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The Blueprint to Paint the Big Blue Black and Blue

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"Whoever gets the mismatch gets the ball with us," Bennett said. "I think it's a great tool and a great weapon we showed."  Martellus Bennett dead panned.

Personally, I think this may have been the definition of tipping your hand, but then again, I think most defenses in this league expect the mismatches to get picked on.  And then, to take that a step further, how will defenses applying that information use it against us?  Honestly?

Here's what opposing defenses, provided our weapons can stay healthy, are up against.

Wide Receivers

Roy Williams (6'3" 215):  I think we can, at least, all agree he is a clutch possession receiver.  Though, I have to say, that Touchdown early in the second half looked alot like the Touchdown Larry Fitzgerald scored late in the Super Bowl last season.  Romo throws a beautiful rope hitting Roy in stride, effortlessly pulling in a ball that would break my hands off.

Patrick Crayton (6'0" 204):  He has often been regarded as having the best hand's on the team.  But after that 80 + yard touchdown against the Bucs, I'd say his offseason work added quite a bit to his explosion and overall speed.

Miles Austin (6'3" 214):  Speed has never been a concern.  It's what earned him a look from the Cowboys in the first place.  But last year, when he turned up field rather than keeping his orginal direction allowing the defense to thrwart his otherwise touchdown against Green Bay, we all saw why he was still a work in progress.  But against the Bucs, he showed the speed and the moves to complement him, as he took a 40+ catch in for a Touchdown, making two players miss one shortly after the first, to take the lead shortly before the end of the 1st half.

Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree (6'2" 208 & 6'0: 192):  Unless one of the above see injury, it's unlikely we see much of either this year.  But as a quick reminder, Hurd was the receiver who arguably had the best training camp of all the receivers making acrobatic catch, one after another and Kevin Ogletree played the best in preseason, unseating a fairly rooted 3rd year receiver Isaiah Stanback who was much better in Special Teams than Kevin; that mean's the coaches must have thought alot of Kevin to drop Isaiah, considering the 5th receiver spot typically goes to the Special Teams standout.

Tight Ends

Jason Witten (6'5" 263):  He won't wow you with speed or explosion, but he find's the soft spots in coverage and does not drop balls, as a general rule.  He is also a fairly dominant lead blocker out of the backfield and from the standard TE lineup.  Furthermore, he is Romo's favorite target.  That speaks volumes to Witten's reliability.

Martellus Bennett (6'6" 265):  Big mouth.  Big personality.  But he is all business on the field.  He, too, has displayed the ability to make some clutch catches, even when contested by a would-be defender.  This teamed with his wide receiver like speed, makes him extremely dangerous after the catch.

John Phillips (6'5" 255):  Think Jason Witten in the early years.  Of course, rather or not he can maintain intensity through severe adversity, such as a deabilitatant injury, remains to be seen, but in terms of his hands and his ability to block, he certainly seems to have the tools to be described as Witten-esqe.

Running Backs

Marion Barber (6, 0" 222):  Has proven on a fairly consistent basis that he is a reliable target out of the backfield.  If we are being honest, we haven't really seen the Barbarian like play, a moniker earned in the 2007 season, but he is still solid and can typically pick up 3 to 4 yard's after the 1st contact with the opposition.

Felix Jones (6'0" 218):  The first thing you notice is his explosion.  In space, he can turn a check down from Cowboy's 5 yard line to a touchdown 95 yards down the field in about 10 seconds.  After his initial explosion, you might notice that second gear he hit's when turning the corner.  If you don't know what I'm talking about look for Romo on a pitch to Jones on 4th and 3 against the Bengals on youtube or google it.  If you can, watch it in slow motion; when he turn's the corner watch as it seem's as though for a brief moment he is running in real time while everyone around him is still moving slow.  Lastly, there is his vision.  The ability to set up the next defender while making the 1st defender miss.  It's a rare ability that among Cowboy great's, only Emmitt Smith had and, though I'm not sure on this, perhaps Tony Dorsett.  But outside of those two, I don't think any RB's had vision that rivals that of Felix.

