Connect with us

Game Notes

#SmoothView Pregame Report: Dallas Cowboys vs Atlanta Falcons



Cowboys Blog - #SmoothView Pregame Report: Dallas Cowboys vs Atlanta Falcons

Cowboys Inactives:

  • Tony Romo
  • Dez Bryant
  • Matt Cassel
  • Christine Michael
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Randy Gregory
  • Ryan Russell

Despite being familiar with the offense, I do not foresee Matt Cassel being the backup to Brandon Weeden this week.

Ronald Leary practicing this week is an indication that he will indeed return to Left Guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau did not play well last week - La'el Collins outperformed him - making the decision to sit Bernadeau easy.

If the Cowboys do indeed go this route, Zack Martin would be the emergency Center if anything were to happen to Travis Frederick. At this point, I am much more comfortable with Collins in the lineup if Leary is unable to play.

Cowboys Offense vs Atlanta Defense

I will be completely honest, I am not blown away by the Atlanta Falcons on defense. Yes, the Cowboys offense needs Brandon Weeden to make enough plays to keep Atlanta off the line of scrimmage. If Weeden is able to do that, I don't feel their defense will be able to effectively stop the run.

If Ronald Leary and James Hanna are healthy, the running game will have the opportunity to get going. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants ran the ball for a combined 4.1 yards per carry through two games against Atlanta. After studying the Eagles and Giants - especially after watching them against the Cowboys defense - neither team is currently good at running the ball.

This should be the week that Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden show patience, as the holes will develop, giving both the opportunity to wear down the Falcons defense. I will reiterate; while the Falcons have not given up a lot of rushing yards, they are far from a good rushing defense.

A lot has been made of the Falcons first round draft pick, Vic Beasley. I'm not sure why; his quality performance last week largely came against Ereck Flowers.

At best, Flowers is an average Pass Blocking Left Tackle, simply not having the feet to stop the NFL's best pass rushers. Beasley was virtually quiet against Jason Peters of the Eagles, which makes me believe there is little worry that Tyron Smith will struggle against him.

Atlanta's best opportunity to get Beasley going is to have him rush on the left side against Free, which I could see the Falcons doing on several occasions throughout the game. Personally, I would run at Beasley all game, especially if Leary is in the starting lineup.

The Cowboys receivers will have to win their matchups against the Falcons Secondary.

Cole Beasley should have a favorable match up against Phillip Adams, and Jason Witten should have room to operate between the hash marks. Lance Dunbar should be able to get into some favorable matchups as well.

Be on the lookout for a deep ball in the direction of Brice Butler. He has the speed to stretch the defense vertically and is the Cowboys' best deep-threat. Most of all, Terrance Williams will have to help Brandon Weeden. If he sees a lot of single coverage, he needs to defeat his man and become a reliable outlet for Weeden.

Hopefully, we do not see Weeden live by the check-down. He has to remain confident in routes developing downfield. The Falcons secondary is not one that will be able to blanket the Cowboys skill players.

Key Match Up: Brandon Weeden vs Falcons Secondary

I strongly believe the Offensive Line will be able to provide Brandon Weeden with enough time to press the ball down the field. The key question being...

Will he be able to?

He has shown the ability, but his play in Cleveland and last year against Arizona does leave some doubts.

Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn's defenses are known for their ability to get pressure, but I feel he will need to blitz in order to get home against the Cowboys. This is when Weeden needs to hurt the Falcons. If he is able to do that, the Cowboys will keep the Falcons on their heels the entire game.

Weeden cannot afford to stare down receivers and allow the Falcons Secondary to break on the ball - he will have to be safe but not conservative - if he is intelligent with his reads the Secondary will break down, giving him the opportunity to make the passing game an effective weapon.

The success of the offense on Sunday rests in the hands of Brandon Weeden.

No Advantage

Cowboys Defense vs Falcons Offense

The Falcons offense is running the ball for 2.8 yards per carry and that was before their starting Running Back Tevin Coleman popped up on the injury report this week. Quinn subtly challenged Coleman to play through his cracked ribs but in all likelihood, Coleman will not play on Sunday. The Cowboys have been simply dominant against the run, nothing the Falcons have shown lead me to believe this will change on Sunday.

If the Falcons become one dimensional, it will be on the Cowboys to deal with Roddy White and Julio Jones.

Leonard Hankerson isn't much of a worry in my mind. Tyler Patmon has shown he is more than capable of shutting down a slot receiver. Also, Byron Jones has shown he can blanket bigger threats at Tight End than Jacob Tamme, so that should also be a matchup in the defense's favor.

Rod Marinelli will adjust his coverages to not allow the Falcons to hit Jones on bubble screens all game. The Falcons have shown they have a hot-read available if a Corner Back is giving Jones a cushion of 7 yards are more. Marinelli is wise to this and will mix his coverages on Jones to prevent him changing the tide of this game.

