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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday Thanksgiving Edition: Cowboys Done for the Season?

Mauricio Rodriguez



Every week, two days after each Dallas Cowboys game, I write "Takeaway Tuesday" here at Inside The Star. Since most games are played on Sundays, the "Tuesday" bit is usually true. However, as every year, Dallas played on Thursday while we celebrated Thanksgiving. That's why you're reading this on a Saturday.

But that isn't the only reason why this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday is different. Normally I point out around five takeaways regarding specific players or positions. This time though, I thought of sharing some general takeaways about the Cowboys as a team in a moment in which I know most fans are feeling down and want to talk about it.

Jerry Jones "Absolutely Not" Considering Cowboys Coaching Changes 1

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

Cowboys Are Done for the Season

No, not mathematically. But even as a very optimistic fan, it's only fair to assume that this football team isn't making the playoffs this year. Forget for a second that Sean Lee and Ezekiel Elliott are a big reason why this team is 5-6. Even if they are.

The truth is, this isn't a good football team. It does have a lot of future and a lot of talent in the form of young players. Even still, there're a lot of things to work on and a lot of talent to add in different positions.

Even with Tyron Smith back, we don't know when Sean Lee will return, and with Elliott out for another three weeks, I'm not buying into the idea of this team running the table. Hell, I'd be surprised if they get to nine wins, if I'm being honest.

Underestimating Problems Has Been Killing This Team

Throughout the season, a lot of problems popped up for this Dallas Cowboys football team. And it seems that a lot of these issues were underestimated by the staff and the front office.

First of all, let's take a look at linebacker. Recently, I wrote about how linebacker should be one of the Cowboys' top needs next offseason even with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith on the roster. Being to hopeful about Smith for instance, probably kept the Cowboys away from drafting another LB earlier this year.

The lack of depth at the position is a big reason why this team has under-performed without Lee on the field.

Should Cowboys Cut Ties With Alfred Morris Or Darren McFadden?

Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Same for the RB position. Before Ezekiel Elliott was suspended, we all thought more or less the same thing: "Good thing we have such a solid running back committee."

Well, although Rod Smith is still a promising player for all of Cowboys Nation, the Cowboys haven't been able to be efficient at the running game in three games without Elliott. Remember, it's not all about stats, (Alfred Morris ran for more than 90 yards versus the Eagles).

With Zeke, opposing defenses fear this rushing attack. But why would you fear a guy like Morris on third down and one yard to go?

This Team is Full of Needs

A team that was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender this season, is really a team that has a whole damn lot of needs. Usually, we talk about how many defensive help the Cowboys need. But this year, it's not only about finding the next premium pass rusher or the next shut-down corner.

With an offense that's losing its identity week after week, Dallas really needs to be in the WR market. And I mean in the top rounds. This WR group isn't  the threat we all thought it'd be.

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 Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Even though it has improved since Jonathan Cooper was plugged in, this offensive line isn't what it was in 2016. The Cowboys are missing Ronald Leary more than we had imagined, and I wouldn't be surprised if they look for an OG at some point in next year's draft.

That is without mentioning all of the defensive positions they need to attend. Even with a lot of promising players, the Cowboys need to keep looking for guys who can make an instant impact for a defense that can barely keep up when they lose Sean Lee.

I'm convinced we'll see changes in the coaching staff before next season, although I'm not sure if will be at every level, just the coordinators or just the head coach. We've come to a point where we're all convinced it is necessary for the future success of this Cowboys team.

Hope Dies Last

Even with a 5-6 record, I'm sure every die-hard Cowboys fan will keep watching. At the end of it all, we live in a very competitive league and everything is possible. We've seen lots of teams run the table in the NFL in order to save their season, and while I think it is highly unlikely, I'll be there next Thursday to root for the Star. And so should you.

Win, lose or tie... I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan for life.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday Thanksgiving Edition: Cowboys Done for the Season?" 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.

  • oneputter

    yes they are done. we could easily lose all of our remaining games, the only one i think we can win is against NY….and that is a big maybe.

    let’s get in line for a decent draft (maybe) unless we draft a bunch of hurt players who we hope can play in 2-3 yrs.

  • Ddenney1

    Their DONE because there is ZERO DEPTH!!!! Dak showed WHY he fell to the forth round!

  • Grumpy

    Let’s be realistic, no one on the offense is playing like they should, including the line. I believe they are all worn out already. So, lets let the vets rest up, get all the rookies in to get some well needed trial by fire, and let whatever will be, be. Then in the spring we start over, get some real good draft picks and work them in with the vets and old rookies; throw in a sprinkle of new blood in the coaching ranks that can light some fires under their butts and try again. Oh, and if Zeke cannot show any real desire, cut him and give the Smith Brothers a chance.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie



Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.

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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin



Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Game Notes

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady



Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.

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