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The Cowboys Defense Is Close, And We Should Be Excited

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys en Español: Construyendo una Defensiva de Campeonato en Dallas

The second half of the 2017 season has left much of Cowboys Nation questioning just how good this roster actually is. Fans are now wondering very loudly if Dak Prescott really is the quarterback of the future, if Scott Linehan deserves to still be employed, and if there is enough talent in the receiving corps to threaten opposing defenses.

And, for the most part, rightfully so.

The Cowboys faltered weekly offensively during Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, and things didn't get better when he did return against Seattle. While I still sit firmly on the Dak Prescott bandwagon, 2018 remains a "prove-it" year for much of the offensive personnel and coaching staff.

But for the first time in a long time, we enter a new season with hope on the other side of the ball. For years, it has been the defense which has "failed" great Cowboys offenses. During the 8-8 years we often saw heroics from Tony Romo and the offense, only for the opposing team to have one last possession to win the game.

For far too long the Cowboys secondary has been average at best, their linebackers have been inconsistent (besides Sean Lee), and their pass rush has been nearly nonexistent. But while the offense faltered at the end of 2017, the defense shined.

And this defense, with the right development and decisions, is very close to being at the top of the league.

Of course there is the pass rush. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence the Cowboys defensive line was able to cause disruption all throughout the 2017 season, and with David Irving returning healthy and available things should be the same this season. Taco Charlton has another year of work under his belt as well, and if Randy Gregory can get reinstated this defensive line is suddenly a scary unit for opposing offenses.

In the back end the Cowboys have completely revamped their roster, and now look to begin to take their final form. By hiring former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, the Cowboys are beginning to fit their players to their coaches to create a long and athletic secondary group.

Sunday Morning Wishlist: DAL Cowboys @ NY Giants 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones could play the roles of 2013 Seattle cornerbacks in a movie about their Super Bowl run, and hopefully they can emulate their play style on the actual field as well. Jourdan Lewis possesses the versatility to play in the slot and on the outside, Xavier Woods has a chance to be this team's future free safety, and both Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier made strides in 2017.

While the Cowboys were shoring up the two most important position groups on a defense over the past few years, they've also made an attempt to turnover their linebacker group as well. Sean Lee remains the glue that holds the unit together, but the Cowboys have made an effort to improve their linebackers this offseason.

Of course, they drafted Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 draft, but Jaylon Smith's development will be vital to their success as well. Both of these players are fast, athletic, and rangy when at their best, giving the Cowboys some flexibility in their front seven.

The Cowboys made smart, cost-efficient moves to improve their offense this offseason, and I am certainly hopeful in the development of quarterback Dak Prescott.

But for the first time in a long time, when Cowboys fans look for a reason to be excited about the upcoming season, they may want to look at their defense first. Because the front office is in the middle of building a monster unit.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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4 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    While i am excited to see this defense Im still concerned about Jeff Heath being a starting safety for this team. While he is serviceable at times i do believe he only starts for the cowboys, he wouldn’t start on any other team in this league. I believe once Richard sees Tyree Robinson or one of these other UDFA’s in action, Jeff Heath will become a back up where he should be

    • Tommy Davis

      I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Diggs on Jeff Heath, he has been a sore spot on the Cowboys defense for way too long, it’s like I’ve been saying, Dallas has a problem with playing the most talented. There is no way Heath should have been playing ahead of Xavier Woods who has better cover and tackling skills than Heath. The cornerbacks are left on an island alone because Heath can’t get over to help, heck he can’t even cover the middle of the field.

  • Chuck Wright

    I see the biggest needs in the 2019 draft as LB, FS, 1 Tech and WR.

    Yes WR, Cole and T Will at the end of their run, Hurns will be on the last year of his deal.

    But this D on the verge of being special. Need to find Lee’s replacement, a top flight FS to round out the secondary and a legit 1 Tech which remains the most glaring hole on the D.