Whoever is not covering Jones will have to make sure they play with sound technique against White, as the Falcons will look to get him the ball. Last week was the first time he did not catch a pass since 2006. He gave the correct media response to reporters, though one has to believe he let his Quarterback and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan know about it.

Matt Ryan will more than likely give the Cowboys secondary several opportunities to make plays on the ball. Brandon Carr and Tyler Patmon have both failed to capitalize on their chances to Intercept the ball thus far, but this is a game where the defense needs to force some turnovers.

Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Falcons Offensive Line

The Falcons are getting the ball out of Ryan's hand quickly, yet that doesn't mean it's impossible to get pressure on him. Tyrone Crawford, Jeremy Mincey, and DeMarcus Lawrence will all have to put pressure on Ryan throughout the game.

If the Defensive Line disrupts Ryan the Secondary will have a great opportunity to limit Jones and the Falcons' passing attack.

The Falcons have shown to be a good pass-blocking team early this season; I want to see how that holds up if Ryan's first read is not available to him and he is forced to hold the ball longer.

I believe we will see Sean Lee blitz several times during the game, just to give the Falcons a different look. Anything to disrupt Matt Ryan's rhythm will be welcomed, although I believe the gameplan will be to get pressure by rushing four for most of the game.

Slight Advantage Falcons

Special Teams Match Up

Chris Jones, Dan Bailey, Danny McCray, Kyle Wilber, Jeff Heath, and the rest of the Special Teams unit have been lights-out through two games.

While there has not been a big punt return, the team seems to like Beasley as their returner. Devin Hester looks to be out again this week, taking away a huge Special Teams threat.

Atlanta has given up an average of 13 yards per punt return, compared to only 5.8 per return for Dallas. There is an opportunity for a big return against the Falcons and Rich Bisaccia will have the unit ready to capitalize on this opportunity.

Strong Advantage Cowboys

Final Result?

I have a feeling that Brandon Weeden will play well enough for the Cowboys to win.

The defense is playing extremely well, the team has remained confident despite injuries, and the Falcons are not an overwhelming matchup. Weeden and the offense will have plenty of opportunities to make plays, which they will indeed make enough to keep the Atlanta defense on the field.

This will be the best running game for the Cowboys this season. The Falcons look extremely vulnerable with their run defense, while their pass defense has also been far from stellar.

Julio Jones will be limited, forcing the Falcons offense to have issues finishing drives and staying on the field. They haven't shown the ability to run, which will allow the Cowboys to almost entirely focus on shutting down the air attack.

I expect Matt Ryan to have at least one Interception, while Weeden limits his mistakes and is a reason that the Cowboys win this game.

The Way Of Smooth

Brandon Weeden has the opportunity to prove all of his detractors wrong. He doesn't even have to play like a top-tier Quarterback; he just has to perform like he his competent. Matt Cassel won't stay on the bench for many games if Weeden shows he cannot handle the pressure.

This is also an opportunity to make himself a good deal of money - he is in a contract year - it's in his best interest to play well during Tony Romo's absence. If he performs poorly, it is not farfetched to believe his career may be over.

Every fan of the Dallas Cowboys should hope Weeden performs well, keeping the Cowboys in playoff contention until Romo is able to return. A win this week would be huge, allowing the Cowboys to remain two games up in the NFC East.

Get behind Brandon Weeden. His success is in our best interest.

  • Fred Goodwin

    Something tells me our RBBC is not gonna do enough to lift the burden off Weeden’s shoulders. Putting the onus of winning on Weeden’s passing arm is probably gonna cost us the game.

    Atlanta, 24-14

  • Walter Yeates

    Atlanta’s run game has been meager thus far, which plays into the Cowboys favor. A one dimensional Matt Ryan is prone to costly mistakes, the Cowboys front seven has shown the ability to stop the run. Nick Hayden has been huge in his role there.

    Weeden’s arm talent isn’t the issue, his arm is much stronger than Romo’s, he just simply needs to be accurate and make good decisions. I feel the pressure rests with the Offensive Line, if they give the running backs lanes (which they should against this defense) they will produce, especially Darren McFadden.

    They will also have to keep the pass rush from getting to Weeden, which they definitely have the talent to do so, as aside from Vic Beasley they do not really have an intimidating rusher. Beasley is far from tested, Tyron Smith should not struggle with him.

    My largest concern is how Weeden performs when the Falcons blitz, he needs to know when to get out of a bad play, where the ball needs to go, and execute the pass. He has the talent to make it happen, he just needs to be strong mentally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Continue Reading

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!

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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

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

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

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

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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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!

Continue Reading

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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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!

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here