- 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.
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.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup
For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.
Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.
Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.
We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.
Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?
What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?
The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense
The Dallas Cowboys earned their first win of the 2019 preseason on Saturday night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 in Hawaii.
Despite the low scoring affair, there were certainly standout performances from both offensive and defensive players for Dallas. Some who are looking to earn a roster spot, and others who are rather solidified in their place with the team.
Let's get into some of my game notes from the Cowboys preseason victory.
- Tony Pollard. I mean, I've said enough right? The rookie running back was awesome in his one drive of action Saturday night, rushing 5 times for 42 yards and a touchdown on the team's opening possession. Pollard was decisive, patient, and comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, and seemed to know exactly where and how to run on each rep. Pollard is looking like a complete back, rather than just a receiving threat for the Cowboys offense going forward.
- While undrafted free agents Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have garnered much of the attention, it was Devin Smith who impressed the most out of all the Cowboys' down-roster receivers this week. He caught 3 balls for just 24 yards, but had a fantastic touchdown grab from Cooper Rush in the third quarter.
- Speaking of Cooper Rush, he's your backup quarterback for the 2019 season. The coaching staff gave Mike White a chance to work with the 2's this week, allowing him equal ground for competition with Rush. But even with this opportunity, Mike White did not play well whatsoever. He's indecisive in the pocket, abandons clean protection, runs into pressure, and just looks kind of lost out there. Hopefully White can improve, but Rush is certainly deserving of the QB2 spot going forward.
- While Rush solidified his position as the QB2, QB1 Dak Prescott led another impressive drive on Saturday night. Prescott has command in the pocket and of the entire offense, and he orchestrated an excellent touchdown drive in his own possession this week. Prescott went 5/5 for 64 yards, but the highlight of the game for Prescott was his third and seven completion for 31 of those yards to Michael Gallup. He and Gallup seem to be connecting this preseason, and if that's going to happen regularly, look out.
- Now to the defense. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show signs that 2019 could be a career season for him. He was disruptive in limited playing time this week, and showcased a scary spin move on the inside. He can be an electric interior pass rusher for the Cowboys, and he looks to be "putting it all together" this year.
- Jourdan Lewis is too good to rot away on the bench, guys. Though he did get beat for decent completion in the first half, Lewis was also sound as a tackler and sticky in coverage once again this week. Lewis looks to be playing at the highest level we've seen from him yet, but once Byron Jones comes back he may not be getting the playing time he'd easily earn elsewhere. Dallas has a bit of an embarrassment of riches at cornerback right now, and Lewis just needs to keep competing every week.
- Lewis' Michigan teammate Taco Charlton had a decent night himself. While Dorance Armstrong has been the talk of the town at defensive end, Charlton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and was credited with 2 quarterback hits against the Rams. He wasn't creating the level of pressure you'd hope to see out of a former first round pick playing that deep into a preseason game, but you can tell he's looking a bit better as of late. Still, there's a whole heap of defensive ends on this roster who are flat out better than him right now.
- The Cowboys linebackers showed up to play on Saturday night. Of course, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch are who they are, but Justin March-Lillard led the team in tackles with 6, and Justin Phillips came away with an exceptional interception in the third quarter. He made a play on the ball that you don't expect to see from any linebacker, let alone someone of his roster status. This is a really deep linebacker room, and there's a strong chance the Cowboys will have to let go of a good player.
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