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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


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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.

Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

For Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, it was now or never. With an expiring rookie contract, it was time for him to make a name for himself. Between injuries and a suspension, Lawrence wasn’t close to being a great player before 2017. He accounted for eight sacks in 2015 and only one in 2016.

However, last season he was finally able to get double-digit numbers by sacking opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times. Lawrence also had 36 tackles and four forced fumbles. Not only was he a very good pass rusher, but he also became a great run defender.

Simply put, DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence went from an average player to one of the NFL’s best defensive ends in 2017.

It seems like finally, after years of waiting, the Dallas Cowboys have found their “War Daddy.” But, as is always the case for the Cowboys, there’s a problem. DeMarcus Lawrence needs to be paid in order for him to stay. With number 90 ready to hit free agency, the Cowboys’ front office has a choice to make.

They can give him the big multi-year contract he wants, they can tag him, or the Cowboys can watch him walk out the front door and thrive somewhere else in the league.

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

There’s a problem with giving him a big-time contract though. Lawrence had a great 2017 season, but before that, he hadn’t proved anything. Tank has provided one quality season for the Dallas Cowboys. Are they willing to pay him a lot of money and take the risk of seeing him play like in 2015 or 2016?

It wouldn’t be the first time that an NFL player has had a great “contract year” season just to become an average football player. The Cowboys should look at the possibility of keeping Lawrence for at least one more year by giving him a franchise tag.

But First of All, What is a Franchise Tag?

The offseason is a time in which we sort of understand certain concepts but don’t truly understand them completely. Simply put, every year each NFL team has the right to hand out a franchise tag to one of its players. Tagging a player means giving him a one-year deal with a high payment, basically forcing the player to stay with the team for one more season.

In some cases, the player might even end up on another team, despite being tagged, but that would depend on the type of franchise tag he receives.

There are three types of franchise tags:

  • Exclusive Franchise Tag: With this tag, the player gets paid the average of the top five salaries for the player’s position (in this case, defensive end) for the current year. With this tag, no other team can negotiate with the player (hence the term exclusive). However, only guys like Kirk Cousins or Von Miller get exclusive tags, so it probably won’t be the case for Lawrence.
  • Non-exclusive Franchise Tag: Out of every tag, this is the most used. With this tag, the player receives the average of the top five salaries at his position over the last five years. Other teams can actually negotiate with the player though. If offered a deal by another team, the current team has the right to match the offer. If they decline to do so, they get two first-round picks in compensation.
  • Transition Franchise Tag: This isn’t as compromising as the other tags are, since the team doesn’t even receive compensation if the player takes a deal with another team. The player is paid the average of the ten best salaries at his position. The current team has the opportunity to match any offers made to the player.

In DeMarcus Lawrence’s case, the “non-exclusive” tag would make the most sense, but even if the Cowboys decide to tag Lawrence, there’s still a big problem… cap space.

Per Over The Cap, Dallas is expected to have a cap number of around $18M. The projected tag for a DE in 2018 is over $17M. The Cowboys have to make some moves if they want to keep Tank on the roster.

Whether it’s releasing some players or restructuring a ton of contracts, something will need to get done in Dallas. Lawrence is not the only player the Cowboys should be concerned about re-signing, so they’ll definitely need the cap space.

We may see some surprising cap casualties if the Cowboys really want Lawrence. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this team says goodbye to Dez Bryant, for example.

I don’t see how this team could let DeMarcus Lawrence walk in free agency. I don’t think they should. Let’s hope Tank is wearing a star in 2018.

Tell me what you think about “DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Need for Speed at Running Back

Jess Haynie

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Has RB Rod Smith Emerged As Ezekiel Elliott's Primary Backup? 2
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot needs in the 2018 offseason. Running back may seem low on the list, but Dallas should not take it for granted. They have an opportunity to add some needed speed and explosion to their offense.

Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith will form an exciting one-two punch at the top of the RB depth chart. Alfred Morris‘ contract has expired and it’s unlikely he’ll return with Smith’s late-season push for a larger role.

