Connect with us

Dallas Cowboys

Who Deserves Blame for Cowboys Lack of Passing Game in Carolina?

Sean Martin

Published

on

Who Deserves Blame for Cowboys Lack of Passing Game in Carolina?

The most frustrating part of the Dallas Cowboys 16-8 loss on the road in Carolina is that they once again failed to disprove a popular narrative about them. It will stick with the Cowboys returning home for an NFC East "elimination" game against the 0-1 Giants.

Met with constant questions about their lack of proven receivers, the Cowboys were confident that Quarterback Dak Prescott could silence doubters with new coaches around him on offense. In the end it was a fatal mix of familiarity in OC Scott Linehan and unfamiliarity with his targets that led to Prescott's third consecutive game under 200 yards passing.

After reviewing the film from Prescott's 35 drop backs, it's not too hard to determine who deserves the blame for the Cowboys ineptitude on offense Sunday. The Cowboys were once again painfully predictable in their routes, giving Prescott very few openings to throw into.

A lot of things have to go wrong for any NFL offense to be held to one score however, and in this game it was Prescott leaving a few big plays on the field paired with six allowed sacks that sealed Dallas' fate.

Dak1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This roll out play here is a stunning example of just how far the Cowboys offense has regressed. A staple of their passing game in Prescott's rookie season, the Cowboys have not had nearly the same success in moving the pocket for Dak ever since.

A close look at the clip above shows why, as before the snap the Panthers are prepared for the only real threat on the play, Terrance Williams in motion across the formation. Shifting to a single high look while maintaining a nine man box (something Running Back Ezekiel Elliott saw plenty of), the extra defensive back on the near side remains in perfect position to take Williams away.

The result is Prescott throwing the ball out of bounds.

The Cowboys inability to creatively use any of their weapons didn't stop here. Relying heavily on simple routes that forced receivers to turn around and see Prescott already in trouble, all of the new teachings from WR Coach Sanjay Lal were wasted in this contest.

Focusing on his players' ability to separate quickly and run precise routes, perhaps the Cowboys second best route runner in Michael Gallup was limited to 29 snaps in his debut. Cole Beasley got off to an encouraging start with seven catches for 73 yards.

Dak2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

To say the Cowboys got all of their offseason decisions wrong after one tough game against a top defense would be an overreaction. There is plenty of merit, dating back to last season, on which to question the coaches that remain on the Dallas sideline. Doing so only in the context of this season opener loses sight of some much larger problems for the Cowboys.

Not only was this clearly a team that could have used a veteran play from Dez Bryant or Jason Witten in Carolina, but one that feels destined to feel the aftermath of what Bryant said on the way out (as well as on Twitter during the game).

No Title

No Description

So, perhaps the title of this article was just slightly misleading. Make no mistake that the Cowboys don't have the gift of time to fix this offense. Legitimately assigning blame between now and the three days before Sunday Night Football will not accomplish anything.

Head Coach Jason Garrett did put out this fire quickly this week, assuring the media that Linehan will remain the Cowboys play caller. A coach that knows the Cowboys changes for 2018 must lead to success, despite not changing much himself, Garrett's allegiance to Linehan is alarming.

Even more alarming is this final query into the Cowboys ineptitude through the air. When the Cowboys did flash some creativity on offense, their offensive line had several key busts to take away big gains.

Left Tackle Tyron Smith, the second most assured asset on this OL, was called for two penalties that led to Dallas punts. Rookie Left Guard Connor Williams allowed a fourth quarter sack. Fill-in Center Joe Looney performed well in his first start, but was not in position to block in space as much as the Cowboys will hope to see Travis Frederick return to doing. Fortunately, Zack Martin was his usual self, but even Right Tackle La'el Collins struggled against a few speed rushes that flushed Dak out of the pocket early.

There won't be many tenured Cowboys coaches (of which there are already very few) that can survive another season derailed but what's supposed to be the strongest unit on the team - the Cowboys offensive line. It remains too early to predict the team's faith here considering the caliber of players on their line.

