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Quick Thoughts: Week 2, Philadelphia Eagles

If we though last weeks game was the definition of ugly the Dallas Cowboys one upped themselves in their Week 2 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Penalties kept the Cowboys from pulling away with the offensive line being the biggest culprit. To make matters worse Tony Romo suffered a fracture to his left clavicle. But, at the end of the day a win is a win. The Cowboys simply need to find a way to weather the storm until their stars return to action.

Turning Point

While the Cowboys limited the Eagles to negative 3 rushing yards and under 7 minutes time of possession in the first half it was only 6-0 as the teams headed to the locker rooms. Coming out for the second half the Cowboys defense held strong once again forcing a quick punt from the Eagles. Eagles punter Donnie Jones had his attempt blocked and Kyle Wilber returned the loose ball 26 yards for the touchdown and a 13-0 lead.

Three Stars

Third Star: Tyler Patmon – The young cornerback assuming Orlando Scandrick’s role as the primary slot corner has not looked out of place. Patmon played well in coverage and could have had a pair of interceptions. I’m sure the team will have him working on the jugs machine this week.

Second Star: Jason Witten – Old reliable was up to his old tricks once again. It wasn’t the two touchdown performance from Week 1 but Witten came up with catches when the Cowboys needed them. Witten finished the game with 7 receptions for 56 yards.

First Star: Sean Lee – Throughout the game Lee was simply flying around making plays. He frustrated DeMarco Murray on a number of occasions and came up with a clutch redzone interception as the Eagles began to get their offense rolling after Romo left. Lee finished with 9 solo tackles, 5 tackle assists and 1 interception.

Other Thoughts

  • The biggest storyline going into this game was the return of DeMarco Murray. After a subpar Week 1 performance Murray actually played worse in Week 2. The Cowboys stymied their former running back all game. Murray finished the afternoon with 13 carries for 2 yards. This brings his season rushing stats to 21 carries for 11 yards.
  • For the second straight week the Cowboys held their opponent to under 300 yards of total offense. The Eagles final drive, with the game essentially decided, accounted for 80 of their 226 yards. This defense is for real.
  • There’e been a lot of reports online about how long Romo will be out. These are all guesses and assumptions. At this point we do not know the severity of the fracture. I once fractured my clavicle but since it was a hairline fracture I was only in a sling for two weeks. Let’s hold off on the season is over talk until we know the exact nature of Romo’s injury.
  • While he wasn’t asked to do much, Brandon Weeden came in and played well. Weeded completed all seven of his pass attempts for 73 yards and a touchdown. Hopefully when he gets a full game he plays better than he did against Arizona.
  • The injuries the Cowboys have suffered early this season are certainly disheartening. That being said the Cowboys are 2-0 to start the season. Even more important is the fact that both games were division wins. But the best part is that both the Eagles and Giants find themselves at 0-2 to start the season.

Next up for the Cowboys is a home game against the Atlanta Falcons. While it will be a battle of two 2-0 teams both sides have their issues. The Cowboys obviously have injury concerns and have won a pair of ugly games. But the Falcons haven’t looked that impressive either, save for Julio Jones. The Falcons barely got past the same teams the Cowboys barely got past. It should be a good game and if the Cowboys can find a way once again they could start building a cushion until the playmakers return.

Know the Enemy: Philadelphia Eagles, Week 2

DALLAS COWBOYS (1-0) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (0-1)

Sunday, September 20, 2015 – 4:25pm ET
Lincoln Financial Field
TV: FOX
Announcers: Joe Buck / Troy Aikman / Erin Andrews

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4 Things: Giants vs Cowboys

  1. The Committee Might Actually WorkDunbar, Randle and McFadden combined for 34 touches and 212 yards against the Giants. Randle and McFadden both received the bulk of the carries, but Dunbar was the X-Factor for us down the stretch. Romo hit Dunbar on a 24 yard pass followed by a 16 yard pass. Dunbar covered 40 yards in less than 45 seconds. Those three guys contributed a lot and it looks like this committee is working.
  2. The Offensive Line is Still The Best in The NFL
    I don’t know if you noticed, but Tony Romo was not sacked last night. Romo dropped back to pass the ball 45 times and he was not sacked. Tyron Smith handled Robert Ayers with ease, while Zack Martin and Travis Frederick stood up their rushers. Bill Callahan is in Washington now, but it seems like Frank Pollock and Marc Colombo have these guys ready. LG Ronald Leary injured his groin, but Mackenzy Bernadeau filled in for him and did a good job. The Offensive Line is the best in the NFL and it will be the best for the next decade.
  1. This team can win these few games without Dez Bryant
    Dallas Cowboys
    fans have been calling Dez Bryant “replaceable” since he got his foot taped up. Dez Bryant may have had an off night statistically, but what he did for us in this game is not “replaceable.” I think people fail to realize that Dez was doubled any time he was on the field. Dez being doubled means Witten, Escobar, Williams and Beasley are all in single coverage. That’s what Dez brings to this team when he isn’t catching passes. Dez will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in foot, but I’m not paranoid one bit. The offense will flow through Romo and Witten. We understand the chemistry between Romo and Witten, so we know Tony will have a reliable target to throw to. The WRs didn’t look great last night, but the running backs and TEs did, so I definitely can see them getting the bulk of touches until Dez is back.
  1. The Defense Shut The Giants Offense Down
    Rod Marinelli and all the defensive coaches showed up and had their guys ready to play. Sean Lee made his return and so did the pass rush. I really want to highlight secondary coach, Jerome Henderson. Last season the Cowboys secondary was embarrassed by the Giants WR’s, specifically Odell Beckham Jr. JJ Wilcox, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr were all over Wilcox last night. Beckham caught a pass over the middle and Wilcox came flying like a bullet and hit Beckham Jr. Wilcox actually broke his nose on that play too. Morris Claiborne was covering Beckham Jr. for the majority of the game and he looked like the guy we drafted with the 6th pick in 2012. You didn’t really hear Claiborne’s name during the game because Eli Manning wouldn’t target him. Cowboys held Beckham to just 5 catches for 44 yards.  The Cowboys defense gave up 289 total yards, but didn’t give up a touchdown rushing or passing. There’s always some bad when there’s a lot of good and Cowboys had a somewhat major injury on defense last night. Rookie Defensive End, Randy Gregory suffered a high ankle sprain last night. Gregory was rushing with his speed and power, but he got tangled up and sprained his ankle. Thankfully it isn’t a fracture, but he’ll miss time. Potentially, the Cowboys could get Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory back at the same time.

