How 'bout them Cowboys! Dallas walked away with a blowout win versus the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday after a long and busy bye week. They needed this win. Even though the 49ers came to the game with zero victories, the Cowboys took care of business after winning 40-10.
It was an important win for Dallas since they needed to regain confidence and adjust after starting the season 2-3. Will the Cowboys continue to roll? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure looks like it.
In their way to victory, the Cowboys showed us quite a few positive things about this team. Here is this week's Takeaway Tuesday edition!
David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence Continue Dominance
I can't believe we're talking about the Cowboys having something similar to a pass rush, but that's exactly what they have shown us after six games. This team has made the right decision of keeping both on the field at the same time and that has paid off so far.
This season, the Cowboys have sacked the QB 21 times. There are only five teams in the NFL that have more. From those 21, DeMarcus Lawrence has 9.5, and David Irving (who has played only two games) has 3.
Both have also impacted the run game, too. That's right. The Cowboys have two quality defensive linemen in their defense, and that's more than enough reason to celebrate. The front office will have to find a way to keep them both in Dallas next offseason.
Jonathan Cooper Is This Team's Starting LG
The offensive line hasn't been as dominant early in the season as we expected it to be. La'el Collins is progressing week after week at right tackle, but left guard has given the Cowboys a couple of headaches.
After giving a chance to both Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green in the first games of the year, I really believe Cooper should be this team's LG1 and that Dallas should forget about the Chaz project at LG.
Chaz Green isn't even a better guard than Cooper, and being as injury-prone as he is, I wouldn't understand if this coaching staff insisted on playing 79.
Jonathan Cooper didn't allow a pressure all game against SF, per PFF. Needs to be starter from here on out
Not only was Cooper great versus the pass rush last week, but he was excellent at run blocking, as the entire offensive line found its groove at the running game. Cooper should be this team's starter at left guard. Period.
Ezekiel Elliott Had The Game He Needed to Have
Speaking of the running game... what can I say about the show Ezekiel Elliott put on in San Francisco? It was more than epic. I will let the numbers speak for themselves:
- 26 carries, 147 yards, 2 rushing touchdowns.
- 1 reception, 72 yards, 1 receiving touchdown.
Ezekiel Elliott's 219 yards performance was just what the Cowboys needed. Specifically, what he needed. There's been a lot of criticism around Zeke for multiple reasons. Whether it's the off-field drama or that he "lost a step", "isn't in shape", or anything like that, Elliott could use some motivation.
Elliott is still a great running back, and a performance like this could get the Cowboys' superstar to another level this season. After putting what was arguably best career game yet against the 49ers, you can bet on Zeke being hungry every week now.
Reducing Jaylon Smith's Snaps Is a Good Thing
Jaylon Smith's career has been a crazy one so far. We were all excited about seeing 54 on the field this year and we were surprised to watch him play a lot early in the season... until we realized he was hurting this defense.
This obviously doesn't mean that he won't be a good player going forward, but forcing him to play as much as he could.
Last week, we saw a lot of Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens, who were together on the field for the first time in the season, and the snap count for Smith was reduced. He played in less than half of the Cowboys' defensive snaps. We saw some flashes from Jaylon Smith in San Francisco, including a sack and a forced fumble.
Here's Jaylon Smith's first sack and forced fumble. https://t.co/Pu07our4FC
I like the idea of playing Jaylon less from now on. It's good for the team, and you can use him in different ways to get him going throughout the game. When he is healthier and more prepared, unleash the beast!
Rod Smith Should Be RB2
For my final takeaway, I wanted to go in a different direction. The Cowboys were beating the 49ers in such a way that we saw a lot of backups late in the game. Cooper Rush was in, and so was Rod Smith.
One of the debates Cowboys Nation has had this season is, who should be this team's backup running back? Darren McFadden has surprisingly been inactive all year, letting Alfred Morris take care of the RB2 duties.
However, Rod Smith should be the backup running back for the Dallas Cowboys. The only thing Morris is probably better at, is experience. But the upside Smith would provide to this team as a long-term backup to Ezekiel Elliott should give 45 the edge.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
On Sunday, he ran for 61 yards in eight carries and he seemed ready to play. Obviously, with the uncertainty of Zeke's availability going forward, this is a more relevant matter than what it may seem.
The Cowboys may have beaten an 0-7 team, but there are a lot of promising things for this football team. There's a lot of football left to be played, and Dallas is on time to change their destiny and get to the playoffs. For now, on to the Washington Redskins.
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.
The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.
Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.
While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.
Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.
The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.
Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.
Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Address TE Injuries and Inexperience With This FA?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Why is Jerry Jones “keeping a very close eye” on the Kareem Hunt Case?
Player News2 weeks ago
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch a Dominant Defensive Duo
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Will Kris Richard’s Success End Jason Garrett’s Era in Dallas?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
David Irving’s Return Could Make Cowboys’ Defense Even Scarier
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Randy Gregory Is Looking Like We Always Thought He Could
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup Making a Huge Impact for Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Tavon Austin’s Return Should Make Cowboys Offense More Dangerous