It's not too early however for Cowboys Nation to be frustrated in the offensive staff. Overcoming their deficiencies with a weakened OL is likely out of the realm of possibility for the Cowboys competing in a loaded NFC.

With Dak Prescott being the only Cowboys passing game component to question beyond this, week two is set to be a revealing one for the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Tell us what you think about "Who Deserves Blame for Cowboys Lack of Passing Game in Carolina?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Advertisement
5 Comments
  • Ray Criscoe

    The fans are to blame. Romo’s time wasn’t up and everyone fell in love with the mirage. Now we’re stuck with an average QB who can only throw short zip throws, who has no long game and nothing near Romo’s accuracy. The best chance for the team is to start using the RPO and take advantage of cheating up CBS for lobs (if he can throw them) to Austin or Thompson. He is not a pocket passer and that’s what they’re trying to make him.

  • Jonathan Young

    Scott Linehan, Scott Linehan,
    Scott Linehan, Scott Linehan

    P.S. I don’t see any thing wrong with Dak, the o-line needs time to work together. I do agree that we should look at WR’s, T-Will is on top of the list to be traded. I would also put TE Swaim on the list. (side note, at season end Cole Beasley is gone and then what) but I will start handing out the pink slip to Scott LINEHAN.

  • TreFKennedy88

    Dak isn’t that good, we were lead astray and this is what we’re stuck with, a pure Run first offense with s qb who can’t throw

    • Hector Espindola

      Indeed, Moore is useless as QB coach, Dak just regressed and throws poorly.

  • TD4SPORTS

    It’s the same as I said last year, JJ owns the team and SJ runs the team, they are to blame because they don’t know Anything about the game of FOOTBALL. They are Not going anywhere so the Blame falls on the Incompetent people you hire to run your team. The main two and the Worst Coaches on this team is Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan, Garrett has been a thorn in the Side for years. He is Jerry”s boy with No Intelligence of the game he can’t hold anyone accountable because he is the main one Screwed up. Lineman was Sorry When They bought Him here, he couldn’t do anything with a top 10 Qb in Stafford and was fired. Nothing new JJ likes to hire Other teams rejects to come to Dallas and keep us Average. You then take a Sorry Qb that played under a Sorry Coach that couldn’t beat out a rookie two years in a row and make him the QB’s Coach. Where do they Stupid stuff like that except Dallas and the Sad part is like I say it Can’t change until there is a Legitimate Football mind hired to run the Cowboys. We need a GENERAL MANAGER that knows how to build a team and is allowed to Hire and Fire his Own Coach. I have said it for years and until JJ throws his pride and ego aside we will continue to be Mediocre to Average at best. It won’t do any good to talk about players because the Coaches and the Scheme is what matters first.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

Published

on

Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Continue Reading

Player News

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Facing Multi-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Terrance Williams
Ric Tapia via AP

An arrest last May for public intoxication may finally result in a suspension for Dallas Cowboys Receiver Terrance Williams.

David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, who reported the pending suspension, outlined the details of Williams' case. Charges were ultimately dropped once Terrance completed an alcohol education course and paid damages to the city.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/3RmwQOllim via @sportsdaydfw

However, as Cowboys fans know too well, the NFL reserves the right to suspend players under the Personal Conduct Policy regardless of legal outcomes. The 2017 season was marred by the league's persecution of Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence despite no arrests or charges coming from any legal or police entity.

In Williams' case, there's no dispute of his guilt. It is unlikely he will appeal any decision the NFL makes.

The potential that Terrance will be missing for 2-4 games helps explain the Cowboys' move earlier this week to bring back WR Brice Butler. With both currently active, Dallas has an unusually high seven receivers on their 53-man roster.

It's already Friday, so the suspension is doubtful to come for this week's game in Seattle. But Terrance could easily be one of the seven inactive players on game day, having received the fewest snaps of any Cowboys WR last week against the Giants.

We'll see soon enough, likely as soon as next week, just what the league has in store for Terrance Williams.



Continue Reading

Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

Published

on

Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending