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Takeaway Tuesday: Switzer and Woods Shine, Coaching Becoming a Concern

Mauricio Rodriguez

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For the Dallas Cowboys, things are far from being ideal. After suffering blowout losses in two consecutive weeks, there're a lot of things to think about. At this point, making the playoffs at all would be a huge surprise for a team that's suffered a lot of problems.

It isn't easy watching our favorite team, which was one of the unquestioned favorites to contend for the Super Bowl in 2017, be at the .500 mark with five wins and five losses. A team that right now, doesn't look promising at all and will probably miss the playoffs after being the #1 NFC seed with a 13-3 record less than a year ago.

But here we are, as we should always be. Win, lose or tie, we will always root for the Star. Having said so, here are this week's takeaways!

Ryan Switzer Shines in Special Teams

"Bad" would be an understatement when describing how last Sunday night went. But, let's start this article off with a positive note. Rookie Ryan Switzer had himself a good game versus the Eagles, including a 61-yard opening kickoff return.

Switzer15 - Streamable

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Thanks to Switzer, the Cowboys were able to put three points on the board and take the early lead. While things didn't turn out the way we wanted after that, credit can't be taken away from the rookie returner.

Sometimes, in positions like this, confidence boosts can make a huge difference. Switzer also had other good plays, and this might be just what he needed. He's a player we definitely need to keep an eye on.

Anthony Brown Is a Big Concern

Remember when we were so excited for the sixth-round pick Anthony Brown? His rookie season was more than impressive and it looked like there was a future shut-down cornerback in town.

Life comes at you fast.

So far, Brown hasn't had anything close to a good year, and to be honest, there's not a lot of reasons to be hopeful. He's been burnt by a lot of receivers so far, and we're at a point where we have to have a conversation about #30.

brown - Streamable

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Is it time to downgrade Brown? It may sound extreme, but with young players like Awuzie and Lewis, it would be interesting to give these players opportunities to fight for the starting jobs.

If the season continues to slip out of the Cowboys' hands, competition would be good for this group of guys.

Xavier Woods Should Remain This Team's Starting Safety

After Jeff Heath was ruled out with a concussion last Sunday, it was Xavier Woods' time to shine. Although the Eagles ultimately soared over this Sean Lee-less defense, we did see some promising things.

From the moment Woods was drafted, many of us believed he would end the year having earned the starting role from Jeff Heath. And I truly think he's about to take over.

Woods - Streamable

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This is an example of why Woods should be starting at safety. He brings a unique play-making ability to the table. Notice how he takes away the running back's route just before running towards Wentz to make the stop.

He's done a good job just about every time he's on the field. To be fair, Jeff Heath hasn't done a lot to keep his job and it'd be good for this defense if the coaching staff finally gives the rookie safety the nod.

Running Game Wasn't as Impressive as Stats Say

Life without Ezekiel Elliott continues, as the Cowboys have lost both games they've played without him so far. In neither of the two games has the offense truly worked at all. 

However, the Dallas Cowboys finished the game with over 100 yards rushing, including 91 from back-up running back Alfred Morris. Those are some pretty numbers, considering Zeke isn't on the field.

However, although I hate to be the one with the pessimist takes, I believe the stats lie regarding the running game from this team. Sure, Morris eclipsed the 100-yard mark but was he consistent enough? My answer is no.

Morris - Streamable

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Although Morris had a couple of big gains, the longest one being for 22 yards, the truth is the Cowboys weren't able to establish the run. To me, it felt a lot like 2015.

There were a couple of long runs which bulked up the stats, but there wasn't anything close to a running game that you can trust for those "third-and-short" sort of plays.

I still believe that Rod Smith and Darren McFadden should be given more opportunities to compete for Morris' job, and I think it would bring nothing but good things for this offense.

The Coaching Staff May Be In Jeopardy

Is Jason Garrett The Root Of The Cowboys Problem? 2I've repeatedly said that I'm not a part of the "Fire Garrett" or the "Fire Everyone" team.

Even still, every time I lean more towards this side of Cowboys Nation. This year specifically, the Cowboys have been out-coached pretty often.

Jason Garrett is a solid head coach, but I'm not sure if this is what this team needs anymore. If the Cowboys finish the season with an 8-8 record or worse, (which is not unlikely at all) I think that next offseason is when we'll see a change.

