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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys’ Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys' Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season 1

Talk about a dramatic football game. One of my favorite sayings about this sport goes "Football is a game of inches." And as Derek Carr reached for the goal line trying to end the Dallas Cowboys' season... he fumbled a tiny bit before breaking the plane, proving that football is indeed, a game of inches.

The Cowboys were able to survive the last game they had to play without Ezekiel Elliott, and their season remains alive. Whether it seems unlikely or not, at least this team will have something to play for during the next two weeks.

It may have been ugly, but a win is a win and those are not easy to get in the NFL. As they fought for survival, we learned some things about this team last Sunday night. Here is this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

The Coaches' Trust in Chris Jones is Awesome

Chris Jones is an amazing football player. He is a punter who can punt balls, tackle returners and be the clutch runner Dallas sometimes needs to step up. We saw it versus the Eagles in 2016, and we saw it again versus the Raiders a couple of days ago.

On fourth and eleven, Chris Jones took off and moved the chains right when the Cowboys needed a spark. Impressive, right? Well, even more impressive when you find out that Jones actually made that call by himself.

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys' Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season

Dallas Cowboys P Chris Jones (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images)

To be fair, that doesn't mean the coaches didn't have anything to do with it. NFL teams design and practice these plays for whenever they find themselves in certain, specific situations. Even still, a big round of applause for the trust that this coaching staff has on Chris Jones to let him decide whether to run it, or punt it.

Chris Jones is underrated. 

Jeff Heath Saved The Day... Twice

Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017? 1

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath

There's something about Jeff Heath. We can't deny it. Cowboys Nation jokingly refers to him as the GOAT on social media, but this guy has been clutch in more than one critical moment during his career. Heath isn't the ideal starting safety, but even if it's just a coincidence what he does sometimes is impressive.

Last Sunday, he saved the 2017 Cowboys' season in back-to-back plays.

After batting away what would've been a TD pass to Michael Crabtree, Jeff Heath hit Derek Carr as he reached for the goal line. The short-term result? A fumble and a touchback. The long-term result? The Cowboys' eight win of the season.

I hate to be the guy who says stuff like this, but it's fair to say that Heath is an average safety at best. But his ability to show up in big moments like this has been pretty impressive for a long time.

Let's keep calling him the GOAT.

Cowboys' Defense Silently Shined

The defense missed some opportunities last Sunday night, but they actually did a pretty good job throughout the game. Despite some drops on what could've been key interceptions, the secondary had a good football game. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis had a very good first half, and although they both made a few mistakes in the second half, overall they had a good night.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

Cowboys finally found a CB1 who can make plays on the ball and create turnovers. https://t.co/vAPS8p3Kyn

Even after Marshawn Lynch tried to welcome Awuzie to the NFL by running into him, Oakland's beast had no yards after contact and was stopped short of the first down.

Derek Carr only completed 21/38 passes for 171 yards and that was in big part thanks to the pressure that Dallas' front seven was able to get in. Even if they finished the night with no sacks, they were able at getting Carr out of the pocket a lot of times. Even Taco Charlton has a few nice rushes.

No interceptions, no sacks... but the Cowboys' defense made a silent impact on this week's victory.

Elliott Will Come Back Just in Time

Ezekiel Elliott's Suspension A Blessing In Disguise? 1

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Alfred Morris had some good games. Rod Smith had his moments, too. But hey, they're not anywhere close to Ezekiel Elliott's level. The Cowboys' running back committee was decent during 21's time away, but it wasn't consistent enough.

This Sunday, between Smith and Morris the Cowboys ran for only 74 yards.

With Elliott finally back, the Cowboys will be able to run the ball with confidence on third and short opportunities and they'll be able to get positive gains consistently. Forget about those no-gain carries by Morris and Smith.

The Seahawks haven't been playing quality football lately, but it's still nice to know the Cowboys have one of their best players back when they can't afford to lose another game.

It's time to feed Zeke.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys’ Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season" 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!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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3 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    The more and more i watch this Awuzie kid, its a special thing brewing down in Dallas with this young defense. His instincts for the ball and his athleticism are crazy. I wouldn’t mind seeing him at Safety with Xavier Woods and moving Byron back to Corner. Either or will do, the future is bright for this young defense

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      You’re right. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Awuzie. Same can be said about Lewis and even Woods. Great future for the Cowboys’ secondary

    • EverybodyTalks

      Amen Travis. Great draft on corners and safety. Byron at 6′!”, 203 lbs, 4.4 speed – he is a corner, it’s that simple.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys are halfway through their 2018 preseason. Given the injuries they're left to deal with to Zack Martin, Xavier Woods, and Jameill Showers, the Cowboys were happy to see their first home game of the season come to an end when it did. Despite the 21-13 loss, the Cowboys starters made another strong impression before exiting for backups that once again failed to hold the lead.

This is a game I'm looking forward to getting another look at on film, but for now here are a few thoughts the first time through.

  • Rookie Connor Williams is still a work in progress at guard, as he'll get himself in trouble trying to catch rushers too often. 

