Note: Just wanted to take a moment and welcome the newest member of our team at DCNation - Shaun Wellman. He's been a commenter here since the beginning and always has some insight to share, so read carefully and pay attention. Welcome to the Team Shaun!
Excitement in the preseason is very rare. Most people watch these games hoping to see the starting units perform well and provide a glimpse of what the regular season version of the team will look like. A smaller percentage watch the second and third teams to get an idea of how the teams backups will perform. Of course underneath it all we hope for a win, but in the grand scheme of things most understand that whether or not your team wins in the preseason is the least important factor of all. What is important is how they play the game.
Putting all that aside for now, can anyone say that they sat down to watch the preseason finale versus the Vikings with any feelings other than "Thank God the Preseason is About to be Over"? I highly doubt it.
There were still some questions to be answered about the last few roster spots before the final cut down to 53 on Saturday.
- Will Isaiah Stanback do anything to show that he deserves another year on this team?
- Will Kevin Ogletree step up one more time and slam the door in Stanback's face?
- Can Patrick Watkins do anything besides play special teams?
- Does Mike Mickens have any business being on an NFL football field?
- Will Jesse Holley even get on the field?
- Can Rudy Carpenter even throw a forward pass?
Anyone committing themselves to sit down and suffer through 3 hours of spare to fair preseason finale football had to be watching to get the answers to the above questions and probably several more. No way were we expecting entertainment.
Not only were a lot of questions answered, but we as fans were treated to a whole lot more. Maybe it was all the turnovers, penalties, missed assignments, and improbable touchdowns. How about the fact that the game was played on a Friday night, and there was a sense that everyone on this team played like there was no tomorrow.
Maybe it's just me, but that sure felt like watching a High School Football game, and a very exciting and entertaining one at that.
A bunch of no-names pulling it out in the end, coming back from double digit deficits twice, with improbable play after improbable play to cap off an off season of philosophical change, and a preseason of no-nonsense nothing but football due directly to said changes. No T.O., not much hype, (except for the 4th and Long Guy,) and the only thing close to controversy being the competition between Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick.
Alot was said about this teams chemistry or lack there of last year. How great was it to see the starters on the sidelines cheering on the back up and bubble guys? I was happy to see their involvement on the sidelines during a meaningless game that none of them played in. To see the vets on the sidelines coaching up the young guys portrayed a team oriented atmosphere that literally brought a smile to this fans face. How fitting was it that mister 80th man himself Jesse Holley was the one to make the play to win the game. He got me up out of my chair yelling and screaming just like he got the entire Cowboys' sideline running with him to the end zone, basically clearing the bench.
I think that explosion of emotion really said something about this team, and I can honestly say now that because of a meaningless preseason game where they all showed that they cared, that I believe this TEAM is very focused and headed in the right direction.
Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It
Just when all hope was lost, the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and surprised fans with a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Both on defense and offense, it was a game that showed us plenty of silver linings to be excited about. While a playoff run certainly remains pretty difficult to accomplish, at least the team isn't leaving without a fight.
The last Cowboys' victory came approximately a month ago, so it is with great pleasure that I share with you this week's edition of "Takeaway Tuesday!"
Vander Esch Among Best Cowboys' Players
Just before last game, I wrote about how Leighton Vander Esch could be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Playing on Sunday Night Football (on national TV), the rookie helped his case a lot with 13 solo tackles and an interception.
Little by little, he's making sure the Cowboys know they can move on from frequently injured Sean Lee down the road. Vander Esch can play. Forget about him being an impressive rookie, he's currently one of the best players on this roster.
Scott Linehan Shouldn't be Off the Hook
As any Cowboys fan, I loved the win. There were quite a few things to like about the offense on Sunday, but there's no denying play calling could've been way better. As much as the Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt in a mediocre division, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan should remain on the hot seat.
Ezekiel Elliott took the Cowboys to the 5-yard line by leaping over a human at full speed and right after the Cowboys stopped using him on that drive. Against the Titans, the offense found itself on third and 16 twice and ran a running back screen pass. In Philadelphia, they were on third and 16 once and they ran a RB screen once again.
Dallas has left a lot of points on the field this year and in big part thanks to play calling. Linehan shouldn't be safe right now.
Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It
After two games wearing the Star, Cowboys Nation is feeling a lot better about trading a first rounder for Amari Cooper. On the field, he's proven to be an impact player. An impact that has been felt immediately, by the way. Out of 11 catches, Cooper has gotten the Cowboys' offense ten first downs.
Versus the Eagles, though, his impact is felt beyond his single stat line.
On Sunday Night, he accounted for six catches and 75 yards. He helped QB Dak Prescott get 270 yards through the air and most importantly, to spread the football.
7 different Cowboys have a reception of at least 13 yards tonight.
That stat above is an underrated one. No wide receiver in next year's Draft would have the kind of impact Amari Cooper is having on this football team. In the long run, lots of people could be eating their words after heavily criticizing the Cowboys' trade for the two-times Pro Bowler wide receiver. Hopefully, that's the case.
Dallas Cowboys Deserve Credit for Mid-Season Rebuild at Wide Receiver
The Dallas Cowboys offseason approach at wide receiver was doubted by just about everyone outside of The Star, forcing Cowboys fans to turn down outside noise and once again trust the direction this front office was going. Releasing Dez Bryant, signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson (who was released last week), and waiting until the third round to draft a receiver were all questionable moves for a team entering an all-important year three under Quarterback Dak Prescott.
It took a mid-season trade to free Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders for the Cowboys to establish any threat at wide receiver, but with Cooper realizing his first win in Dallas on Sunday night at the Eagles, the Cowboys deserve plenty of credit for this cast of pass catchers.
Cooper has been the key to unlocking rookie Michael Gallup as a second option for Prescott. Gallup attacks the football and runs routes like a number one target, but at this point just nine games into his career lacks the refinement to play at the 'X' position every snap.
Gallup will benefit the most from Cooper stepping into this role for the Cowboys offense. His 25-yard catch and run on a screen pass to set up the Cowboys score before the half was a fine example of how the Cowboys passing game should operate for the rest of the season.
With an emphasis on getting the ball out of Prescott's hands to his home run hitters on the outside, the Cowboys not only have their starters at WR but plenty of depth options below.
It's no secret this team has shied away from the top-tier of free agency in recent years, using the signing period much more for depth players. This should have been the expectation for Allen Hurns coming over from the Jaguars, elevated to starter status out of necessity during training camp.
Hurns has settled in to a rotational role behind both Gallup and Cooper. Like a change-of-pace running back, Hurns is a big and physical target the Cowboys have used to catch defenses off guard. On the same touchdown drive as Gallup's big gain, Hurns was on the receiving end of Prescott's best throw of the night.
Sliding in behind the Eagles coverage, Hurns caught a dime from Prescott and went down a yard short of the end zone, setting up Dak's rushing score on the very next play. In the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys driving for the winning touchdown, Hurns converted a third and long beating Rasul Douglas on a slant.
Douglas was easily beat across the face on a violent move from Hurns to the inside, squaring his front shoulder to Prescott who made a simple pitch for the 23-yard catch and run.
The one thing the Cowboys didn't improve on from their loss to the Titans before this week was getting Cole Beasley involved, as he was targeted just five times. Catching four of these attempts in the win, Beasley understands his role as a team player better than most, and knows his importance in the top three of the Cowboys new depth chart at WR.
The Cowboys trusted themselves enough to enter this season with uncertainty at wide receiver and come out winners in Philadelphia by week ten thanks to a drastically improved corps. Just how much trust the Cowboys deserve with ensuing decisions because of this is a slippery slope.
If recent history is any indicator, a patched leak at WR is only going to spring one in an unexpected place when the Cowboys next take the field.
The most pressing decision for the Cowboys coming up is on the future of Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Thanks to his play calling on Sunday night, Linehan earned high praise from Jerry Jones. The Cowboys GM even backtracked to dispute a report that Linehan's job was on the line through the Cowboys bye week.
Jerry Jones said on @1053thefan that it was "never a thought" to discuss possibly replacing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan during the bye week. "We've never even contemplated the idea of Scott not calling plays.
Whether or not such confidence will come back to burn the Cowboys as they return to the site of the "Burning of Atlanta" could be determined as early as Sunday. I believe another loss in Atlanta would have to come in embarrassing fashion for an immediate coaching change, but the Cowboys offense has shown more than enough to be evaluated from this point on.
The Cowboys played in the Georgia Dome with Alfred Morris, Terrance Williams, and Dez Bryant as starters in last year's beginning-of-the-end 27-7 loss. If Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup aren't upgrades enough for Dallas to earn a win against Atlanta, returning home off a loss in Cleveland, another look in the mirror may be needed for the Cowboys.
Gone are the days of Prescott throwing interceptions off the hands of Deonte Thompson or forcing red zone fades to Allen Hurns. With it, the expectation that the Cowboys should win arrived with Amari Cooper, whose been worth a first round draft pick in every way.
Cowboys Wide Receivers Now a Strength They Can Count On
The Dallas Cowboys (4-5) came away with a big win over the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) on Sunday Night Football 27-20 and the wide receiver group had an excellent day. What once looked like a weakness for the Cowboys, now looks like a strength on \ offense. With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have four players that can hurt opposing defenses all over the field.
Since the Amari Cooper trade two weeks ago, the Cowboys wide receiver group has been better positioned moving forward to help Dak Prescott and the Cowboys move the football. With Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have really nice depth.
On Sunday Night Football each of the Cowboys top four receivers had a reception that went for more than 20 yards. They accounted for 11 of the team's 14 passing first downs. Of Quarterback Dak Prescott's 270 yards passing, wide receivers accounted for 186 or more than two-thirds of the passing yards. Explosive plays from the wide receivers was something that was lacking for much of the season, but they seem to be turning it on at the right time.
On Sunday night, they all had their moments in the Cowboys win.
Per Pro Football Reference, Cooper was the leading receiver on the team with six receptions on 10 targets for 75 yards. Five of those receptions went for first downs and he averaged 12.5 yards per reception.
Michael Gallup led the wide receiver group in snaps on Sunday and logged another nice game as he continues to assert himself during his rookie season. It may not have been as explosive as the three receptions for 83 yards that he put up against the Washington Redskins a few weeks ago, but he had possibly one of the plays of the game.
With the Dallas Cowboys attempting to extend their lead with under two minutes to play in the first half, they faced a 3rd and 15 from their own 35 yard line with 0:58 seconds left on the clock. Scott Linehan dials up a tunnel screen to Gallup who goes for 25 yards helping to set up the touchdown just before half time. If Gallup doesn't make that play, with help from the blocking downfield, the Eagles get the ball back with enough time to tie the game or potentially take the lead. It was a huge play in the game to allow Dallas to go up by 10 at half time.
Cole Beasley's line wasn't flashy, but he was his typical efficient self, hauling in three receptions for first downs and making a play for 15 yards to get the Cowboys into the red zone after the Eagles had scored on the previous possession in the third quarter to make it 13-13. Beasley's catch helped the Cowboys answer the Eagles touchdown with a touchdown of their own to retake the lead 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Beasley finished the night with four receptions for 37 yards on five targets.
Down in the depth chart with limited snaps, but not at all forgotten is Allen Hurns. Hurns only had two catches (on two targets) for 40 yards on the night, but both catches set the Cowboys offense up with first and goal situations. With 0:40 seconds to play in the first half and the Cowboys looking at a second and nine, Dak Prescott hit Hurns on a deep out route for 17 yards to the Philadelphia Eagles' one yard line. Prescott hurried them to the line of scrimmage and then snuck the ball in for a touchdown to make it 13-3 at halftime. The second reception occurred with the Cowboys facing a third and eight on the game winning drive. Prescott found Hurns for a 23 yard catch and run that helped set up Ezekiel Elliott's game winning touchdown run.
They have four players that can hurt you at various levels of the defense. All four are good to great route runners who can create separation and find the soft spots in zone coverage. Their starters with Cooper, Beasley, and Gallup are a dynamic trio, but being able to bring a guy like Allen Hurns off the bench in sub packages is huge. He's had a thousand yard receiving season in the NFL and showed that he can still win his matchups when he's not required to be a team's WR1.
The move for Amari is proving to be an excellent trade for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the struggles last week in Tennessee, the Dallas Cowboys were able to move the ball through the air as Cooper opens everything up for everyone else on the offense. If you saw some of the windows he provided Dak, you see that Cooper literally makes everything easier.
The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of a bad secondary on Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles were missing three of their top defensive backs, but they also looked like a unit that is starting to find a groove offensively. For the Dallas Cowboys to continue their upward trajectory that hopefully ends with a playoff berth, the wide receivers are going to have to continue to make big plays down the field.If the last several weeks are any indication, more big plays are coming.
Get your popcorn ready.
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