The Cowboys and Vikings are two teams going in totally different directions.
In Dallas, excitement could not be higher as the Cowboys come into Thursdays Night's pivotal match up on a 10 game winning streak. In Minnesota, however, the opposite is true.
After a 5-0 start made the Vikings look like the top team in the NFC, their offense has sputtered, injuries have piled up, and they have fallen to just 6-5. Two of those five losses have come at the hands of the current leaders of the NFC North, the Detroit Lions, all but closing Minnesota's division title hopes.
They are still fighting, however, and have to be looking at this Cowboys defense as a chance to get back on track. Earlier this week rookie receiver Laquon Treadwell said that the Vikings will look to open up their passing game more on Thursday, and have been working on their downfield attack.
Watch out Dallas! Laquon Treadwell says "We're going to have a chance to make plays down the field. We've been testing the waters this week
Treadwell hasn't seen much action this year, and hasn't been impressive when he has had chances. But the Vikings do still possess two dangerous vertical threats in wide-out Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Even with all-world running back Adrian Peterson still watching from the sidelines, fill-in backs Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon are still legit players which can make the Minnesota offense dangerous.
Still, their offense has been less-than-average, in large part due to a banged-up offensive line and, well, Sam Bradford. Bradford is 23rd in the league in Yards Per Attempt at just 6.43, while being sacked the 7th most times at 26. For comparison, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (a rookie!) is 3rd in YPA at 8.34 and 28th in sacks with only 15.
Regardless of these poor passing game numbers, the Vikings are still looking at the Cowboys defense as their chance to turn things around.
While the defense has been better than expected, the winning streak has certainly masked some serious issues.
Not the least of which is the weak, and I mean weak, pass rush. The Cowboys pass rush is so nonexistent that they don't have a single player in the top 60 of the NFL in sacks. So even though the Vikings offensive line is bad, they have to feel like they can finally give Bradford significant time to throw this week.
Of course, on the Dallas side of things, they have to be hoping this is the week that guys like DeMarcus Lawrence finally hit their stride, and feast on weaker competition. But if it didn't happen against the Eagles' Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and it didn't happen against Washington's backup tackle Ty Nsekhe, then I am not confident it will finally happen this week.
One of the main reasons the Cowboys defense has been able to overcome their lack of a pass rush, besides the offense's efficiency, is their prolific secondary. Morris Claiborne had emerged as the team's best corner, Brandon Carr has played his best football since joining the Cowboys, Byron Jones and Barry Church have been solid safeties, and Anthony Brown has impressed at every turn.
But then, injuries happened. And while JJ Wilcox has been better than expected, he has no been nowhere near the level of a Barry Church. And while Orlando Scandrick is improving week by week, he hasn't been as good as Morris Claiborne. Luckily, the Cowboys expect to get Church back for Thursday, but how good can we expect him to be in his first game back from injury?
Getting Church back will help, but this is still a defense which has given up passing yard totals of 449 and 408 in two of their last three games. What Dallas does have in their favor, however, is that Bradford is not as good a player as Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins are, and outside of Stefon Diggs, the Vikings don't possess the weapons which the Steelers and Redskins do.
All in all, I expect the Cowboys to win this game. They are the better team, despite any of the deficiencies discussed in this piece. That doesn't mean they won't have their hands full, however, even though the Vikings appear to be sliding down the NFC standings.
REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Eric Berry Tuesday
According to Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys have a meeting scheduled to visit with Free Agent Safety Eric Berry Tuesday at The Star.
Source: Former #Chiefs S and new free agent Eric Berry is visiting the #Cowboys on Tuesday. His first visit. They have a need there...
Eric Berry has spent his entire career with the Kansas City Chiefs after they drafted him fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. After signing Earl Thomas last week, the Chiefs decided to part ways with their former All-Pro Safety.
Berry, 30 is an intriguing free agent for the Dallas Cowboys. When healthy, he is arguably one of the best safeties in the league. Unfortunately, injuries have kept him off the field these last few seasons causing him to only start in only three games since 2016.
This is a move many of us expected to happen after the Cowboys decided not to get into a bidding war for Earl Thomas, a player linked to Dallas for over a year now. In Berry, Cowboys Nation would be getting a similar player with the same kind of red flags. Both Thomas and Berry have to be approached with caution due to their injury history the past few years.
Depending on his asking price, Eric Berry absolutely makes sense for the Dallas Cowboys. He would be an upgrade over Jeff Heath and would pair well with the Cowboys up-and-coming three-year safety Xavier Woods.
This is still just a visit, so we should probably get our hopes up that a signing is imminent. But, I think we can all agree Eric Berry is exactly the "right kind of guy" Jason Garrett is always preaching about. He's a cancer survivor, five-time Pro Bowler, and All-Pro player. What's not to like!?