Tashard Choice (5'10" 212):  A combination of Felix and Marion, is the best way to describe him.  And, yes, he too can be threat out of the back field in screen and check down situations.

Deon Anderson (5'10" 245):  His colleague's describe him as a devastating lead blocker.  Considering his compact size and, yet, considerable weight, I don't doubt it.  But I've also seen him be pretty reliable in catching situations, as well.  So, he is something else an opposing defense has to think about.

Now, let's think of the above as a big odd number that a team has to find a common denominator to divide the Cowboy's by utilizing the combination of size and weight  and the respective talents of their own defensive players.  Quick note:  some players, regardless of size, play big, so you can't always just compare size and say it's a mismatch.  How do they match up to the various looks the Cowboys can create utilizing the above weapons?  I feel a series coming on.

Let's take a look at our next week opponents the Giants starting unit in the secondary.

Corners

Cory Webster (6'0" 202):  Clutch, but by no means what you would consider a lockdown corner.  So Roy Williams and company, with precise route running, will have opportunities.

Terrell Thomas (6'0" 199):  A second round pick by the Giants from 2008, you could say he's on Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick's level, which means, once again, Roy Williams and company will have opportunities.

Aaron Ross (6'0" 197):  According to the injury report, Aaron has a hamstring injury and is definitively out for next week's game.  Though, it would not be the first time Coughlin had a player miracously recover from an injury to play afterall.

Bruce Johnson (5'11" 182):  Who?  Oh, that undrafted rookie free agent.  Not much can be said, other than he beat out the rookies DeAndre Wright and Stoney Woodson drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds respectively to make the 53 man roster.

Linebackers

Danny Clark (6'2" 245):  A 10 year veteran, he is solid, particularly against the run, but I can't see him running with any of our TE's down the seam.

Antonio Pierce (6'1" 238):  A 9 year veteran, same issue as Danny Clark.

Bryan Kehl (6'2" 237):  Logged the least amount of tackles in his first year with the Giants last year, despite starting all 16 games.  If a Safety doesn't move up to cover our TE's, he will likely be the unlucky soul charged with the responsbility.

Safeties

Kenny Phillips (6'2" 210):  He's my favorite Giant, in a weird "I still hate you because of the team you represent" kind of way.  Not only is he good in coverage, but he can still lay the wood like the orginal prototypical SS.  Think 1st and 2nd year Roy Williams, with the coverage ability of  Gerald Sensabaugh.

Michael Johnson (6'2" 207):  I don't know much about him, but looking at his stat's, I'll say he is, at least, solid.  I would expect nothing less from a Coughlin staffed defense.

Four corners, with one definitely out for the game and the other an undrafted rookie, 3 safeties, and 4 linebackers.  That is the price the Giants paid to win battles at the line of scrimmage.  But for that ideaology to be effective, they have to win every battle at the line and, honestly, I don't think they can do that against the Cowboys, particular when the Cowboys show the 12 formation (i.e. two receivers, two TE's and one RB).  Considering the aforementioned, we will likely see a much more effective version of the Bucs defensive gameplan.  The Giants are going to force us to beat them deep, which also means the Cowboys offensive line is going to have to give Romo time; and that, admittedly, considering the talent and depth on the Giants defensive line, is going to be a tall order.  I said it of the Bucs game, and I'm sticking to this philosophical belief, the Cowboys will also need to employ some screens to back off that blitz, but I would not be suprised if Jason Garrett didn't come out of the gate wanting Romo to sling it deep to test that very thin secondary.

