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Week 13 Rookie Review: Prescott Saves Cowboys from Upset Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott

Every week we'll be looking at the Cowboys drafted rookies from 2016 and seeing what impact, if any, they had on the previous game.

Here's a summary of the performances and statuses from all nine of the Cowboys drafted rookies after the Week 13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings:

Ezekiel Elliott, RB

Ezekiel Elliott, Vikings, fumble

Pioneer Press: Liam James Doyle

Elliott's lowest rushing total since Week 2 was a surprise as Minnesota's run defense was only 14th in the NFL going into the game. If not for one 30-yard run late in the game, Elliott would've had just 2.9 average with 56 yards on 19 carries. He almost made matter worse with a fumble but thankfully recovered it himself.

The Vikings did an impressive job of closing off the running lanes. You can't even use the "12 three games in 12 days" excuse as Minnesota had played the same schedule. Talk of the "rookie wall" and Zeke getting worn down over the season will certainly increase after this performance, but I saw more blocking issues than any problems with Elliott.

Jaylon Smith, LB

Smith has one more week to practice before he either has to join the 53-man roster or be placed on Injured Reserve. The odds are that he will be heading to IR.

Maliek Collins, DT

Collins got his third sack of the season in addition to another QB hit and a tackle for loss. With Minnesota missing so many offensive line starters, it would've been a disappointment if the Cowboys defense couldn't make some plays behind the line of scrimmage.

That is one thing to keep in mind about Collins. His three sacks this year aren't a bad number for a rotation defensive tackle. However, two came against the league's worst team (Cleveland Browns) and this one came against one of the worst offensive lines. We're still waiting to see Collins make an impact against better competition.

Charles Tapper, DE

Tapper went on Injured Reserve in Week 4 due to back issues. He was inactive the three games before that, making this a redshirt season for the fourth-round pick.

Dak Prescott, QB

Dak PrescottIt wasn't a big day on the stat sheet as Prescott only had 139 yards through the air. However, Dak made crucial plays to help pull the team out of harm's way.

There was plenty of adversity to overcome. Prescott was sacked three times, the most he's been hit all year except for Week 2 against Washington. One of those sacks was a blindside hit that cause a fumble, courtesy of Doug Free's ever-declining blocking.

After the Cowboys' first three drives ended with two punts and that aforementioned fumble, Dak found Dez Bryant for a 56-yard bomb that set up a goal-line touchdown by Ezekiel Elliott. The play gave the Cowboys some much-needed momentum. Later on, Dak took advantage of a fumbled punt return by the Vikings with a touchdown throw to Bryant.

With the Vikings' pass defense stingy all day, Prescott made some critical first-down plays running the ball. He never forced things and, once again, didn't throw an interception. This game could have swung on just one more turnover, but Dak's ongoing avoidance of interceptions is a key part to this win and several others this year.

Anthony Brown, CB

Brown had a pass deflection so nice that words just can't do it justice. Ergo...

 

There's so much to like on just this one play. Brown doesn't even begin to bite on Charles Johnson shimmy move. Then he pivots so fast to follow the receiver up the field that Johnson doesn't gain one bit of ground. Brown closes on the receiver and the ball perfectly, without ever looking behind him, to make a penalty-free deflection.

Chris Collinsworth was raving about Anthony Brown during the broadcast and a play like this shows you why. Dallas has found a true gem in the sixth round and a guy who will likely be a starter in next year's defense.

Usually, you're desperate to get a starting CB back onto the field because of issues with backups. However, Brown's play has allowed Dallas to take it easy with Orlando Scandrick's recovery. It's been an incredible luxury this season, especially given the other injury problems with Morris Claiborne.

Kavon Frazier, S

There wasn't much playing time to be had for Frazier this week. Barry Church returned and played full-time reps. Frazier did record a single tackle.

Darius Jackson, RB

Having yet to dress this season, it appears Jackson's only shot at playing this year will be if Dallas has nothing to play for in one of the final regular season games. There is also the chance he could be released to make room for Darren McFadden.

Rico Gathers, TE

Gathers is still on the team's practice squad; the only drafted player to not make the 53-man roster this season.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka

Jess Haynie

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George Iloka

The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.

He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc

This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.

However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.

Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.

We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.



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What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.

Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.

The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?

Let's take a look.

Outside Receivers

As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.

Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.

As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.

Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.

Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.

There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.

Slot Receiver

Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.

While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.

Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.

In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.

Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.

With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.



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Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Should Acquire Recently Released S George Iloka

As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.

It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.

The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.

Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.

Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.

Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.



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