That was a long 8 months. From the January loss to the Packers until last night's preseason game we've been waiting anxiously for some Cowboys football. And anxious is the best word to describe what's been a fairly tumultuous offseason in Dallas.
The Dez catch, DeMarco Murray joining the Eagles, the talk about Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice and Chris Johnson joining the Cowboys, suspensions for both Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy... the list goes on and on. But all of that matters less now.
Sure, it's just a preseason game. I get it. It's not like it's real football or anything. It was just damned good to see the Boys out on the field again.
I wanted to talk a little about what we saw from the Cowboys last night.
Mistakes Are Little More Than Opportunities To Learn
The Cowboys made it through the first preseason game with just a couple of penalties in all. I don't think people are understanding how huge it is to see so few penalties in the first week of the preseason.
It was the first time out for about a dozen guys last night, and even more were experiencing their first game in a Cowboys jersey, and yet the focus and lack of mental mistakes was greater than most coaches expect from seasoned veterans during the regular season. You know, when the games actually count.
That's an outstanding accomplishment.
The Good, The Bad &The Ugly from Cowboys @ Chargers
The game started out alright. Brandon Weeden looked pretty sharp in his completions to Terrance Williams and the rookie out of Stephen F. Austin university in south Texas, Gus "The Bus" Johnson looked solid.
Then came the botched snap.
Weeden told reporters on the sideline afterward that he has always enjoyed an adage about quarterback's having the best hands on the team; that they have to catch the ball on every play, and he took the blame for that snap-turned-turnover. Rightfully so.
Crowd noise was minimal and he had a real pro in Travis Frederick to snap the ball... That was just a boneheaded play by our pending #2 QB.
The defense came onto the field for their first series and they didn't look too sharp. There was almost nothing of note in that first defensive series. I'm excluding the failure to stop the Chargers from assembling a 5-play, 33-yard touchdown drive, of course.
That was the end of Brandon Weeden's action last night. One series that ended in a turnover at his hands and gave the Chargers a short field was all he got.
Quarterbacks At Play
We saw 3 different quarterbacks take the field for Dallas in week 1: Jameil Showers, Brandon Weeden, and Dustin Vaughan, in that order. Showers, the newest of blood, demonstrated an unusual ability for a QB to play on special teams as the up man on the opening kickoff return.
I know a lot of people around Cowboys Nation were looking to see what he had but I don't think him contributing on special teams is what anyone had in mind.
These Cowboys suffered greatly in 2014 while Tony Romo battled his injuries. Brandon Weeden was predictably inadequate under center and played a huge role in an early loss to the Arizona Cardinals. So we've all been looking at this year as a chance for an upgrade to our primary backup QB.
Dustin Vaughan showed flashes of potential last year during the preseason, and last night he finally expanded upon those flashes with better instincts, pocket presence, and accuracy.
I couldn't help myself. Every time the pocket collapsed and Vaughan took off I was guessing which Charger would come away with the sack, and I was pleasantly disappointed each time. His mobility extended plays and allowed him to deliver strike after strike to keep the drive alive. In spite of his ill-advised month of rest before training camp, his arm looked good, at times successfully threading a needle to inexperienced receivers.
The drive to start the second quarter was all Vaughan and Johnson. I was impressed.
The question still lingers about the backup QB spot. Vaughan started showing signs of having an answer last night, but he still has a ways to go. Coaches value experience a great deal in this league and Weeden is the man with it right now. But Vaughan might have put him on notice. We'll see next week against the 49ers if he can deliver that notice home.
Rookie running back Gus Johnson showed some skill. I would not go so far as to say that he earned anything more than another chance in San Fransisco just yet, but he filled the void of the absent Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, and Lance Dunbar.
Stats speak volumes when they boast a measly 2.7-yard average on 13 touches. No one is denying that. But Johnson being responsible for the only points the Cowboys scored also counts for something.
The announcers on the Dallas broadcast were quick to label him Gus "The Bus" Johnson and I can't argue with that logic either. But much like a bus, his running was very much north-south with little agility or ability to make guys miss. He opted instead to go through many defenders or get stopped trying.