Now for the fun part.  Consider the above described 12 formation.   Webster and Thomas will likely pick up RW and Crayton.  Brian Kehl will likely pick up either Bennett or Witten, dependent on their alignment.  Who pick's up the other TE, particularly if they get motioned out wide?  The Safety.  What does that leave?  Either Crayton or William's in a one on one situation.  Are we getting the picture?  All of our receivers last Sunday displayed the ability to beat single-coverage.  It come's down to protecting Romo long enough to take advantage of the obvious mismatches:  The receiver in single coverage and/or the TE matched up with Kehl.  Pretty simple, actually.  I could do this all day, but I hope most of my reader's can read the above and imagine the amount of different alignment's the Cowboy's can do that will create several different undesirable situations for the Giant's defense.

The other side of the ball is a different question entirely.  Given the Cowboy's performance last week and considering the above, one could surmise that Sunday could turn into a shoot out.  I seriously doubt it, though.  It will be a close game, that will likely be decided by Special Teams and the turnover ratio.

Prediction:  Cowboys 24 Giants 20




I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

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4 Comments
  • Joe C

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ndsUZ6guWM&feature=fvw

    Link to Felix’s play you talk about here, also a few other of his highlights.

    Reflecting on that video, I am glad T.O. is gone, but no one can deny he was a workhouse until the end of every play, check him out @ 1:46-1:56… that is hard to replace, but I think we will be ok.

    Can’t wait or Sunday, hopefully we can come out with the W.

  • Mick

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for the invite to your site, and congrats on the forum to contribute. I see your tune hasn’t changed regarding your fascination with the Martellus Bennett matchup vs. Giant LB’s. Pass-defending Linebackers are truly the weakspot for the Giant defense at least until Michael Boley gets up to speed. The problem with this alignment is that it leaves your average OT’s on islands with Tuck and Osi (Flozell is average at best at this stage of his fine career). Considering Romo’s compromised escapability (ankle), it will make for edge-of-your-seat action to see if he gets it off on time. My tune hasn’t changed either: Though the ‘Boys may win this game, personel will not be the Cowboys eventual undoing this year – Wade’s inability to lead and prepare his team will. Unfortunately for you and your comrads, JJ’s steadfast insistance at having a weak Headcoach to manipulate, and absorb the blame is what continues to pull the rug out from under the blue star. When it all falls apart this year, you all need to take some action to voice your displeasure . . . or don’t. Fine with me if the Cowboys continue to fall short of expectations – twelve years and counting . . .
    BTW, the player of the game last week for the G-Men was Corey Webster, who blanketed Santana Moss the entire game. Expect him to be covering your boy Roy.
    BTWW, the guy I fear the most on your offense is Felix the friggin’ cheatah – Dude is deadly! Garrett would be wise to get him alot of touches.

  • Jonathan

    Thanks for the response Mick.

    1st, just because the 12 alignment presents the Cowboys the opportunity to send up to 5 capable receivers out, doesn’t mean all will be sent out. A quick chip by each of our TE’s very well may be all that Romo need’s to find the open receiver. In defense of Flozell, he was average last year, because he had to play all year with injuries to his legs and hand, due to the lack of depth behind him. Are depth is better this year, and so is he.

    A team doesn’t alway’s need a coach to lead; sometimes the players can take that upon themselves. Watch for Demarcus Ware and Tony Romo to step up in a big way.

    I give the Giant’s defense their due, which is why I’m saying it’s going to be a close and moderately low scoring game. Corey Webster may keep Roy in check the vast majority of the day, but it only takes one mistake to change the outcome of a game.

    • Mick

      I agree with that. Truth be told, I predicted on our blogsite (NY Giants 101 – MVN) that Dallas would win this game. Giants usually perform poorly in early-season primetime. I’m sure Eric, Mike D and the boys will try to banish me, but who cares? I also said that the Cowboys’ won’t be able to handle their success. This is where Wade’s true liability will become glaring. Though Romo’s improv skills are tremendous (and he’s a great guy too), I don’t believe his leadership skills are enough to keep a whole team from going Twitter-happy. Though Ware’s a beast, he’s relatively soft-spoken – how’s he gonna convince youngsters like Felix, Martellus, et al to stop getting drunk on their Sportscenter highlights. Players such as Ray Lewis, Mike Strahan and Drew Brees possess the ability to fill the void of a headcoach that cannot lead. Jerry Jones doesn’t recognize the NEED for people like that (especially in his coach). JJ – great talent evaluator, poor mixologist.

