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Winning with Strength: Cowboys Offensive Line

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Winning with Strengths: Cowboys Offensive Line

It's no secret that the strength of the Dallas Cowboys is in the trenches, mainly with an offensive line built methodically through the draft. Three offensive linemen will go to the Pro Bowl to represent the star in Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith:

//insidethestar.com/dallas-cowboys-pro-bowl-players-announced/

When you think of plays that decide games in the NFL, you think of skill position players. Quarterbacks leading game winning drives thanks to receivers making circus catches. Running backs dominating on the ground. Secondaries flying to the ball or pass rushers wreaking havoc.

While the Cowboys certainly have most of these things in place upon the return of a healthy Tony Romo, their strength for years to come is the offensive line. Thus, they must find ways to WIN games thanks to the offensive line.

This may seem harder than it actually is, but the Cowboys have shown signs of being able to do this throughout some of their closer losses this season. Last year the offensive line clearly won them plenty of games while paving a path for DeMarco Murray to lead the league in rushing.

The Cowboys also led the league in time of possession, allowing their defense to play in a role they were comfortable with - coming out for a short series and making an impact play.

Cowboys Blog - Winning with Strengths: Cowboys Offensive Line 1

This year, if Darren McFadden was the full season starter, he would be on pace for 1,452 yards. As is, he is still eighth in the league in rushing.

McFadden's running style also helps the team win via the offensive line, as he has transitioned from a once speed-burning back to now a more physical bruising back.

While I am in favor of the Cowboys going out and getting a change of pace, home run hitting type back like Lamar Miller in free agency this offseason, they must still give a heavy workload to Darren McFadden in 2016. With Tony Romo back under center, defenses won't be able to stack the box against DMC and we should see some very positive results.

An offensive line that wears down defensive linemen paired with a running back that will make any linebacker gasp for air in the fourth quarter is a combination for the Dallas Cowboys to win plenty of games while this offensive line is intact.

The Cowboys have blown plenty of fourth-quarter leads this season, and a lot of them can be attributed towards not being able to close games with McFadden. Darren McFadden is averaging just 3.7 fourth quarter carries this season.

This means there was way too much of a dependency on Matt Cassel to bring this team wins late in the game, something he should not be expected to do. Of course, we'll all get accustomed to watching Tony Romo's fourth quarter magic very soon, but with him and McFadden paired together the Cowboys should already be well on their way to victory when the fourth quarter comes about in 2016.

All they will need to hold on for the win is to embrace their strength and allow this offensive line to intimidate teams with Darren McFadden. It's not often when the clock hits zero in the NFL that we turn to the winning team and say, "Wow, this team won today because of their offensive line".

However, that should be the case very soon for the Dallas Cowboys.

Tell us what you think about "Winning with Strength: Cowboys Offensive Line" 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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1 Comment
  • http://PigskinHub.com Zac Fields

    LoL not that all of this isn't true, but definitely spam.

    Sent from my SM-N900V using Pigskin Hub – Pro Football Forums mobile app

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Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

The Cowboys took their fair share of heat for selecting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. But through just over half a season, Dallas is looking vindicated in their decision.

Vander Esch was arguably the best defensive player on the field during Dallas' 27-20 win in Philadelphia Sunday night, and made the two biggest defensive plays of the game as well. Finishing with a game-high 13 tackles, Vander Esch was all over the field in both run and pass defense.

The first of his two massive plays came in the first quarter. After the Cowboys offense stalled deep in their own territory, the Eagles looked to be in prime position to strike first with a short field. On Carson Wentz' first pass attempt of the drive, however, Leighton Vander Esch was there to intercept him and return the ball back 28 yards.

Those return yards proved key as well, giving the Cowboys the short field and an easy path to their first three points of the night. And with the way their offense looked early in this game, Dallas could use all the help they could get.

The biggest play of the game, though, came late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles facing a third and long and down seven points, they absolutely needed a conversion to keep pace with the surprisingly hot Cowboys offense. Philadelphia tried to beat Dallas with a running back screen to the backside, inviting the pass rush and getting blockers out in front.

There seemed to be nothing but blockers and green grass ahead for the Eagles on this play, with "Next Gen Stats" expecting a 22 yard gain after the catch. Then, Leighton Vander Esch eluded two blockers and tracked down the running back for a gain of just 3.

Next Gen Stats on Twitter

Leighton Vander Esch made a game-saving tackle late in the 4th quarter to preserve the Cowboys 27-20 win. Corey Clement was expected to gain 22 yards after the catch (gained 3), -19 YAC Below Expectation, the most yards saved on a pass play this season. #DALvsPHI #DallasCowboys https://t.co/0DF7jhPQzH

If not for this tackle, who knows how both that Eagles' drive and the game would have ended. Vander Esch saved the day for Dallas, and forced the Eagles into a tough fourth and long situation with the game on the line.