This "catch blocking" is not uncommon for young offensive linemen, particularly ones learning a new position in preparation to start on the league's best front. On the Cowboys second drive of the game, Williams was caught back in his stance dealing with a twist from the Bengals with Left Tackle Tyron Smith.

The result of the play was an incomplete pass on third down from Dak Prescott. With Williams' footwork being as consistent as it has, I wouldn't worry too much about his upper body technique and strength improving greatly before week one of the regular season. Perhaps most importantly, Williams has looked smooth playing in space, something the Cowboys are prepared to ask the second round pick to do plenty of.

  • With Randy Gregory back in the lineup, the Cowboys potential to have a great rotation of defensive ends was on full display. 

The play that stands out is a tackle for loss by Safety Jeff Heath. On the play, Defensive End Tyrone Crawford did a great job setting the edge against the run, allowing Heath to come down and make the aggressive play.

Crawford created penetration against a tight end, staying disciplined in his rush lane from the right defensive end position to force the run outside.

On the Bengals' offensive series prior to this play by Heath, the Cowboys forced a punt following a missed Andy Dalton throw to A.J. Green. Despite not being tight in coverage on third down, Randy Gregory looked sharp coming off the edge to rush Dalton slightly.

With Taco Charlton also looking strong against the run, and rookie Dorance Armstrong continuing to develop as a weak side pass rusher, the possible match ups the Cowboys can create up front are seemingly endless.

Almost all of them will include last year's sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence, who was also disruptive on nearly every snap in this game.

  • Give credit to Joe Looney for handling the reps he did at center, but the backup interior lineman left a lot to be desired from this position. 

It should come as no surprise that Looney is a better guard than center, or that the Cowboys would look significantly worse at center without Travis Frederick in the lineup.

Overall, this was a disappointing game for the Cowboys thin offensive line depth. Paul Alexander's unit was unable to give quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Mike White a fair chance to settle into the game.

Looney's contact balance was suspect throughout the evening. Not the most powerful player, it's important for Looney to play with leverage and balance, which he did inconsistently last night.

Awaiting news on Zack Martin's first quarter injury still, the Cowboys should have already been concerned about their backups at tackle, with the guard position becoming a late concern now.

  • This is becoming the standard for Jaylon Smith, but I did not see one Bengals blocker effectively slow him down.

The power that Smith is playing with is an outstanding sign for continued success. Not only is Smith physically up for the challenge of starting at MIKE for the Cowboys, but he's physically dominating opponents with strength, speed, and range.

Whether he was running laterally and avoiding blocks with great awareness, or attacking the pocket, Smith's path to the ball was rarely impeded against the Bengals.

No matter who the Cowboys lined up in their front seven, the group did a great job setting a strong tone. Antwaun Woods was once again impressive at the one technique position inside, and Brian Price made a flash play from this position late in the game as well.

Thanks to Smith's gap shooting ability, and the Cowboys willingness so far this preseason to be creative with the Notre Dame product, the team's defensive tackles don't have to be asked to do too much. Holding their spots while drawing blockers will be more than enough to free Smith and the rest of the Cowboys linebackers to make plays.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CBs Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

  • Chidobe Awuzie's interception in the second quarter is a reminder of just how high the second-year cornerback's potential is. 

Sure, Awuzie's length put him at an advantage to take a leap into year two once Kris Richard arrived as the Cowboys passing game coordinator.

Being productive on the ball, as Awuzie was here, is a testament to just how athletic he is as a boundary cornerback though. A beat late recognizing the ball coming his way, Awuzie remained in perfect position to get a hand on this pass.

Doing so with an explosive leap off the ground and full extension, Awuzie snagged the ball with one hand before bringing it into his body to secure another turnover for the Cowboys first team defense.

The Cowboys cornerback depth proved suspect beyond Awuzie and Byron Jones in this game, but being as good as they already are on the boundary is a huge step in the right direction for Rod Marinelli's defense.

I also thought that UDFA Tyree Robinson did a great job answering the bell at safety, showing up a number of times in run support with the Cowboys in desperate need of depth at his position.

It's in the slot, where Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis continue to feel the pressure of competition, that the Cowboys are struggling to find the right starter - even trying Lewis on the outside well into the fourth quarter of this game.

 ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys will remain in their home state to conclude their training camp and preseason. Needing to see more out of their second and third team, practices will resume at The Star on Monday before another preseason game at AT&T Stadium.

This time, it will be the Arizona Cardinals coming in for a Sunday Night Football tune up. The Cowboys starters could very well see even more playing time than they have through the first two weeks, giving them a better chance of sustaining success and coming away with a preseason win.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

CIN 21, DAL 13: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Bengals

The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.

Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.

Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.

The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.

Other Notes

  • There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
  • Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
  • Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
  • Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
  • Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
  • We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
  • Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
  • Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.



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Game Notes

#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?

Kevin Brady

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Lance Lenoir

Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.

But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.

After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.

Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.

Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.

During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.

This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.

Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.



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