If the Cowboys going to the well one too many times with players that have shown flashes on the defensive side of the ball is like an all-too-familiar horror script playing in your head, I'm here to discuss an offensive player that could share the same faith entering 2017. With Cowboys Nation rightfully expecting the Cowboys' offense to do big things this season, a concern remains at the RB2 spot - currently occupied by veteran Darren McFadden.
McFadden will turn 30 a week prior to Dallas' season opening showdown with the Giants (again with the movie scripts on loop here), and has had an interesting two seasons with the Cowboys on his initial contract in 2015 and 2016, re-signing this offseason for one more year.
The "featured back" for the Cowboys' 22nd ranked offense in 2015, McFadden silenced a lot of critics when he proved once and for all the Space Cowboys could elevate anyone's game at RB. With his first 1,000 rushing season since 2010 with the Raiders, McFadden helped the Cowboys transition from DeMarco Murray - yet still use that season's overall failure to recommit to the running game.
Drafting Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick was absolutely the right choice for the Cowboys. The 2016 NFL rushing champion made his impact felt from the second he strapped on the star.
The Cowboys' production out of the backfield didn't stop with just Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott though, as Darren McFadden came back from his elbow injury to appear in the team's final three regular season games. Garnering just 24 attempts, McFadden showed even more progress on his fresh start with America's Team, as it was injuries that held him down through his Raiders career - but not in limited action with the 2016 Cowboys.
When the Cowboys wanted to take Ezekiel Elliott off the field, something they likely did entirely too much last year, they had the reassurance for a few weeks that McFadden could still keep the offense ahead of schedule. Running to take what the defense and his elite blockers gave him, McFadden was the right veteran for the job...for two seasons.
Now entering year two with Elliott (yay!), and year three with McFadden, the Cowboys would be smart to prioritize finding Zeke's long-term backup to maximize their biggest strength sometime soon. The position was actually addressed in the very draft they selected Ezekiel Elliott in, with Darius Jackson being drafted in the sixth round only to be cut for McFadden to find the active roster, leaving the Cowboys pretty committed to DMC's services in 2017.
What happens if Darren McFadden has hit the end of the line?
With 1,303 career carries, Darren McFadden is 10th amongst active players, and older than two backs ahead of him in LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray. Interestingly enough, these two RBs are both outliers when it comes to how much their 2017 team will actually ask them to do - when compared to the rest of these names:
- Frank Gore (Age: 34)
- Adrian Peterson (Age: 32)
- Matt Forte (Age: 31)
- Chris Johnson (Age: 31)
- DeAngelo Williams (Age: 34)
- Jonathan Stewart (Age: 30)
- Jamaal Charles (Age: 30)
To potentially make matters worse, remember that none of these aging player's teams are as committed to the run as the Cowboys will be for a long time.
Getting Creative to "Replace" Darren McFadden
It is perfectly okay for the Cowboys that McFadden is not a long-term answer at RB. They realize this, and are only trying to get his production as a runner, blocker, and receiver to match the leadership and veteran presence he brings to Dallas for likely one more season.
I already mentioned that Ezekiel Elliott should own even more time on the field for the silver and blue this season, meaning that even a fancy new toy at RB2 would collect some dust.
Where the Cowboys do have a new toy is at slot WR with fourth round pick Ryan Switzer, who is already ready for a significant role in this offense. Sauce master Cole Beasley is going nowhere fast when it comes to manning the majority of the slot duties for Scott Linehan's offense, meaning Switzer's role will likely include plays where he lines up in the backfield (a HS running back) or takes jet sweeps.
Keeping an eye on UDFA RB Jahad Thomas out of Temple would also be wise, as his ceiling projects as a less-explosive but more durable and physical Lance Dunbar.
Thomas toted the rock 563 times in his Owls' career for 2,599 yards - starting his final two seasons after converting to RB from DB as a sophomore.
The Cowboys will be good at running the football in 2017, this is a fact. If they want to sustain their dominance on the ground through a season that hopefully includes 19 games, they'll need a RB that's not always hungry to give them some production - and Darren McFadden may not be that guy anymore.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?
El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.
Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?
De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.
Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.
Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.
Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.
A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.
Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.
Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.
Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y ganando a la otra.
Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.
Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?
What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.
Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.
It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.
If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.
We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.
Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.
Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1 WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.
Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?
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