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

Sean Martin

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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

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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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