Game Notes

Byron Jones Has Been The Cowboys’ Best Player, And Here’s Why

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For a former first round pick, Byron Jones has had to prove himself to the Cowboys fan base quite a few times.

As a rookie Jones was impressive, flashing just how high a ceiling he had. Jones split some time between cornerback and safety due to injury and inconsistencies of his secondary mates, but he excelled in both roles.

As his career continued, Byron Jones continued to do what he does best. Jones became the Cowboys' tight end eraser, matching up with some of the best in the league and downright shutting them down. Over time, however, the coaching staff began to misuse Jones a bit. Moving him to safety full time but still wanting him to use those tight end coverage skills, Dallas started to move Jones into the box more often.

That, especially in 2017, is where Byron Jones struggled the most. Being utilized as a box safety put Jones' weaknesses as a physical tackler on full display, and left him open for fans' criticism.

Luckily for both Jones and the Cowboys, new passing game coordinator Kris Richard values him as a cornerback, where he will spend the rest of his career in Dallas. And, thus far, the returns on that move have been fantastic.

PFF DAL Cowboys on Twitter

After 3 weeks, Byron Jones has the highest season defensive grade among CBs with a 91.0. Jones is tied for the 7th highest defense grade among all defensive players with at least 50 snaps. #CowboysNation Be a PFF ELITE member to check out stats and more: https://t.co/qEKU85c6bI

Pro Football Focus has graded Byron Jones out as the league's best cornerback through three games, and the 7th best defensive player overall. Against the Seahawks last week, Jones allowed just 3 catches for 10 yards when he was the primary defender. He also came away with two pass breakups against veteran wide out Brandon Marshall, and was one of the few positives from the horrible loss.

dalvssea2018 byron jones first

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

On the Seahawks' opening drive they faced a third down and five deep in their own territory. Seattle has a bunch formation to the right with Marshall locked up in man coverage at the bottom of the screen.

The Cowboys bring a blitz, leaving Jones on an island against Marshall. Russell Wilson initially looks towards the bunch side of the formation, but quickly works back to Marshall on a shallow crosser. Byron stays sticky in coverage on his backside hip, and deflects the ball away at the catch point.

Even if Marshall were to catch this, Jones was right there to stop him short of the sticks.

dalvssea2018 byron jones

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

Later in the game the Seahawks tried to allow Marshall to beat Jones with his size. Marshall tries to get physical with Jones here, and wants to body him on a back shoulder fade. Jones shows no backdown, trading blows with Marshall at the line of scrimmage and effecting his get-off.

Still, Marshall is bigger than Jones and is able to create some separation towards the sideline. Jones does a nice job of recovering from this physicality, however, and gets himself back into a position to make a play on the ball. Even though he was initially boxed out, Jones's awareness to get a hand on the ball shines through here.

This goes down as Jones' first of two pass breakups on the day.

dalvssea2018 byron jones 2

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

Here's the second one, once again on a back shoulder fade. Byron Jones uses his length to jam Marshall off the line, and quickly turns his hips to keep up in coverage. Once he reads Marshall's eyes, Byron gets his head around and is able to deflect the pass away.

This is textbook coverage of the back shoulder fade, and Jones' athletic traits and length aid him greatly in covering the larger Marshall on this route.

dalvssea2018 byron jones odell

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

You may be thinking to yourself, "sure, Byron Jones was great against Brandon Marshall, but what about an elite receiver like Odell Beckham?" Well do I have some news for you.

