The 2009 version of the Dallas Cowboys defense will look and feel like a completely new unit. With an influx of young energetic, athletic players and a full season with Wade Phillips as the Coordinator will certainly change things.
There is one person however who holds the key to what this team can be, and it might not be who most of us would have thought either!
Now we could come up with at least a handful of names that at the very least could drastically change what this defense will be able to accomplish this year, Demarcus Ware, Terrence Newman, Bradie James, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick... just to name a few.
None of those guys can do for this unit what one Gerald Sensabaugh can though! I realize it sounds ridiculous to think that a guy who many of us did not even know who he was could suddenly be the main component in elevating this average defense to a top flight unit.
Gerald has already made a profound impression upon Wade Phillips during OTA's, saying
"Sensabaugh looks outstanding" Phillips said last week. "He's really got a lot of ability, good work ethic, but he can really cover a lot of ground. We can cover in man to man with him...he has great speed along with cover ability."
I may not agree with a lot of the things that Wade Phillips does or does not do, but when that guy speaks about what he see's in a defensive player, I do not question it!
When Wade tells us "He can really cover a lot of ground. We can cover in man to man with him..." He is speaking volumes about what Gerald means to this unit! Everyone wanted an Ed Reed type of safety, well guess what, Wade just told us that we now have one.
In Baltimore's system Ed Reed is allowed to roam around in the defensive backfield and to just "go after the ball." They will play some zone coverage, but primarily they stay in a man to man scheme. Ed Reed thrives in this type of system for two reasons.
First, Reed is very fast, and secondly he has excellent cover ability. Now I am in by no means saying that Gerald Sensabaugh is about to become the second coming of Ed Reed (although I certainly believe it is a possibility) I am simply comparing the two systems and how safeties with these abilities can change the culture of those systems.
Gerald Sensabaugh will allow the likes of Demarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking, Bradie James, Jay Ratliff, and the rookies to pin their ears back and send blitz packages at the opposing offense that they simply cannot plan for.
Wade Phillips has been dreaming about this type of safety since he became the Head Coach here, and his players know it!
Wade is ready, and so are his troops, thanks to one Gerald Sensabaugh.
Previewing Tony Pollard’s Big Night as Cowboys Starting RB
With Ezekiel Elliiott still holding out for a new contract, Tony Pollard is currently playing with the Cowboys' first-team offense. After limited glimpses in the first two preseason games of 2019, Dallas fans hope to see much more of Pollard's potential in tonight's game against the Houston Texans.
The third preseason game has historically been dubbed the "dress rehearsal" game, where NFL teams generally play their starters for at least the first half or more. While there's still the vanilla play-calling and other typical issues of preseason football, it's our best chance to see the real Dallas Cowboys before the 2019 season begins.
Until something changes between Elliott and the Cowboys, Tony Pollard is the number-one RB. If Zeke's holdout lingers, we may be counting on the 4th-round rookie to help win important division games in the first two weeks of the regular season.
If last week's win over the Rams was any indication, the Cowboys offense may not suffer much with Pollard as RB1. He was able to get yards in chunks on the ground and as a receiver, then capped the drive with a tough bit of running for the touchdown.
Despite scouting reports that made him out to be a Darren Sproles or Lance Dunbar, Pollard looks like more than just a receiving RB. His pass-blocking could use some work, which may limit his usage on third downs, but otherwise he looks very capable of producing in Zeke's absence.
Without question, we're hoping that Elliott returns and gets his usual workload in Week One and beyond. But while his status remains unclear, increased confidence in Tony Pollard is good for all of us.
And if another big game helps the Cowboys' leverage in their negotiations with Zeke, that's also not a bad thing.
That's the added wrinkle to tonight's intrigue. Pollard's performance, good or bad, could impact these ongoing talks between Dallas and their franchise RB.
No, anything Pollard does tonight won't suddenly make Zeke decide he deserves less money than Todd Gurley. But it could bolster the Cowboys' resolve not to give in to Elliott's demands.
Without question, the Dallas offense is better with both Zeke and Pollard playing this season. But if the Cowboys are determined not to make Elliott the highest-paid RB in football, then anything the rookie can do to make that decision easier is important.
So yes, tonight is just another meaningless exhibition game in a lot of ways. But when it comes to the future of the running back position for the Dallas Cowboys, and how big a part of it Tony Pollard will be going forward, it may mean more than you think.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
Cowboys’ Tight End Marcus Lucas with Huge Opportunity vs the Houston Texans
With only two preseason games remaining, opportunities to make a statement are growing thin. The Dallas Cowboys have very few spots on the roster available, especially at the tight end position where Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz appear to have the depth chart locked down. The problem is, Jarwin and Schultz have been dealing with injuries and missed the second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams and probably won't play against the Houston Texans tonight.
Enter Marcus Lucas.
Marcus Lucas hasn't been a member of the Dallas Cowboys for very long, but he's already made an impact.
In his first preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys, Lucas caught four passes on four targets for 20 yards. His receptions went for two, seven, five, and six yards for an average of five yards per reception. He did have a holding penalty that cost the Dallas Cowboys 10 yards on a first down play that didn't go anywhere anyway.
Though Lucas has bounced around NFL practice squads, he's never really found a home. After going undrafted in 2014, Lucas was signed by the Carolina Panthers in May of that year but wasn't able to stick on the 53-man roster and was released and placed on the practice squad. In 2015, he was on the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears practice squads. In 2016, the Panthers brought him back in the summer after the Bears released him from their 90-man roster. That September after cut-down day, the Seattle Seahawks signed Lucas to their practice squad where he spent all of 2016. From 2017 to the end of 2018, Lucas spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, the Seattle Seahawks again, and the San Francisco 49ers. He was with the 49ers in 2019 before joining the Dallas Cowboys about two weeks ago and will get an extended run in these final two preseason games.
At Thursday's practice, Lucas was the only tight end available with Jason Witten getting a rest day and Jarwin, Schultz, and fellow Tight End Cody McElroy dealing with injuries.
With Jason Witten getting a day of rest, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Codey McElroy injured, the Cowboys have one tight end practicing today: Marcus Lucas, who has been with the team for about two weeks.
It's possible that Lucas may get an extended amount of playing time tonight with an opportunity to show the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL that he's ready to land on a 53-man roster. With likely only Jason Witten being the only other tight end active for the game against the Houston Texans, Lucas will get a lot of playing time. If his last preseason exposure is any indication, he'll get the chance to display his receiving prowess.
At 27, Lucas likely has few opportunities left to make his mark for an NFL franchise. On a team that proclaims the "next man up" as a battle cry, after Witten, Lucas is the next man up for tonight and depending on his performance could make the Dallas Cowboys front office or another front office around the league take notice.
Depending on the long-term health of the Dallas Cowboys' tight end position, Lucas may find his path to a roster spot simply dependent upon the health of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Though a job may not come with the Dallas Cowboys, tonight is an extremely important audition for his next suitor. How he performs tonight could land Marcus Lucas a job after the Dallas Cowboys trim the roster to 53 next week.
They say "preseason games don't matter," but to Marcus Lucas, this might be the most important game of his career.
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