I know it is still early in Vander Esch's career, and even relatively early in this season as well, but it's become clear the Cowboys hit a home run with their 2018 first round selection. Vander Esch is fitting in beside Jaylon Smith with ease, and with those two athletic freaks together, the Cowboys look to have one of the brightest defensive futures in all of football.

Of course, there are now legitimate questions about what the Cowboys should do with their captain Sean Lee. But as of right now, it should be Leighton Vander Esch's job to lose.



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Star Blog

Can Cowboys LB Vander Esch Do Enough to Win DROY?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys Disappointing Loss

At 3-5, there are very few positive things to point out when discussing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. One of those few things has been first-round rookie Leighton Vander Esch, whose play at linebacker has taken the league by surprise. Seen as a raw talent who could develop into an elite player with time as a prospect, Vander Esch's impact on the field has been immediate.

Through nine weeks in the NFL season, the Boise State product should definitely be in the Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion. As much as Sean Lee's injury will hurt the Cowboys' defense, it will get the rookie more playing time and a big opportunity to put his name in the minds of NFL Honors voters.

Sean Lee will miss some time after re-injuring his hamstring for the second time this season. Earlier in the year, Jaylon Smith and Vander Esch were able to keep the defense from crumbling without their veteran captain. Even with all the offensive struggles, that should continue to be the case for the linebackers.

Vander Esch has only played in 65% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, yet he's tied for ninth place in solo tackles in the entire league with 49. He's at 64 total tackles and two pass deflections and has been a magnet to opposing ball carriers every time he's been on the field.

He's the third highest graded rookie LB for Pro Football Focus. Most times, rookies find success like this by being rotational players or simply splitting snaps with other players. But as previously mentioned, Lee has already been out for a handful of games in 2018 and Vander Esch has lived up to the hype.

Simply put, Leighton's play as a rookie has already put Sean Lee's future on the Cowboys in question. With such an injury history and a two young studs ready to take over the reigns, Dallas could very well release Lee prior to the 2019 season.

Now granted, the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year will not be an easy one to win for Vander Esch. Fourth overall pick Denzel Ward has been an impressive cornerback for the Browns and fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb has been one of the best pass rushers on Sundays. Not to mention the NFL leader in solo tackles, Colts' LB Darius Leonard.

Despite a great start to his season, the Cowboys young LB will have to play way better for his name to be called when the Defensive Rookie of the Year is revealed at the NFL Honors event in February. There are some pretty big names he has to catch up with in order to make this happen.

Tell me what you think about "Can Cowboys LB Vander Esch Do Enough to Win DROY?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Dak Prescott/Carson Wentz Is No Rivalry, And There’s Only One Side To Blame

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott/Carson Wentz Is No Rivalry, And There's Only One Side To Blame

It feels like an eternity has passed since 2016, yet somehow, it was only 2 seasons ago.

The Dallas Cowboys were riding high, en route to a 13-3 season and an NFC East crown. They had drafted the league's leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the previous draft, and believed to have found their franchise quarterback over 100 picks later.

Up in Philadelphia things weren't going as smoothly, but they were certainly on the upswing. After trading up to select Carson Wentz in that same 2016 draft, the Eagles also believed they had their quarterback of the future.

Cowboys/Eagles. Dak/Wentz. A debate between two hated rivals which began in 2016 and seemed like it would go on for the next decade. It was almost too perfect.

Countless articles and blog posts were written about the birth of a quarterback rivalry which would span for the foreseeable future. Which team had the better draft haul in 2016? Which team was better set up for the future behind their young quarterback?

The two met for the first time on Sunday Night football back in 2016, and for much of the night neither was very good. They both looked like rookies, but at the end of the game Dak Prescott was the one who came through in the clutch, throwing the game winner in overtime to Jason Witten. The rivalry was born, and the Cowboys had the upper hand.

Fast forward to today and things are much, much different. Prescott and Wentz have only really played each other one other time since that first match-up, a game which the Eagles dominated and Dak Prescott threw 3 interceptions.

The other two games have been meaningless and ugly, two adjectives which could describe every Cowboys game the past calendar year.

Simply put, there is no rivalry. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have not held up their end of the bargain since that first match-up in 2016. Prescott's play has fallen off considerably, as he has fallen victim to just about every piece of lazy analysis Eagles fans gave during his miraculous 2016 season.

Doug Pederson has become the anti-Jason Garrett, quite literally making his name off being aggressive on critical downs and refusing to punt on fourth and short in plus territory. The Eagles front office has become the anti-Cowboys, going after pricey trade targets and free agents to ensure they are making the most of their young quarterback's rookie contract window.

The Cowboys have failed just about everywhere that the Eagles have succeeded. And, Dak Prescott has failed just about everywhere Carson Wentz has excelled.

Maybe things will turn around this Sunday for Dallas, and if they are able to win, they'd still be very much alive in the division race. But all of that seems highly unlikely. There is no longer a Dak/Wentz rivalry. There's barely even a reason for Eagles fans to have Dak Prescott on their radar.

Let's hope Prescott and the Cowboys can begin to change things this Sunday.



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