Jones did an excellent job against Beckham during their week two match-up, as did the entire Cowboys secondary. On this play, Jones is locked up in man coverage with Beckham at the top of the screen. He allows Beckham to get a clean outside release, but trusts his hips and speed to recover in coverage with inside leverage.

Jones shows off just how fluid an athlete he is running stride for stride with Beckham down the sideline. Eli Manning puts the ball on Beckham's shoulder, giving him a shot at the 50/50 ball. Jones uses his length and ball skills to get up and deflect the pass away, even against the talented Beckham.

Byron Jones has done a nice job covering this route, using the sideline as an extra defender and minimizing the available area for the receiver. His arm length also help him shrink the catch point in the air.

dalvssea2018 byron jones odell 2

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

Here we see Byron Jones in man coverage with Beckham again, this time at the bottom of the screen. The Giants are looking to utilize play action to take a deep shot to Beckham, anticipating he will defeat Jones' coverage and find a soft spot over Awuzie's head.

Instead, Jones runs step for step with Beckham across the middle, and stays sticky to his backside hip. Manning is forced to hold the ball longer than he expected to due to Jones's coverage, and ends up taking a sack for a big loss.

There's no question that Byron Jones has been a bit of a controversial figure among Cowboys Nation throughout his young career. But, since moving to cornerback full time this season, he has been flat-out awesome.

Byron Jones looks like the shutdown corner the Cowboys have been looking for since trading up for Morris Claiborne back in 2012.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Coaches Should Be on Mid-Season Hot Seat

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Doug Pederson's Success Will Make Jason Garrett's Seat Hotter 1
Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports

A loss in week in week 3 is subject to overreactions from NFL fans everywhere, something we should always be careful with. But as the Dallas Cowboys head to work after another terrible offensive performance, it's tough to imagine the conversation going on in Cowboys Nation is an overreaction. I imagine I'm not alone in wishing that's what it was. But it isn't.

The Dallas Cowboys have opened their 2018 NFL season with a 1-2 record, and even though other teams (such as the New England Patriots) unexpectedly have the same record, or that other crazy stuff is going on around the league, the Jason Garrett-led Cowboys haven't given us much reason to believe they can turn the offense around.

Without further ado, let's get to another Takeaway Tuesday. As always, feel free to share your takeaways from last Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Coaches Must Be on Mid-Season Hot Seat

OK, it's high time we have this conversation. Dak Prescott and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys' offense has been struggling. Although the defense has been playing surprisingly well, there are simply no excuses for the way Scott Linehan's unit has been playing.

There has been trouble at every single aspect of the offensive side of the ball, which was supposed to be this team's strength heading into the season. As much as the future at the quarterback position is uncertain, the biggest problem is coaching. Sure, Prescott isn't living up to the expectations so far, having terrible stats in the first three weeks of the season but the coaches could definitely be putting him in better positions to succeed.

Playing to his strengths. Prescott is at his best when the team runs play-action plays or lets him throw on the run or use his legs to hurt opposing defenses on the ground as well. Prescott could thrive on RPOs and read option runs, but that's not how they're utilizing him.

Jake Kemp on Twitter

per @PFF, Dak Prescott play action percentages by week. week 1 - 17.9% week 2 - 44.0% week 3 - 12.5%

As much as it pains me to say it, it honestly feels like the Cowboys are stuck with Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett at the wheel. Although there aren't big names in the pass-catchers positions, the offense is talented enough to keep the ball moving. Even still, they aren't.

Right now, it's not even about the offense not being the best unit for the team, but a unit that is costing them games and will continue to do so unless some drastic changes are made.

Not that the coaches are the only ones that should be accountable, just about every player should be, including QB Dak Prescott, who might be playing for his job the rest of the year. But if this mediocre performances continue into week 8, for instance, it might just be time to move on from the current coaching staff. What will change in the next seasons that can makes us believe Garrett and Linehan are the answer for the franchise's future?

And yet, no changes will be made as far as the Cowboys' play-caller is. Right now, it's tough to imagine where this season is headed. But two things might be for sure. 1) It won't be good. 2) We'll see some RB screens on third and long and three tight end sets on first downs.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

Defense Might Just Be Fine With Vander Esch Filling in for Sean Lee

Sean Lee hurt his other hamstring playing in Seattle last Sunday, which usually would have us freaking out about the linebacker position. However, as we've discussed since the preseason, Jaylon Smith is looking pretty amazing and healthy. But now, it's not only Smith that's been showing off his football skills.

It's first round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch who's having a pretty nice start to his career. At least, it's been way better than what some expected (myself included) from his rookie season.

In just three weeks and limited snaps, Vander Esch has had 18 tackles and a tackle for loss. He's been around the football a lot, just like Lee when healthy. If the Boise State product continues to play this week, one has to wonder about Sean Lee's future in Dallas.

The Jury is Still Out on K Brett Maher

Kicker Brett Maher kicked a 50-yard field goal last Sunday as Cowboys' fans at home breathed a huge sigh of relief. After letting Dan Bailey go, it was time for something positive to say about the kicker position in Dallas.

Maher was pretty good on the field last week, but there's no denying his kicks were sort of scary and not perfect attempts right down the middle. Cowboys Nation should be more comfortable with the cut of Dan Bailey, but the jury should still be out on his replacement.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Coaches Should Be on Mid-Season Hot Seat" 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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Game Notes

LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys’ Disappointing Loss

Kevin Brady

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LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys Disappointing Loss

Sunday in Seattle didn't go nearly as well as anticipated for the Cowboys, as they fell to the Seahawks in embarrassing fashion, 24-13. While the final score looked close, the fact of the matter is that Dallas was dominated for much of the game.

Offensively they looked lost, unable to create any downfield passing threat or sustain scoring drives. Defensively they played okay, but not up to the standard they had established the first two games of the season. With the offense being as pedestrian as it has been, though, there is a ton of extra pressure placed upon the young defense's shoulders.

One of the youngest members of that young unit shouldered the pressure just fine on Sunday, however. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had himself a heck of a day, leading the team in tackles with 11 including 9 solo ones and a tackle for loss. He flashed his speed, pursuit, tackling ability, and overall athleticism as he worked laterally to make plays and contain the Seahawks running game on the edge.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

His performance built upon an impressive first two games, including a solid home opener against the New York Giants where he tallied 7 tackles in just 28 defensive snaps. Vander Esch hadn't seen the snaps that Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee saw prior to Sunday, but when Lee was forced to miss chunks of the game with injuries, Vander Esch shined.

A key knock placed on Vander Esch's game during the draft process was that he wasn't physical enough as a player. He tended to struggle when taking on blocks and wasn't as sure a tackler when things got muddied up as you'd like to see from a first round pick.

While these were legitimate concerns from his college tape, Leighton Vander Esch looked as comfortable and refined as you can expect from a rookie against the Seahawks. He was a top 3 player on the Cowboys' defense on Sunday, and the Cowboys should be ecstatic about his progress moving forward.

On Monday it was announced the the veteran Sean Lee is expected to miss a few weeks with yet another injury, allowing for Vander Esch to likely be the starter. Lee has been unreliable when it comes to his injury history, and you have to wonder if Vander Esch could supplant him as the full time starter earlier than anyone expected due to those injuries.

I, like many, questioned the Cowboys' selection of Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last year's draft. The lack of comparative position value combined with the questions about Vander Esch's game made me value a pass rusher like Harold Landry much higher than Vander Esch at 19.

So far, though, Leighton Vander Esch is proving the Cowboys right in their selection, and looks to be the starting WILL and three-down backer of the future in Dallas. With Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch playing how they have with limited experience, that future looks very bright defensively.



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