What impressed me most was his motor. The guy just didn't quit. That was evident on his scoring run and a bit earlier on 4th-and-1 where it was his second and third effort that got the job done.
Johnson was the lone RB - along with Fullback Tyler Clutts - for much of the game before Lache Seastrunk got a chance to show his stuff.
Seemingly in complete opposition to Johnson, Seastrunk danced around the field at will, juking and shaking defenders off his path for marginal gains.
Overall, I thought Gus Johnson was stiff when he ran the ball and Lache Seastrunk was fluid. I know there's a lot of hype about Johnson already and it's probably unwarranted. The biggest thing he brought to the game was smash-mouth running the likes of which we haven't seen in Dallas since Marion Barber departed. Seastrunk was very much an elusive and quick back with decent vision and burst, just like McFadden and Randle.
Time will tell what becomes of either of these two players and only time. Injuries at the position may yield some unexpected results come time to set the 53-man roster, but I didn't see anything to say that either running back will supplant the top three yet.
Other Rookies of Note
Byron Jones was pretty quiet most of the night, save for that sideline miss on the first Chargers drive, and that's really a good thing. When a player's name gets called, it's usually because he did something wrong.
Randy Gregory ended the night well, although I thought he looked worn down - more so than his teammates - a bit early near the end of the first half. He filled his gaps and did what he should, also having a quiet night. He did manage one sack late in the game.
Damien Wilson picked up a key block at the line and a perfectly read dump-off to Melvin Gordon, stopping him in the backfield.
La'el Collins looked sharp all night at the left guard spot and provided some foundation for a run at LG incumbent Ronald Leary's job.
Among the players who did not see a snap during week 1 were:
- Dez Bryant
- Tony Romo
- Orlando Scandrick
- Jason Witten
- Tyron Smith
- Doug Free
- Darren McFadden
- Joseph Randle
- Lance Dunbar
Those sits were expected.
It was a loss in the end, 17-7. But all was not lost in the effort. We saw some good things from rookies and vets alike. We even saw a much-improved pass rush over last year's offerings and that looks to be a sharp edge on a sturdy sword already.
For even more analysis of the Dallas Cowboys @ San Diego Chargers, be sure to check out Cowboys Cast this Saturday. If you're in or around Marshall in east Texas, then you can catch it on our new affiliate KMHT 1450 AM at 7 am Saturday morning, while the podcast will be available online in the usual places later that afternoon.
#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.
Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.
The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.
After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.
Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.
Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.
Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.
The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.
The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.
Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.
- The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
- Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
- Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
- The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.
While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.
This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.
I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks: Inside The Numbers
The Dallas Cowboys will travel to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to face the Seattle Seahawks in an important game for both teams in the NFC race.
The Seattle Seahawks are 0-2 and risk being buried in an NFC West that has seen the Los Angeles Rams become the divisional power. With the San Francisco 49ers trending up, the Seahawks might find themselves left behind. On Monday Night Football, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks had little answers for a Chicago Bears team that has one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL. Well, maybe not so underrated now. They battered Wilson and the Seahawks offensive line for six sacks and were able to pressure him into an interception they were able to return for a touchdown.
The Dallas Cowboys rebounded from a week one disappointment to take care of business against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. It wasn't a pretty win on offense, save for the first and last drives of the game, but it was a solid win. The defense dominated the New York Giants' offensive line and left them searching for answers at 0-2.
As we get ready for week three let's go Inside The Numbers for yet another important matchup for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys lead the all-time series 10-8, but have dropped the last two matchups and are 2-3 over the last five games. They've split the last two meetings that played in Seattle, winning the most recent showdown in 2014, 30-23.
If you'll remember, that was the game that had us all believing that Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray led Cowboys team was for real. Sadly the 2014 season ended with the typical heartbreak that we've grown accustomed to in the last 23 years.
Let's take a look at how the matchup breaks down on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
The Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks offenses are eerily similar statistically as both rank near the bottom in most offensive categories.
As you can see from the chart above, there aren't many categories where either team ranks inside the top 20 in total offense.
- The Dallas Cowboys have a decided advantage along the offensive line. They rank inside the top 15 in rush yards, rush TDs, first downs on the ground, and have allowed fewer sacks than the Seattle Seahawks offensive line.
