After a disappointing week one, the Dallas Cowboys now set their sights on the New York Giants who come to town looking to rebound themselves from a loss in week one to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though both teams are coming into this game 0-1, the New York Giants have a lot more to feel good about heading into the week two matchup than the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys' offense in particular really struggled against a strong Carolina Panthers pass rush that kept them out of sync all afternoon.
For the Dallas Cowboys to come away victors they're going to need several guys rebound in week two. Here are three that need bounce back games for the Dallas Cowboys to be able to thrive Sunday night against their division rivals.
1. Dak Prescott, Quarterback
I don't even really need to throw a lot of stats at you to convince you that Dak Prescott was average to below average last Sunday. However, if you aren't sure he wasn't good, here are a few stats for you.
- While Dak Prescott completed 65% of his passes on Sunday, his yards per attempt was 5.9. That ranks 24th in the NFL after one week of football.
- Pro Football Focus, who charts every game in the NFL and attributes pressures and sacks to the responsible player, put two sacks and five of the teams 14 pressures on Dak Prescott. He was also responsible for two penalties as well.
- Dak Prescott held the ball an average of 3.1 seconds per pass attempt. That was the fourth worst time to attempt in the NFL, according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats.
- Again, per Next Gen Stats, Prescott on average through the ball 2.4 yards short of the first down marker. Only 11 quarterbacks in the NFL had a worse average.
Dak Prescott needs to make quicker decisions and get the ball out of his hands. He needs to get a bit more aggressive to force teams to back off. Teams are expecting him to throw short and hope for yards after the catch. If the Dallas Cowboys want to run the football, then Prescott is going to need to prove that he can throw further than ten yards down field on a regular basis.
You can find more numbers from Dak Prescott's week one in this week's Inside The Numbers.
2. La'el Collins, Right Tackle
The offense as a whole struggled on Sunday, the offensive line included. La'el Collins was credited with four pressures, three hurries, a sack, and two penalties to the right tackle. That's not good at all.
While Collins may have struggled in pass protection, he had a really good game run blocking.
Again, according to PFF, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 5.85 yards per carry -- seven carries for 41 yards --when running behind the right tackle or to the right edge. Any other direction, Elliott only averaged 4.75 yards per carry.
Elliott's only carry for greater than 10 yards came behind Collins as well as his touchdown. The only time the team was able to rush for a first down was when they went to the right.
I only point that out to say that it wasn't all bad from Collins, but he needs to be better in pass protection. Dak Prescott didn't seem comfortable in the pocket on Sunday and to beat a New York Giants team that is down Olivier Vernon, Prescott is going to need to be kept clean.
Inside The Star Staff Writer Kevin Brady took a look at the six sacks from Sunday in a film review that you'll want to catch up on.
3. Sean Lee, Linebacker
It feels really odd putting Sean Lee's name on a "need for a bounce back game" list, but that's where we stand after week one.
Sean Lee did not have a good game on Sunday. Pro Football Focus credited Lee with four missed tackles while only having a solo tackle and two assisted tackles.
That's not going to cut it.
For many years Sean Lee has been the leader and best player on the defense. He's been an All-Pro player when he's been on the field, but in week one in Carolina, Lee was not very good. Hopefully it's a symptom of practicing very little in training camp and playing very little in the preseason and not an age-related decline in play.
The Dallas Cowboys need Sean Lee to play well and lead this team. His ability to go sideline-to-sideline and create negative plays in the run game gives a huge boost to the defense. Lee needs to rebound this week and reassert himself as one of the better linebackers in the NFL. With Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram coming to town, he'll have his work cut out for him.
Rust or Age? See what Inside The Star Staff Writer Brian Martin had to say about Lee's performance.
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Which players do you think need a bounce back game for the Dallas Cowboys to come out victorious against the New York Giants?
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season
I know we are all still little disappointed with the way the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season ended, but if we are completely honest with ourselves it ended a lot better than we initially thought it would. With the season officially over, it's time to start the evaluation process to see what went wrong and what right this past year.
I don't know about you, but I started the evaluation process a lot earlier this year than I have in years past. That is why today I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I believe had a fantastic 2018 season and five that unfortunately didn't quite live up to expectations.
Before we get started, I want to let you know that I tried to stray from pointing out the obvious, especially in the stud category. Instead I went with players who kind of came out of nowhere to have a really good season. I thought that would make it a little more enjoyable instead of pointing out the obvious. I hope you enjoy.
✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Studs ✭
CB, Byron Jones
Byron Jones completely turned around his career this season with the Dallas Cowboys after being moved from safety to cornerback, his more natural position. Many had him pegged as a first-round bust, but he definitely quieted his critics by making his first Pro Bowl and becoming a Second-team All-Pro. I would say that qualifies as stud status.
The Predator and Wolf Hunter
You can't really mention one and leave out the other, which is why you're getting a two-for-one special here with Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. This dynamic duo arguably played like the best LBs in the league, although it's Vander Esch who has received the majority of the attention and got the Pro Bowl not as a replacement. Both definitely had Pro Bowl caliber seasons and that alone speaks volumes to how they played in 2018.
