The Dallas Cowboys will play their first NFC East action tonight when they host the New York Giants in Arlington, TX. Both teams will be looking for their first win on the year and playing on prime time, this is bound to be a fun football game. For the Cowboys, there are many things to improve after week 1 if they're to turn things around. Let's talk about some of the things we want to see from the Dallas Cowboys tonight.
Let me know your wishes in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Win in the Trenches
The Cowboys front seven should win the battle against a weak Giants offensive line. New York added talent to their unit in the offseason to make things better, but Dallas has the edge here. DeMarcus Lawrence will face RT Ereck Flowers, which is a battle I expect him to win all night long.
Pressuring Eli Manning is a must to try to avoid any sort of big plays by the visiting offense.
On the other hand, the Cowboys offensive line needs to improve as well.
Tyron Smith wasn't at his best against the Carolina Panthers, La'el Collins was responsible for a couple of holding calls, and Connor Williams got beat in his NFL debut versus Kawann Short. They have a lot to prove versus the Giants rush defense.
Wish #2: Throw the Ball Downfield
Well, it's time we address the most discussed topic in Cowboys Nation this week.
Scott Linehan's offense has caused a lot of frustration for Cowboys fans due to a lack of long-yardage plays. Dak Prescott hasn't had many opportunities to throw downfield and, when he has had the chance, his throws have been inaccurate.
The Cowboys have NEVER lost a regular season game when Dak averages over 7 yards per attempt. They are a perfect 18-0. In all his other games, they're 4-11. Dak must throw the ball down the field if the Cowboys offense is going to be successful. @NFL #NYGvsDAL #DallasCowboys
It's time the Cowboys use the wide receivers they acquired in the offseason and put Dak in positions where he can feel comfortable throwing it deep.
Wish #3: Feed Zeke 20+ Times
The main attraction on this offense is Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, who carried the ball only 15 times last week. The Carolina Panthers loaded the box literally half of their defensive snaps. In order to win tonight, Elliott & Co. must confront a tough Giants defense by establishing the running game early. It's important for them not to give up on their rushing attack.
Without it, the passing game will end up suffering a lot as well. So, feed Elliott, let him do his thing, and this offense will be able to move the chains.
Wish #4: Top-3 Rookies Shine
Connor Williams' first test against one of the best defensive tackles in the league didn't go as planned, but he should improve as the season continues. His success is very important for the rest of an offensive line that is already playing without its starting center, Travis Frederick.
Leighton Vander Esch expects to have a bigger role on defense tonight after finishing last week's game with only two tackles. Dallas Cowboys media member Bryan Broaddus even hinted at Vander Esch starting at SAM versus the Giants, which is worth keeping an eye on.
Finally, I really hope Michael Gallup is more involved in the Cowboys second game of the year. Gallup has the talent to be a starter but - for some reason - his participation versus the Panthers was very limited. I really wish they give the third-round rookie more snaps in an attempt to get him going.
Wish #5: Limit Odell Beckham
Whoever wins this Sunday Night Football matchup will likely be determined by the defenses. Both offenses have been mediocre, for different reasons. In such a close game, one player can make all the difference. For the Giants, this player is undoubtedly WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The Cowboys know this.
Even more than the second overall pick, Saquon Barkley, the Cowboys' key to win this football game will be limiting a wide receiver that needs only one play to turn a game around.
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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