- The Dallas Cowboys have been excellent through two games at protecting the ball, having only turned it over one time; a fumble by Dak Prescott in the week one loss to the Carolina Panthers.
- Through two games, the Seahawks haven't rushed for a touchdown. They haven't run it often and haven't run it very well either. They only average 3.6 yards per attempt on the ground. Advantage Cowboys.
- While the Seahawks have thrown for more yards this season, Dak Prescott has a better completion percentage. For the year, Russell Wilson has completed only 59.4% of his passes. Dak Prescott is at 64.8%.
It's on the defensive side of the ball where the Dallas Cowboys have a decided advantage, particularly with their pass rush.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys have the statistical edge in nearly every category.
- The Dallas Cowboys rank in the top five in several defensive categories including points allowed, yards allowed, yards per play, passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns, net yards per attempt, first downs achieved through the air, and sacks.
- Where the Dallas Cowboys have struggled in the first two games, particularly against the Carolina Panthers was against the run. Though they're around the middle of the pack through two games, the Panthers were able to find a lot of success on the ground. The New York Giants, not so much.
- The Cowboys are going to have to continue to be careful with the football as the Seattle Seahawks continue to be one of the best at creating turnovers, especially in the secondary. They're tied for first in the NFL in interceptions with five. Through two games, Prescott hasn't thrown one, but he's had a couple potential interceptions dropped. This week he won't be so lucky.
What it All Means
The Dallas Cowboys are going to have a pretty difficult challenge corralling Seahawks' Quarterback Russell Wilson, but the numbers seem to point to it being a long afternoon for Wilson.
The Dallas Cowboys have a decided advantage when the Seahawks drop back to pass. The Seattle offensive line has allowed the most sacks in the NFL. Coming off allowing six sacks to the Chicago Bears, Wilson could be in for another long day against a Dallas Cowboys defense that is second in the NFL -- to the Chicago Bears -- in sacks with nine.
The Seattle Seahawks won't be able to rely on their running game to keep the Dallas Cowboys defense off balance as they only average 3.4 yards per carry through the first two weeks of the season. If the Cowboys can get an early lead this Sunday, it will present a really favorable opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys pass rush.
Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks Stat Notes
Dak Prescott hasn't thrown an interception this season. If we can make any observations through two games, it's that he seems to be back to his ball protection ways. As a rookie, Prescott only through four interceptions, before doubling that in 2017 with eight.
Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson are tied for 27th in the NFL in yards per route run. That number is better than Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings, Golden Tate of the Detroit Lions, Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers, and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Seattle Seahawks have had a hard time getting to opposing passers and have collected only three sacks through the NFL's first two weeks. Prescott was sacked six times in week one, but the Dallas Cowboys offensive line rebounded to keep the New York Giants from collecting a sack in week two.
Tyler Lockett has played 53 of his 79 offensive snaps from the slot, but has only been targeted four times, catching four passes for 85 yards. His 1.60 yards per route run out of the slot is tied for 11th in the NFL among players who have played at least 50% of their snaps from the slot.
Seattle Defensive Lineman Jarran Reed has been the best run defender for the Seahawks, earning a run stop on 13.5% of his run snaps. Overall he sits eighth in the NFL. Among defensive lineman with at least 50% of their team's run snaps, only Da'Shawn Hand and Linval Joseph have a better run stop percentage.
The amount of snaps per reception allowed by Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Anthony Brown. No player who has played at least 50% of his coverage snaps in the slot has a higher snap per reception rate in the NFL than Brown's 19.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson's been sacked on 36.4% of his drop backs this season. Only Ryan Tannehill and Nathan Peterman have a worse percentage of players who have dropped back to pass a minimum of 22 times this season.
Wilson's been under pressure on 38.8% of his drop backs, which is sixth in the NFL.
Dak Prescott's adjusted completion percentage, which "accounts for factors that hurt the passer's completion percentage but don't help show how accurate they are," per Pro Football Focus and "It accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the QB was hit while they threw the ball."
