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#SmoothView Pregame Report: Dallas Cowboys vs New England Patriots



Cowboys Blog - #SmoothView Pregame Report: Dallas Cowboys vs New England Patriots

Cowboys Inactives

  • Dez Bryant
  • Lance Dunbar
  • Brice Butler
  • Kellen Moore
  • James Hanna
  • Terrel McClain
  • Ryan Russell

It does not look as if either Bulter or Hanna will be able to play this week, which is unfortunate as both could have played a big role against the Patriots. Butler's injury unfortunately means Devin Street will have to take significant snaps on the outside.

After his performance over the past few weeks I was ready to have Lucky Whitehead active over Street, who has provided absolutely nothing for the offense. This week I feel Matt Cassel will dress as the back up Quarterback to Brandon Weeden.

Cowboys Offense vs Patriots Defense

I will go slightly against the grain and say that while the Patriots have shown struggles against the run in the first quarter of the season, they have had two weeks to work on cleaning it up. They have also had two weeks to think of nothing else besides the Dallas Cowboys and their offensive tendencies with Brandon Weeden as their Quarterback.

It's also a foregone conclusion that they will again attempt to take away Jason Witten as they have during each matchup between these teams.

The key is to do something out of character, which leads me to believe the Cowboys may be their most dangerous in a four-minute offense. Brandon Weeden effectively marched the ball down the field against the Saints when pressed into the situation. He has been quoted as saying, "We practice that situation more than anyone in the NFL."

Lucky Whitehead has the same traits as Lance Dunbar; using him to run quick screens, Texas routes, and other underneath routes could keep the Patriots Defense off balance. If the Cowboys quickly rush to the line, it will also allow Witten to not have to deal with double teams and bracket coverage all game.

Rotating between 10 (One Running Back and Zero Tight Ends) and 0 (No backs or ends) personnel packages could confuse and wear out the Patriots. I feel this approach would work best with Darren McFadden, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, and Lucky Whitehead on the field. With Gavin Escobar rotating with Whitehead.

With the field spread out it gives Weeden the opportunity to see the field and immediately identify mismatches pre-snap.

The Cowboys would still be able to run the ball out of this package. This would be a wrinkle that the Patriots would not expect from the Cowboys and could give the unit a competitive advantage.

On paper, the Patriots Defense is far from overwhelming, but their offense is scoring nearly forty a game. Therefore, the Cowboys Offense will need to score points and not worry about keeping Tom Brady off the field. At this juncture, you have to go in assuming that upwards of thirty points will be needed in order to win.

Key Match Up: Scott Linehan vs Matt Patricia

Scott Linehan will have to call an amazing game, period. The entire Offensive Coaching Staff will have to make sure they have a scheme and game plan with the mindset of having to win in a shootout.

Even though Jason Garrett is not fond of trick plays, this would be the game for Scott Linehan to pull one out. It is something Patricia and Bill Belichick wouldn't have seen on film and could steal a touchdown of field position for the team.

Even the Flea Flicker that Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer Nick Eatman calls for would be a wrinkle that could catch the Patriots off guard. Linehan will have to take the handcuffs off Weeden, open the playbook up, and show no fear with aggressive play calls.

Slight Advantage Patriots

Cowboys Defense vs Patriots Offense

The Tom Brady led unit presents a stiff challenge for the Cowboys Defense, yet there are ways to slow them down. This would be a great game to have Randy Gregory, but with Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy, and a seemingly healthy Sean Lee, the Cowboys have a fighting chance.

The battle starts up front. I know Rod Marinelli has stressed getting pressure to Brady is the one way to limit his efficiency. If the Defensive Line is able to cause Brady to move from his initial spots, that should be considered a success on every play.

Well-timed blitzes are also important.

If Marinelli is able to disguise a blitz and the looks he gives Brady they may be able to break his rhythm. This is a game Tyrone Crawford really needs to show up, if he gets constant pressure up the middle Brady will have a difficult time in the pocket.

Mo Claiborne - who proved me wise last week to focus on him - should follow Julian Edelman all over the field. Mo was able to limit Brandin Cooks last week, and the same should be asked of him against Edelman. Press Coverage against Edelman will limit the underneath pass plays to him, taking away one of their top weapons.

Rob Gronkowski should draw Byron Jones all night. If Mo is able to handle Edelman without help, it gives Jones the opportunity to be physical with Gronk off the line and have help over the top. If Gronk lines up on the outside or in the slot, Brandon Carr has the size to match him if he is physical at the line and has help.

The key to limiting Gronk is to always identify where he is on the field and get a hand on him on every single play. Unlike many others, I feel Jones can keep Gronk in check enough to give the Defense a fighting chance.

He was a first round draft pick for moments like this and I have the belief he is ready to make a name for himself against a dynamic player.

If the Cowboys deploy this approach, I feel the onus lays with Carr and Tyler Patmon to not get beat as the Linebackers can handle the Patriots' running game and Dion Lewis out of the backfield.

If Lee is cleared to play, his playmaking ability will be huge for this defense.

Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Patriots Offensive Line

Plain and simple, the Cowboys can't just win up front, they need to dominate up front.

Make Brady uncomfortable and this offense can be held down enough to give the Cowboys Offense a chance to win.

Whenever Greg Hardy is on the field he needs to be a difference maker. Jeremy Mincey will also have to play inspired this week. David Irving will need to continue his solid play. They need to hit Brady whenever they can and make sure his pocket is never clean.

It's a tall order for the Defensive Line this week, but for the Cowboys to win they will have to answer the challenge and give Brady a miserable afternoon in Texas.

Strong Advantage Patriots

Special Teams Match Up

This is where the Cowboys have the advantage and can possibly change the tide of the game. The Patriots have only Punted five times through three games, and if the Cowboys can get another blocked punt or a huge return, the tide of the game can change.

While settling for Field Goals is a disaster in games like this, you would still give Dan Bailey the advantage over Stephen Gostkowski.

Advantage Cowboys

Final Result?

While the Cowboys can win, I just have the feeling they will enact a far too conservative Offensive strategy to complete the task. If they come out and simply attempt to establish the run as I expect, I feel that is playing into the Patriots hands and may not provide the best results.

The Defense will play far better than expected as McClain and Hardy are impact players that will help protect Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, and DeMarcus Lawrence. While the Cowboys may lose, Byron Jones will put up an amazing effort against Gronkowski proving that he will develop into a quality hybrid Secondary player for the Cowboys.

To get this victory, they'll need to capitalize on every opportunity they have for turnovers. They have allowed a number of Interceptions to slip through their fingers and that cannot happen against an offense like this.

This game will be closer than expected if the Defense plays anywhere near their potential.

The Way Of Smooth

While a victory against the defending champions will be difficult, I hope it comes to pass. Mainly because I don't want to imagine next week if the Patriots dominate this game and see the headlines about Hardy's comments.

If the Cowboys can fight their way to a win that will dampen that narrative a good deal and save the team from a week of answering unnecessary questions.

Bottom line? Less talk and let's execute on the field.

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.

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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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