With the talent that this team has, it won't get any worse than this season. If Jerry Jones and company want to make a change, this is the year to do it.

As for the coordinators, I think that Rod Marinelli should be held accountable for the defensive struggles this team has had and a change of scheme would do nothing but good for a defense full of athletic players.

Although I also would be open for a change at the offensive coordinator position, I won't be surprised if the amount of talent this team has on offense will save Scott Linehan's job.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Switzer and Woods Shine, Coaching Becoming a Concern" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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10 Comments
  • Gregory Williams

    I agree about the running game McFadden and Smith should be given more carries and the coaching is terrible, I know Brown is struggling, but it just seems to me when a young player technique is in question that is coaching, bring Deion Sanders to work with on his technique

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Fair. It’d be an amazing story, Sanders coming to Dallas and helping these young players. Let’s hope Brown works on his technique and continues to improve. Thank you for reading, Gregory!

  • Hammer33

    Woods shined? What game were you watching young man. Pay attention at what is happening on the field and not your own personal agenda.

    Actually, why not consider a different career. You suck at this.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Hey there, good afternoon, young man. I stand by it. I know it’s difficult to evaluate a player when the team as a whole struggles and is defeated 39-7, but Woods stood out a few times on tape. He had a good game and should continue as this team’s starter, IMO.
      Thank you for the suggestion, but I love my job. Thanks for reading!

      • Hammer33

        If you think he showed up maybe you should let me point out a few things. He doesn’t move to the ball, he was a bystander. You would think that given the opportunity at hand we would have heard his name called. As many callers to local radio pointed out, we did not. Heath’s rookie start resulted in 9 tackles, a forced fumble and he ran megatron down from behind about at about 60 yards.

        Add to the fact that after taking a poor run fit on a play tat went for over 60 yards on the ground he was seen with a wide ass grin on tv, I’d say he has a way to go. And I don’t remember woods catching up to a middle of the road running back.

        You want woods to replace Heath, fine. You don’t have the facts to do so.

        You can love your job. You’re just not any good at it.

        • Mauricio Rodriguez

          Well, I do think Woods would be better on this defense than Heath. Not that I’m hating on Heath but I’m not making a decision like this by how both players did on their respective first career starts. I’d rather take a look at what 38 has contributed this year, which frankly, isn’t much.

          You can hate my job. That’s what opinions are for, no offense taken.

          • Hammer33

            A little more info for you. Heath is the number one graded dB by the coaches. They like him, they trust him and he has the trust of his teammates.

            He’s very sound in zone. And regardless of missed tackles on occasion, which everyone in the NFL seems guilty of, he’s active against the run.

            Since you like to refer to film, then watch all of it. Everyone can pick a play out here or there to make a point, which you have done. But there’s more to it. Also, you don’t know what Heath or anyone is being asked to do, that that’s also conjecture on your part.

            Believe me, I’ve made a living for 30 years at all levels of this game by being able to break down film. I know a little bit about it. If you were just a casual fan I would say nothing about it. But you’re putting articles on web sites that people read. Work on your objectivity and your accuracy. Try not to be just another ignorant fan..

  • Lee Bigtree Walker

    Jason garrett is not a solid coach. Linehan playcalling is plain as rain.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      I do think we’ll see some changes in the coaching staff soon. Thanks for reading, Lee!

  • Jorge Gonzalez

    With all respect everyone talks about Morris was not consistent and they tell me about presscot he had to show that this is done, if he wants to win something important it’s time to show it, come see Aron Rodgers with less offensive line and making a great job, I expected something similar from Dak but I see that it will be another blunt Tony that never led us to win something important

Game Notes

Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.

Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
  • CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable

The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.

Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.

Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.

Washington Redskins

  • WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
  • S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
  • RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
  • RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
  • G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
  • CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
  • CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable

It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.

Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.

Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.

In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.

Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.

Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.

Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.

David Moore on Twitter

Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.

Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.

The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.

Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.

Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.

Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.

Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.

He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.

If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.

Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.

Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.

That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins" 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

#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They're Given Credit For
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.

But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.

According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.

Brian Burke on Twitter

Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.

What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.

For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.

As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.

Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.

Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).

Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.



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