Prescott's adjusted completion percentage is ninth in the NFL. Better than notable names such as Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ben Roethlisberger, DeShaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Luck.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
As I look at the run down for this game and after watching these two teams in week two, I see this as a very favorable matchup for the Dallas Cowboys. Obviously, statistics don't tell the whole story, but the Dallas Cowboys biggest strength, it's pass rush, will be facing a Seattle team that is very weak along the offensive line.
This looks to be a Dallas Cowboys win that will improve them to 2-1.
Snap Judgments: Cowboys’ Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win
The Dallas Cowboys evened their record at 1-1 with their 20-13 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night. The Cowboys linebackers had a huge impact on the outcome of the game and it wasn't just the guys at the top of the depth chart either. America's Team got contributions from guys at the bottom of the depth chart.
What a difference a year makes.
The Dallas Cowboys worked hard this offseason to fix the linebacker depth that failed them in the 2017 season. When Sean Lee or Anthony Hitchens -- or both -- were sidelined with injuries, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, and the rest of the linebacker group struggled to keep up with opposing offenses. Specifically, in games against the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers the major depth inadequacy was revealed.
One year later, the Dallas Cowboys have a linebacker corp that allows them to go five deep with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Joe Thomas, and Damien Wilson all making considerable contributions for the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday nights victory.
Here are the final snap counts for the five linebackers that played a defensive snap against the Giants.
- Jaylon Smith - 57 (84%)
- Sean Lee - 41 (60)
- Leighton Vander Esch - 28 (48%)
- Damien Wilson - 17 (25%)
- Joe Thomas - 14 (21%)
Jaylon Smith led the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night with 10 tackles (seven solo) and played really well roaming sideline to sideline and making plays. He was tasked with the difficult assignment of containing New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley and allowed four catches for 41 yards in his coverage area. Smith was credited with three stops or plays that result in a "loss" for the offense (per Pro Football Focus). Smith led the team in snaps for the second straight week.
Sean Lee had a better game on Sunday night than he did in week one. PFF credited him with four stops, four tackles and an assist. Lee allowed two catches for 24 yards on two targets to Wayne Gallman and Evan Engram. Lee pulled his hamstring at the end of the game and was held out the rest of the way for precautionary reasons. He'll be an interesting name to watch on this week's injury report. Age catches up with everyone, but hopefully Sean Lee can stave it off for at least another season.
Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch saw a big bump in his snap count from week one (17) to week two (28). The rookie played well too. As many players seemed to struggle with tackling Saquon Barkley, Vander Esch was able to bring down the number two overall pick on several occasions. Vander Esch had seven solo tackles in his second career game.
Damien Wilson was the surprise player of the night. He had three tackles on the night, including one on special teams, a sack, and a forced fumble. Though his time on the field might have been short, his impact was certainly felt. His forced fumble led to a field goal that gave the Dallas Cowboys a 13-0 nothing lead. Wilson was also credited with two stops on the night.
Joe Thomas has been a good player for the team off the bench as well. Though he only had one tackle, it was good enough to be credited with a stop. He's a player that can play both the WILL and MIKE linebacker spots. As the fourth or fifth linebacker on the depth chart, Thomas is a great role player.
Other Snap Count Notes
- Taco Charlton may not have started, but he played 84% of the team's defensive snaps. That number is up from 73% in week one. Charlton had a sack, a hit, and a hurry as well as three stops on the night.
- Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns led the wide receiver group in snap percentage from week one to week two. The big difference at wide receiver was seeing Michael Gallup take the third most snaps on offense instead of Deonte Thompson. Thompson still had the bigger impact with four catches for 33 yards on five targets including two for first downs.
- Geoff Swaim was the far and away leader at tight end in snaps with a 94% snap count. Only the offensive line and Dak Prescott had more snaps on the night than Swaim. He's the TE1 for the team, though he didn't have an impact in the passing game.
- Rico Gathers only played five snaps, but there was concerted effort to get him the ball as he had two targets in his five snaps. He may not have come away with a catch, but it's a start.
- Jourdan Lewis continues to be the odd man out on defense. He only played one snap.
- Dorance Armstrong saw a snap jump from week one to week two going from 28% of the defensive snaps to 40% of the snaps. He had two hurries and an assisted tackle.
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