Quick Thoughts: Week 1, New York Giants

The Dallas Cowboys kicked off their 2015 campaign with a tumultuous victory over the divisional rival New York Giants. Tony Romo orchestrated a masterful touchdown drive in the final minute and a half capped by an 11 yard strike to Jason Witten giving the Cowboys an unlikely 27-26 win. It was a game that will go down as evidence in favor of Romo’s place amongst the top QBs in the game.

That being said, while the final drive was masterful the rest of the game wasn’t pretty. In fact there were moments that were downright ugly. Wide receivers were dropping passes. Balls were deflecting off of hands directly for to the Giants for momentum swinging interceptions. Until the final drive it was a case of whatever can go wrong will go wrong for the Cowboys.

Play of the Game

With the Cowboys leading 6-3 and dominating the game, both in terms of yardage and time of possession, Romo was once again leading the Cowboys down the field with eyes on padding the lead before the half. Instead Cole Beasley fumbled at the end of a 14 yard catch and run and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned the loose ball 57 yards for a touchdown that changed the complexion of the game. The fumble return touchdown gave the Giants their first lead of the game and they never trailed until Witten scored in the dying seconds.

Three Stars

Third Star: Jason Witten – Romo looked Witten’s direction when it counted most. Witten caught a pair of fourth quarter TDs to bring the Cowboys back from the jaws of defeat. Witten finished the game with 8 receptions for 60 yards and two scores.

Second Star: Cowboys Secondary – Typically I will just give these awards out to individual players but I find it very tough to pick just one guy out of this group. JJ Wilcox rocked Odell Beckham Jr. in the first quarter and set the tone for the evening. From their Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both handled Beckham with great success. Overall Beckham finished with just 5 catches for 44 yards. A far cry from what he did to the Cowboys a year ago.

First Star: Tony Romo – As mentioned above Romo marched the Cowboys down the field with little time remaining to win the game. Throughout the evening Romo looked crisp finishing with 356 yards on 36/45 passing, three touchdowns and a 103.3 QB rating. If not for the dropped passes Romo could have reached 400 yards. He did throw a pair of interceptions but neither can be placed squarely on his shoulders. The first Romo and Witten should probably share the blame. The pass from Romo was behind Witten but at the same time it’s a catch we have seen Witten make many times and he should have been able to come up with it. The second was entirely on Devin Street. Romo hit Street square in the numbers and the second year wideout simply failed to hold onto the ball.

Final Thoughts

  • After the game the Cowboys received some bad news. Dez Bryant was diagnosed with a broken bone in his foot. He will have surgery to have a screw inserted and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Randy Gregory was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and is also expected to be out 4-6 weeks. These timelines suggest that the pair could return after the Cowboys Week 6 bye. While it hurts to lose both players initial reaction to the injures had Cowboys fans fearing the worst.
  • We have all wondered at some point, “why don’t the Cowboys utilize Lance Dunbar more?” Well they finally got the shift running back involved and he made the case to be a mainstay in the offense. Dunbar never took a handoff but did catch eight passes for 70 yards.
  • Sean Lee returned to being the leader of this defense. Lee finished with a team high seven solo tackles and two assists. Hitchens and Wilber also played well but this defense will get to another level with the return of Rolando McClain. Having Lee and McClain on the field together should allow the Cowboys to boast one of the top linebacker units in the league.

The Cowboys got away with one in their season opener. Next up is a road trip to Philadelphia. Without the likes of Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain, Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory the Cowboys will have an uphill battle. If the Cowboys play like this against the Eagles they likely won’t be as lucky. A lot of work will be done this week on the practice field to ensure a performance like this does not happen two weeks in a row.