Rod Smith is an ideal backup for Elliott. He has the right mix of power and athleticism to run some of the same plays, plus he’s not a bad receiver. He could even work as the third-down back when Zeke needs a breather.

Ezekiel Elliott, Broncos

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Between those two, Dallas has all the power and standard running they need. That’s why I believe they should use the number-three spot this year on a true speedster.

I’m sure the first name that pops in mind is Lance Dunbar, who held that role to varying degrees from 2012-2016. Dunbar could be used in a variety of speed-based plays, go out as a receiver, and even return kicks at times.

The Cowboys have a candidate for this role already in Trey Williams, who was on the practice squad and will be with the team at least to start the offseason.

Small and versatile, Williams looks like he fits that Dunbar mold. However, Williams isn’t a true burner. He clocked just 4.49 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s quick and agile, but isn’t necessarily going to beat guys to the edge.

With the way Dallas’ offensive linemen can move and work out in space, a back with blazing speed could do some real damage. All he needs is a lane and he could make house calls.

Right now, wide receiver Ryan Switzer is the only player Dallas has who can assume some of those Dunbar-like roles. He could be effective on screens and reverses. But a guy with those same skills at RB can be even more dangerous. He can leave defenses guessing even more because they’re not sure which position he’s playing until after the huddle breaks.

That third roster spot is wide open, so the Cowboys should spend the offseason looking for a weapon that provides a different skill set and more for opponents to worry about.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Face Tough Decision with DL Tyrone Crawford

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys Sign Tyrone Crawford To Long-Term Contract 1
AP Photo/Brandon Wade

As the Dallas Cowboys look to get back into the playoffs next season, they have some work to do on their current roster. Talent needs to be added and retained, and that takes money. Veteran Tyrone Crawford’s contract puts the Cowboys in a tough spot.

Crawford isn’t the Cowboys’ best defender, but he did have the highest cap hit in 2017, even more than linebacker Sean Lee. Crawford will count $9.1 million against Dallas’ salary cap next season, which is currently second behind Lee’s projected $11-million hit. That fact alone would make you think Tyrone Crawford is likely to be released this offseason.

It would seem even more likely when you consider how guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving have eclipsed him as impact players on the defensive line.

However, Crawford’s contract isn’t so easily discarded.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford

Because of past restructuring, Dallas won’t get much cap relief by cutting Tyrone outright. He still has $7.3 million in dead money on the deal, which means cap savings of only $1.8 million.

That’s a small return for losing a solid, dependable player and great locker room guy.

Crawford can play inside or outside in the 4-3, and he’s been a veteran leader on an otherwise young roster.

If Dallas were to make Tyrone Crawford a June-1st release, they would get $6 million in cap space for 2018 and push another $4.2-million in dead money to 2019. That sounds nice on the surface, but keep in mind Dallas can’t use that $6 million during free agency in March. It only becomes available after June 1st. Still, the Cowboys could find ways to use that money.

It could fund their rookie pool, or go toward a new contract for Lawrence or Irving. It could also be used to sign other June-1st cap casualties. If nothing else, it could be rolled over to next season. But again, you lose a solid player in the exchange.

Tyrone Crawford may not be worth a $9.1-million cap hit, but you have to factor in replacement cost.

Dallas could certainly get by. Assuming Lawrence and Irving return, they also have Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton, and Charles Tapper under contract. Benson Mayowa has one year left on his deal, but is likely to be a cap casualty himself. The Cowboys also have several young prospects in Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, and anyone they might add in this year’s draft.

This would be a no-brainer if Crawford’s contract hadn’t been reworked in the past. Dallas would likely get a nice chunk of immediate change if they cut him, but they created their own problem here with the restructuring. Now they have an asset who isn’t worth his price, but doesn’t offer enough relief to be worth cutting.

It’s a tough call; one of many the Cowboys will face in the 2018 offseason.

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