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Takeaways From Cowboys @ Chargers Week 1 Preseason Matchup

Bryson Treece



Cowboys Blog - Takeaways From Cowboys @ Chargers Week 1 Preseason Matchup

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

Cowboys Blog - Takeaways From Cowboys @ Chargers Week 1 Preseason Matchup 3The 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.

Cowboys Blog - Takeaways From Cowboys @ Chargers Week 1 Preseason Matchup 1

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dustin Vaughan (10) is sacked by San Diego Chargers linebacker Cordarro Law during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

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.

Cowboys Blog - Takeaways From Cowboys @ Chargers Week 1 Preseason Matchup 4Driving The Bus

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

Cowboys Blog - Takeaways From Cowboys @ Chargers Week 1 Preseason Matchup 2Byron 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.

Notable Absences

Among the players who did not see a snap during week 1 were:

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.

Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady



Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.

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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez



Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" 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!

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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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