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Signed DE Kerry Hyder
The Dallas Cowboys added more defensive line help today after signing former Detroit Lions Defensive End Kerry Hyder.
Going back to Texas! #CowboysNation
Hyder, 27 originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech with the New York Jets in 2014. He spent a year in New York before signing a future/reserve contract with the Detroit Lions in January 2015.
He had a breakout eight-sack year with the Lions in 2016, but tore his Achilles in 2017 causing him to miss the entire season. In 2018 he had just one quarterback sack after Detroit switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Overall, this is a good depth signing by the Dallas Cowboys. Kerry Hyder has starting potential, but shouldn't keep the Cowboys from upgrading the position further through either another free agent signing for the draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap
It's been just a week since NFL free agents could begin negotiating with other teams, but it feels like a lifetime for anxious Cowboys fans. Dallas' seemingly passive approach to 2019 free agency has left many disappointed. Still, there are some moves to recap.
As has become their strategy in recent years, the Cowboys have focused on filling up their depth chart and trying to avoid any glaring holes prior to next month's draft. They've re-signed several backups and added at least one likely rotation player.
It's still far too early to judge Dallas' activity. Comparing the 2019 roster to last year will depend heavily on the draft, growth from current players, and other factors. But with the "second wave" of free agency upon us, it's a good time to look at who's come, gone, and stuck around so far.
- TE Jason Witten (unretired)
- TE Codey McElroy (Rams)
- DT Christian Covington (Texans)
The biggest addition so far this offseason wasn't even a free agent, at least not in the purest sense of the term. Jason Witten's surprising return from retirement helped shore up one of Dallas' biggest needs, though it may not preclude them from drafting a tight end high in April.
Also at tight end, Dallas signed developmental project Codey McElroy. His experience is in baseball and basketball, having played just one year of college football. But at 6'6'" and 255 lbs., and having spent last year working with the Rams, the Cowboys must see something they're intrigued by.
Last week Dallas signed Christian Covington, who had 3.5 sacks for Houston in 2018 playing as a 3-4 defensive end. He should move to DT in the Cowboys' scheme and should be a solid addition to their rotation.
- WR Cole Beasley (Bills)
- TE Geoff Swaim (Jaguars)
- DL David Irving (shenanigans)
- LB Damien Wilson (Chiefs)
Beasley is heading to Buffalo on a four-year, $29 million deal. It appeared the relationship soured between Cole and Dallas over his playing time last year, and clearly the Cowboys didn't fight hard to keep him.
Damien Wilson followed Anthony Hitchens to Kansas City to help round out their linebacker corps. Once it was announced that Dallas was hanging on to Sean Lee in 2019, it was fairly certain that Wilson wouldn't be back.
Also not expected back was TE Geoff Swaim, who signed with Jacksonville. Even before Witten came back, Dallas appeared likely to stick with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz for returning talent and then add an upgrade via free agency or the draft.
While still a free agent, nobody expects David Irving back in Dallas or even the NFL after recent activities. Irving appears focused on a Hollywood career and advocating for medical marijuana use at this point.
- FB Jamize Olawale
- WR Tavon Austin
- WR Allen Hurns (team option)
- OT Cam Fleming
- G/C Joe Looney (team option)
- DE DeMarcus Lawrence (franchise tag)
- DT Daniel Ross (ERFA)
- LB Justin March-Lillard
- S Darian Thompson
While Dallas put the franchise tag on prized pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, his return in 2019 is far from settled. Lawrence has previously sworn he wouldn't play under a second franchise tag this year, and last we heard the two sides are far apart on a long-term deal. Could a holdout be on the horizon?
The Cowboys doubled-down on WR depth by re-signing Tavon Austin and exercising their team option on Allen Hurns' contract. Both are able to play out of the slot, meaning we could see more of a rotation approach to replacing Cole Beasley next year.
Dallas also re-signed fullback Jamize Olawale, which was a surprise given his low usage rate last year. Perhaps the change to Kellen Moore at offensive coordinator was behind this one, hoping to take better advantage of Olawale's receiving skills going forward.
Joe Looney and Cam Fleming will also be back as valuable backups on the offensive line. Looney started 16 games last year at center and also helps at guard, while Fleming will be the swing tackle once again for his second season in Dallas.
On defense, Dallas kept Daniel Ross in their DT rotation after solid performance in 2018. Justin March-Lillard return at linebacker, particularly for his value on special teams. And Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick by the Giants, is back as an ongoing developmental player.
~ ~ ~
If this is any indication, next week's recap may have a lot more to discuss.
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