C, Joe Looney
No one could've possibly predicted the kind of season Dallas Cowboys backup Guard/Center Joe Looney would have in 2018 after replacing Travis Frederick in the starting lineup. He became somewhat of an afterthought this past season, which is pretty impressive in itself considering he was replacing one of the best centers in the league. What's even more impressive is the fact he played every single snap on offense. No other Cowboys player accomplished that feat on either side of the ball.
DE, Randy Gregory
You may disagree with me here, but the way Randy Gregory played in the second half of the 2018 season earned him stud status in my opinion. If he would've played that way for the entire year he would've joined DeMarcus Lawrence with double digit quarterback sacks. His ability to turn his speed into power gave opposing left tackles fits. He ended up being among the best at pressuring the QB in the latter part of the season.
DT, Antwaun Woods
Antwaun Woods was viewed as nothing more than a camp body when the Dallas Cowboys picked him up in the offseason after being released by the Tennessee Titans, but it's not always where you start it's where you finish. He went on to earn the starting gig at the 1-tech or nose tackle this past season and was largely responsible for the success Dallas had at shutting down opposing offenses rushing attacks. Unfortunately, as well as he played all season it will probably be forgotten after the way the LA Rams completely dominated Woods and the rest of the Cowboys DL in the playoffs.
✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Duds ✭
LB, Sean Lee
The Dallas Cowboys wisely drafted Leighton Vander Esch as insurance if Sean Lee couldn't remain healthy in 2018, and thank the heavens they did. Vander Esch was supposed to be Lee's backup this season, but it ended up being the other way around after #50 once again missed quite a bit of the year with injuries. It looks like the torch has already been passed, making Sean Lee's future in Dallas a mystery moving forward.
DT, David Irving
Remember last offseason when the Dallas Cowboys decided to place just a second-round tender on David Irving and we were worried some other team would snatch him up? Yeah, well it looks as if the Cowboys are the ones who paid too much to keep him around because did basically nothing in 2018 despite all the high expectations we all had for him. After he sustained a high ankle sprain he pretty much went M.I.A. and no one really knows what the heck is going on or what his future holds.
WR, Allen Hurns
The Dallas Cowboys signed Allen Hurns this past offseason to help replace some of the lost production in the passing game after they decided to release Dez Bryant. Unfortunately, he never found his footing in Dallas and finished the year with an unimpressive stat line of 20 receptions for 295 receiving yards and two touchdowns. To add insult to injury (pun intended), his gruesome leg injury might be the only thing we remember about his 2018 season.
S, Jeff Heath
I'm actually a fan of Jeff Heath's, but he didn't particularly play very well this season. He ended up grading out as one of the worst tackling safeties in the NFL this past season. I don't know if it was some kind of fluke or what, but the Dallas Cowboys will surely be looking to upgrade the safety position this offseason either through free agency or the draft, perhaps both. Regardless, his days in the starting lineup may be all but over.
RB/WR, Tavon Austin
There were a lot of high expectations for Tavon Austin when the Dallas Cowboys added him via trade with the Los Angeles Rams. Austin was supposed to provide a different dynamic to the Cowboys offense and help improve their return game as well. Unfortunately a groin injury pretty much wiped out the majority of his season, but even when he was on the field he wasn't as impactful as we'd all hoped. He did show a few flashes of his talent, but for me it wasn't enough.
Report: Antwaun Woods Played with Torn Labrum in Loss to Rams
Late last night, Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network reported yesterday that Antwaun Woods suffered a torn labrum in the second quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams and proceeded to play with the injury for the rest of the game.
Cowboys DT Antwaun Woods tore his labrum during the second quarter of the #Rams game and had surgery today to repair it, source said. He played the rest of the game with the ailment. One of Dallas' young talents on the mend.
Woods is a tough player, but there's no way that it didn't affect his play. The labrum is the cartilage in the socket of your shoulder joint. It acts to protect the bones from rubbing together and allows a smooth surface for the shoulder to rotate and extend. The labrum also serves as the location where the tendons and muscles of the rotator cuff attach.
A torn labrum will effect the range of motion and will be painful to use when attempting to perform range of motion. Also, any blows to the shoulder, which is always for a defensive tackle will be painful as well, and it will limit his play strength.
Antwaun Woods responded to Rapoport's report with confirmation of the injury and surgery.
Woods was a highlight of training camp and a standout this season. His play at the 1-technique defensive tackle position helped the Dallas Cowboys become a top 10 rushing defense and gave the Cowboys something they've struggled to find for years; a penetrating 1-technique defensive tackle.
Woods finished the season with 34 total tackles (15 solo), two tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits according to Pro Football Reference. He also had 16 stops, which Pro Football Focus defines as a play that resulted in a loss for the offense, which was second on the team at defensive tackle to Tyrone Crawford.
Things are looking up for Woods as he'll likely be back with the Cowboys in 2019 and manning the nose tackle position for a defense that is on the rise in the NFL. Injuries are never a good thing, but the Cowboys and Cowboys Nation just learned how tough Antwaun Woods is and how much he's willing to give for his teammates.
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