  • Tommy Davis

    Byron Jones could not cover the tight ends well, he certainly won’t be able to cover wide receivers, that experiment failed in his rookie year. Awuzie is the Cowboys most physical corner but his coverage skills are suspect. He tries to make of for his lack of coverage skills by attempting to dislodge the ball after the catch, a tactic that does not often work in the NFL. The best cover corner on the team is Jourdan Lewis by far, coach Richard says Lewis is a fantastic corner. Good QB’s will take advantage of the lack of cover skills of Brown, Jones, and Awuzie. You can get by with Awuzie if you employ a safety with excellent coverage ability. As far as the offense, read the latest bleacher report article on Dak Prescott. He ranks better by far than Brees, Favre ,Manning, and all of Dallas’s quarterbacks during their first 2 years in the league. His stats only suffered during the final 8 game span when several key components were missing, left guard, left tackle, resulting in 14 sacks and countless hurries from pressure coming from the left side of the line. Add playing without Zeke and the inability of the wide receivers to create space results in the offense struggling. No QB, Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady included would look good under those circumstances.

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Gurley Leaps Ezekiel Elliott on NFL Rushing Leaderboard

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley

After several weeks as the NFL's rushing leader, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been bumped to second place. With a 208-yard explosion last week against the Broncos, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams has leaped Zeke on the leaderboard.

Elliott was no slouch himself in Week 6, putting up 106 yards on the vaunted Jaguars defense. But Gurley nearly doubled that in Denver, and now leads Zeke by 37 yards.

Here are the current NFL rushing leaders, :

  1. Todd Gurley, Rams - 623 yards
  2. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys - 586 yards
  3. Melvin Gordon, Chargers - 466 yards
  4. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs - 456 yards
  5. James Conner, Steelers - 453 yards
  6. Saquon Barkley, Giants - yards
  7. Matt Breida, 49ers - 430 yards
  8. Isaiah Crowell, Jets - 430 yards
  9. Sony Michel, Patriots - 400 yards

It's still early in 2018, but it's already starting to look like a two-horse race for the rushing title. And it's no surprise that those two would be Elliott and Gurley.

Last year, Zeke and Todd were the top two in the NFL for yards-per-game. Gurley missed one game that year and finished second in total yards behind Kareem Hunt. Elliott was held back by his suspension.

Week 7 could allow Elliott to retake the lead. He'll see a Washington defense that he ran for 150 yards on last season in a single game. However, they are currently sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.

Gurley gets a slightly softer opponent in the 49ers defense, who are just 13th in run defense. Both games will be on the road.

While these stats certainly aren't as important as wins and losses, they do matter to the players. Rushing titles come back into the conversation when Hall of Fame credentials are being considered.

If things stay at their current pace for Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley, we may be tracking this race all the way through the end of the regular season.



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Player News

Michael Gallup Showing Signs of a Breakout

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

We're only six games into the career of Rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup who was selected 81st overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. It's been a slow start to his career, mostly because of usage. On Sunday, he took a step toward what many thought he could be for the Cowboys when he was drafted; Wide receiver one.

The numbers, one reception on two targets for 27 yards, may not indicate a breakout is coming, but if you look at the two targets he saw and the quality of the corner he faced, they're more impressive.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Look at this catch by #Cowboys rookie WR Michael Gallup https://t.co/lD1xJ2WemD

On the Dallas Cowboys first drive of the day, Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott looked Michael Gallup's way down the left sideline and hit him on a nice back shoulder fade that looked an awful lot like a Dez Bryant-like contested catch. It was a key play on 3rd-and-9 to get the Dallas Cowboys into Jacksonville territory on a drive that led to a Brett Maher field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Later in the game with the Cowboys driving to score a touchdown, Gallup made a tremendous catch when he got perfect depth behind All-Pro Corner Back A.J. Bouye and in front of the safety help. It looked to be an impressive touchdown catch just inside the end zone, but was overturned on replay. On review, Gallup wasn't able to get his second foot down after he made contact with the defender. Though the touchdown didn't stand, it was an impressive effort for Michael Gallup.

Jordan Schultz on Twitter

Michael Gallup with a near circus catch to ALMOST haul in his first NFL TD. Ruled incomplete. #cowboys #jags @CSUFootball https://t.co/SePSc3n1Yp

Michael Gallup led the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group in snaps (81% of the offensive snaps) on Sunday, and according to Mike Clay from ESPN, he led the Dallas Cowboys in routes run as well. Both of Gallup's targets came against Bouye, showing an ability to beat one of the best corners in the NFL.

Mike Clay on Twitter

Michael Gallup paced the Cowboys in pass routes (25) for the first time in his career on Sunday.

As Michael Gallup sees more opportunities to play, his opportunities to make plays are going to continue to grow. With news coming down that Tavon Austin is unlikely to play for several weeks because of a groin injury, more snaps are opening up at the wide receiver position. Tavon played 18 snaps before getting injured on Sunday, so there will be increased opportunities for Gallup moving forward.

