where Joseph Randle simply did not read what was in front of him. Short yardage opportunities would be in the hands of Michael this week.

While Ryan Russell failed to have a great debut, he offers much more being active than Lucky Whitehead at this point. The Coaching Staff does not trust him returning punts and he is a nonfactor on offense, Russell would be a better use of that last roster spot.

Cowboys Offense vs Saints Defense

It does not look as if Defensive End Cameron Jordan will play for the Saints this week due to a back injury, which is a huge loss for their pass rush. Rob Ryan will have to try and bring exotic blitzes in an attempt to manufacture pressure, which could put his defense into a vulnerable position.

Ronald Leary is returning to an Offensive Line that has been stellar with their Pass Blocking during the first three games of the season but where his return will be most valuable is in the run game. Much like against the Falcons, this Offensive Line should be able to give the Running Backs holes to run through.

The key will be if they can keep up their effort through four quarters. If the Cowboys are able to stay ahead of the chains, Brandon Weeden should be able to make the necessary passes in order to keep the defense off balance. Too much has been made of Weeden going underneath to Lance Dunbar against the Falcons, he should take what the defense gives him without forcing the ball downfield.

His one turnover occurred when he did indeed force a throw when it simply was not there.

With that being said, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and Lance Dunbar cannot be the sum of the passing game against the Saints. I thought highly of Brice Butler when he was acquired, and he will need to be a factor in the Superdome. Terrance Williams will have to be a consistent target, his drops against the Falcons were frustrating.

More is expected from Williams. He cannot have stretches of games where he simply disappears. The Saints do not have a Cornerback on the level of Desmond Trufant, so there is no excuse for him not defeating man coverage this week. As I stated last week, he will have to help Brandon Weeden. If Butler steps up and Williams is quiet, the Coaching Staff will take notice.

I do hope to see a throw down the field if Browner is ever covering Butler in man, with how Browner has played this could be a huge play for the Cowboys.

Key Match Up: Cowboys Offensive Line vs Saints Front Seven

The Cowboys Offensive Line simply needs to play like the unit from last year. There is absolutely no excuse for the Cowboys not having an effective running game from start to finish.

Brandon Weeden has my confidence, I feel he can do enough in the passing game to beat the Saints Secondary. However, if the running game goes missing that makes his job a lot more difficult. Randle will also have to prove he has the vision and patience to be a lead back. I would have a short leash on him this game if he starts turning what could be twenty-five-yard gains into pickups of two or three.

When the Saints blitz, it will be up to the Offensive Line to communicate and know how to adjust. I do not expect Weeden to do much at the line of scrimmage, but if he can help slide protections it will make his and the line's job much easier.

Advantage Cowboys

Cowboys Defense vs Saints Offense

While concerning, I do not feel last week's performance is what this defense truly is. They simply did not play well, the Toss Sweep gashed them far too many times. I cannot believe Rod Marinelli will allow his defense to get run over like that again.

Switching out Davon Coleman for former Chiefs Practice Squad player David Irving sent a clear message: If players do not produce, neither Will McClay or this Coaching Staff is afraid to churn the roster.

Drew Brees' status for the game is still in question. If either he or Luke McCown play, the Defensive Line will have to get pressure. While the Saints don't have a weapon like Julio Jones they have enough skill players that can make plays if either Quarterback is given five seconds or more every time he drops back. The play of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be vital to this defense's success come Sunday night.

The Saints could also be without their starting Right Guard Jahri Evans, which could hurt their running game; something I'm sure they will attempt to establish after the Cowboys' struggles last week. Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden, Anthony Hitchens, and Sean Lee are vital to stop the run game. Crawford, Hitchens, and Lee will have improved games over last week and will minimize the effectiveness of Mark Ingram on the ground.

Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Saints Offensive Line

Rod Marinelli does not like to blitz, therefore if the pass rush is to be successful this week the Defensive Line will have to be disruptive. Tyrone Crawford will have to get up the field whether run or pass in order to disrupt the flow of the play. Jeremy Mincey returning to the starting lineup should make a noticeable difference.

I also need to see more consistent pressure from DeMarcus Lawrence. Hopefully, Jack Crawford will move back to the 3 Technique for this game as he is a far more effective player there. If they indeed keep Russell active, I would like to see him get around fifteen to twenty snaps in pass-rushing situations.

Perhaps I'm seeing some fools gold, but I'm confident this unit will have a quality showing against the Saints.

Slight Advantage Cowboys

Special Teams Match Up

Chris Jones has proved his worth every game of the season thus far. His exceptional directional Punting and hang time should keep Marcus Murphy from having another big Punt Return.

The Saints only have a Punting net of 33 yards, allowing around seven yards per return, so there may be a chance to gain some yards against them.

Slight Advantage Cowboys

Final Result?

The Saints just do not look very good right now. The Cowboys need to win this game with the Patriots coming into town next week, especially after letting one slip away against the Falcons. A game this team definitely should have won.

If Brandon Weeden plays clean and the Defense returns to form, this should be a double digit win for the Cowboys.

The Way Of Smooth

Straightforward... Win and go 3-1. Lose and fall to 2-2.

The Cowboys have to play this game with some urgency. The NFC East is well within their grasp if they can pick up this victory. After breaking the matchup down, I feel it would take a Weeden meltdown for the Saints to win this game.

Drew Brees could provide his team with an emotional boost, but there is no guarantee that if he plays he will be effective while dealing with a Rotator Cuff injury. Either way, they will need to play a physical game and dictate to the Saints in all three phases of the game.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady



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



Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin



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.

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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, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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