By Saturday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys will have to trim their roster down from 75 players to 53, in preparations for the 2016 regular season opener at home against the New York Giants.
Based on what we saw tonight, in the team's preseason finale loss to the Texans, Dallas will have some difficult decisions to make in shaping this roster.
In what is typically the least-watchable of preseason games, Jameill Showers played every offensive snap for the Cowboys. Behind his typical backup offensive line, Showers was average-at-best, although him and rookie RB Darius Jackson were responsible for putting the team ahead early.
After a David Irving forced fumble was recovered by Jeff Heath, Showers was able to capitalize on the field position by marching down the field and dumping a screen pass to Jackson on the final play.
Darius, who finds himself in an incredibly crowded backfield, did the rest of the work by sprinting to the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
Initially, the Cowboys were able to hold onto their lead, as Deji Olatoye - who was tested throughout the game with his fair share of struggles - broke up a pass to end a Houston drive.
The Cowboys' defense then came up with a red zone stop, as they held Brandon Weeden out of the end zone in his first action of the night. Mike McAdoo sacked Weeden on fourth down to preserve the Cowboys 7-0 lead.
Tom Savage would come back in at QB for Houston, and quickly tie the game following a Showers lost fumble. Starting at the Cowboys' 19 yard line, Dallas once again forced a fourth and goal situation before Akeem Hunt rushed in from three yards out for the score.
Brandon Weeden would return before the end of the half, and take advantage of a Cowboys defense that was being put in tough situations throughout the night with the offense failing to sustain drives. Working against Olatoye, Keith Mumphery was able to get open and catch a pass in stride from Weeden for a 64 yard touchdown.
Trailing 14-7, the Cowboys' coaching staff got a good look at Jameill Showers in a true two minute drill before the half. As has been in the case in the team's first three preseason games with Dak Prescott in at QB, Showers was able to move the offense into range for a Dan Bailey 52 yard field goal.
The Cowboys entered the locker room trailing by just four points at 14-10, but Houston was able to regain control of the game in the second half to seal the win.
Savage returned under center to start the third quarter, and immediately led a long Texans' touchdown drive to increase the lead to 21-10. Akeem Hunt found the painted area once again on fourth down, this time with a receiving touchdown.
In need of a spark that the offense just couldn't provide, sixth round rookie defensive back Anthony Brown intercepted a Weeden pass on the next Texans' possession and sprinted down the sideline for a pick six.
It was an electrifying play for the promising rookie, who was already considered a lock for the final 53 man roster, which is impressive in its own right for a player selected 189th overall. The play was also significant because it allowed the Cowboys to see more of Showers and the offense in a close game situation.
Unfortunately, 21-17 would be as close as they got. Darius Jackson failed to get anything going on the ground, forcing Showers into some desperate situations. Two turnovers on downs book-ended an Antonio Allen interception return for a touchdown, as the Texans came into AT&T Stadium and defeated the Cowboys 28-17.
Showers finished his night 10 of 25 for 91 yards, throwing the one touchdown to Jackson while also throwing a pick six out of his own end zone. Rico Gathers made his first reception in the silver and blue, and looked pretty dominant doing so, as he kept his balance going over a Houston defender for extra yards after the catch.
Defensively, linebackers Deon King and Derek Akunne showed up in a big way, as King amassed 11 tackles while Akunne added 10 of his own. Both players could be fighting for one spot on the team's practice squad. Kavon Frazier continued to show some improved range at safety, while delivering some big hits in the process. His performance over this preseason could have the Cowboys seriously considering moving on from J.J. Wilcox, in order to go longer at other positions while saving cap room in the process.
As always, Inside The Star will have you updated leading all the way up to the Dallas Cowboys much anticipated regular season opener on September 11th. Regular season football is upon us, the New York Giants are coming to town, and Cowboys Nation is ready to go!
Share your thoughts on anything related to this game - or the entirety of the Cowboys' preseason - by commenting below, tweeting me @ShoreSportsNJ, or emailing Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.
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.
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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.
Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott’s Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark
When the Dallas Cowboys took the field last Sunday against the New York Giants, they did so very differently than last week, starting with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to connect with WR Tavon Austin in the third play of the game. Although there are still many things this team must continue to work on, they looked like a very improved unit in week 2.
Here are my main takeaways from the Dallas Cowboys' first win of the year. Let me know what yours are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL and let's talk football!
Cowboys' Secondary Capable of Holding Top WR
If there was one player who could've changed the outcome for the New York Giants, it was WR Odell Beckham Jr. Widely recognized as one of the best wideouts in the nation, Beckham was the biggest challenge the cornerbacks, led by Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie, have had in the first two weeks.
None of them followed Beckham all over the field, each stayed on their side of the field and still managed to limit him to four receptions for 51 yards in nine targets. The Giant's offense is not known for being one of the best in the league, but it's the fact that this defense was able to limit exactly the player they needed to. They did their job.
Also, props to the defensive line for keeping the pressure on Eli Manning.
Taco Charlton Was Dominant VS Nate Solder
With Randy Gregory ruled out for the game, Taco Charlton had a golden opportunity to stay on the field for more snaps. He took advantage of this, as he finished the night with three tackles, one for a loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Charlton still has a long way to go in order to prove he was worthy of a first round pick, but we can't deny he hasn't stopped developing. It will be interesting to see how he does now that Gregory is expected to return for week 3.
Dak Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Needed Spark
One of the things I liked the most about the Cowboys' game versus the Giants was how Dak Prescott was utilized. Criticized after a poor performance in Carolina, Prescott came out with a chip on his shoulder.
We've been talking a lot about how Scott Linehan must play Prescott to his strengths and that's precisely what he did by letting Dak run for 45 yards in seven carries. It's completely understandable if the Cowboys don't want to run him as much as the Panthers do with Cam Newton, but the truth is, if #4 hurts defenses with his leg, Ezekiel Elliott won't receiver all of the defense's attention.
Also, shoutout to how they used Tavon Austin. With Elliott, Prescott and Austin being a threat on option plays, this offense could take a step on the right direction.
Rico Gathers Will Be Used
The Cowboys' Rico Gathers project is moving in the right direction. The 2016 sixth-round pick was active for the first time in his career last Sunday. The first question that popped into our heads was whether or not he'd be actually used in the game. He was.
He even managed to get open in the end zone in a play that could've been TD but Prescott didn't throw a good pass. However, the mere fact that he was able to get open and that the coaches actually put him on the field told us a lot about his future. Cowboys Nation should be excited to see him involved.
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