Gallup's only seen about 3 targets a game, but with the increased snaps he saw in week six and the potential for even more with Austin coming, the opportunities should grow. As he continues to come down with impressive catches like he did on Sunday (even if only one of them counted), it's going to increase Dak Prescott's and the coaching staff's level of trust in the rookie.

It's safe to say that more big time catches are coming for Michael Gallup and a breakout is coming sooner than later.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cole Beasley is Your Interim WR1

Mauricio Rodriguez

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As Preseason Begins, Does Prescott Have a "Go-To" Receiver After All?

Watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7 was undoubtedly fun for Cowboys Nation. There were not many positive expectations for the Cowboys heading into this game but both the defense and offense put on impressive performances at home in an attempt to remain serious contenders within the NFC East.

We learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday as they beat one of the top defenses in the NFL. Let's talk about in this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

Cole Beasley Is Your Interim WR1

The Cowboys have yet to find their #1 wide receiver, but Cole Beasley is making a serious statement looking like the most reliable target in Dallas. Being 5'8 and a slot receiver doesn't really help Beasley's case to be the #1 guy, but he's making plays.

Last Sunday, he was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one catch. The other player with more than one reception was Geoff Swaim, who only got his hands on the ball twice. Beasley finished the day with nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdown catches. The Cowboys need other WRs to step up but in the meantime, let Beasley put the sauce on opposing defenses. Hopefully he continues to hurt defenses like he did versus the Jaguars' feared secondary.

The team still needs a guy who can be a consistent threat on the outside, though. Third-round rookie Michael Gallup could develop into that, but he isn't there yet. We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, it's all Beasley.

Bright Future for the Defensive Line

Blake Bortles was sacked three times by the so-called "Hot Boyz" last weekend. To be quite honest, the future for this defensive line looks brightest than it ever has. The return of Maliek Collins and David Irving to the field were desperately needed for this defense to take the next step. Collins and Irving were somewhat limited, but their snap counts will surely increase as the season continues.

John Owning on Twitter

A lot of little details went into this sack from Maliek Collins. From his alignment pre-snap to his timing on the spin, it was a beautiful display of rushing the passer by @SavageSevv. https://t.co/CYcfLH6AfB

Randy Gregory also got limited snaps versus the Jaguars, but he was able to make an impact either way. He finished the day with one sack, two hits and one QB hurry. I can't wait until these guys' snaps increase. This should be a very scary unit for opposing quarterbacks.

Dak Prescott's Stats Don't Reflect His Performance

The Jaguars are the best defense this team has faced and yet it's been the offense's best performance. Dak Prescott's passing stats may not look great, but his play was. Even though he failed to cross the 200 yard mark on the air, he rushed for 82 yards and kept Jacksonville's defense honest. Dak has faced a lot of criticism this year and will likely continue to do so.

Even still, we've seen him ball out on various occasions now. Dak can play. He may not be an elite passer, in fact he's far from being that, but he can make this offense work if they play to his strengths.

We've heard players talk about "turning the corner" in Dallas. Cowboys Nation should hope that is the case. What's more frustrating than watching an offense being unable to move the chains and score touchdowns, is knowing they could do it with a better execution and play-calling. Thanks to players like Dak, Ezekiel Elliott and Cole Beasley, there's a silver lining for the Cowboys' offense.

Report: Jason Garrett "Not Going Anywhere" with Possible Extension Coming Soon

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Inconsistency is the Problem for Cowboys

Simply put, this is not the team we had witnessed in the first five weeks of the season. Even in the two prior wins this year, the Dallas Cowboys had not looked dominant at all. Specifically the offense. They hadn't faced a defense as tough as the Jaguars', but they were able to drop 40 on them. Now granted, they did it with the help of the defense, but still. We hadn't seen this version of the Cowboys.

Even with a 40-7 win over the Jaguars, it is tough to imagine Dallas will keep this up as the season continues. Hopefully, they do and I'm wrong about this. They need to be more consistent if they want to end up surprising the NFC East and walk away with the division title.

Although they got the big win, they still left points on the field and fail to execute for touchdowns in the second half. Even when the defense forced turnovers. In close games, this cost you wins in the NFL. The Cowboys can't afford to lose many more games, even in a weak division.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cole Beasley is Your Interim WR1" 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!



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