Know the Enemy: New York Giants, Week 1

Can you feel it? The regular season is just around the corner. The Dallas Cowboys will kick off Sunday Night Football against their NFC East Rivals, the New York Giants. By the time the ball is launched off the tee, it will have been 294 days since these two teams last met.

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Cowboys Add to the Committee

As fans waited patiently for waiver wire claims to be announced the Dallas Cowboys made some noise. While they didn’t claim anyone through the waiver process they did add a new member through a trade. The Cowboys sent a conditional 7th round pick in the 2016 draft to Seattle for running back Christine Michael.

Rumors had been swirling for a couple days that the Cowboys were looking at trade options to bolster the position. Michael may not be the answer that most fans were looking for but he’s cheap and has a ton of potential. Number one backs are hard to find and even if one was available the cost, both to acquire and in salary, would be incredibly steep.

Today’s trade shows that the Cowboys remain confident in the abilities of Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden but still wanted to add some reasonably priced talent to the mix.

Last season with the Seahawks Michael gained 175 yards on 34 carries. While it is a very small sample size, Michael’s 5.1 yards per carry looks promising. The Seahawks had the best rushing attack in the league last year and Michael may have simply been lost in the mix. With star running back Marshawn Lynch justifiably receiving the majority of carries, Michael had to split a backup role with Robert Turbin (74 carries/310 yards/4.2 ypc). Still, on tape Michael shows the skills needed to be a strong zone blocking scheme running back.

At 5’10 221 pounds Michael possesses the size needed to fight through would be tacklers.

For a back of his size, Michael also shows incredible quickness.

His best run of the season shows a nice combination of his toughness and his quickness.

Michael may not be the superstar running back that fans hoped for but he can certainly fit into the Cowboys plan to go with a RBBC. Out of Michael, Randle and McFadden the Cowboys just need one guy to break out while the other two provide support. It’s not unreasonable to think each back could reach 500 yards in the Cowboys offense. If just one of the three can break out and have a big year the Cowboys will be just fine.

 

 

4 Things From The Cowboys Final Preseason Game

The 8 game preseason losing streak has officially come to an end. The Dallas Cowboys finished their final preseason game at home with a victory over the Houston Texans. No starters play in the fourth preseason game, so this game would be dominated by guys who are on the “bubble” I’m going to list 4things that stood out to me in last night’s game.

1. Corey White is a good replacement for the injured Orlando Scandrick
Pro Football Focus had White ranked as the second best corner in the preseason. White had 4 pass breakups, 0 TDs allowed and a pick six. White last season played on a terrible Saints defense, but now he’s on a team that can get consistent pressure from the front four. Scandrick is injured and White has proven that he deserves to play the slot. If White plays anything close to what we’ve seen in the preseason, then we’re in good hands.

2. Davon Coleman is working hard to make the roster
In last night’s game, Coleman finished with 3 tackles and one for loss. His numbers don’t flash on paper, but he got a good amount of pressure on Texans QB, Tom Savage. Coleman’s most notable play was a tackle on Savage which resulted in a severe shoulder sprain for Savage. I saw a lot of effort from Coleman this preseason. If Coleman goes all in and really cares about football, he has the potential to be a good defensive tackle beside Tyrone Crawford.

3. Lucky Whitehead should be on the 53 man roster
Lucky Whitehead was the camp darling for the Cowboys. Jerry and Stephen Jones all mentioned Lucky by name and they talked about how much they liked him. Lucky Whitehead did have a fumble against the Chargers earlier in the preseason, but other than that, he’s played well. Lucky caught a touchdown against the Vikings and he got a few good returns vs. the Texans. Lucky was also blocking for Gus Johnson and Ben Malena last night in the run game. If Lucky can be a reliable returner and block in the run game like Dwayne Harris did, he should be on the 53.

4. Gavin Escobar is trying to prove he isn’t a bust.
Last night, Escobar was targeted 2 times and he caught both passes. The one that stood out most was his catch and run on third down to get to the marker. He caught the ball and juked out a Texans and fought for the first down. Escobar was a second round pick and I’m glad to see him prove people wrong. Hopefully as the season begins, Escobar begins to do that against starting NFL talent.

Quick Thoughts: Preseason Week 4

The streak has been snapped! The Cowboys won their final preseason game 21-14 over the Houston Texans. It still doesn’t mean a whole lot but it was nice to see the team pick up a victory as they head into the regular season.

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2015 Roster Projections

When the Dallas Cowboys begin their season, they’ll immediately be missing three starters. CB Orlando Scandrick was lost to an ACL/MCL injury last week, while DE Greg Hardy and LB Rolando McClain will each have to serve a four game suspension.

That being said, you will see 55 men on the roster below. The two extra men account for the roster spots that will be used while Hardy and McClain are away for four games.

ASHLEYJORDAN
QBQB
RomoRomo
WeedenWeeden
RBRB
RandleRandle
McFaddenMcFadden
DunbarDunbar
CluttsClutts
WRWR
BryantBryant
WilliamsWilliams
BeasleyBeasley
StreetStreet
WhiteheadJenkins
TETE
WittenWitten
EscobarEscobar
HannaHanna
SwaimSwaim
OLOL
SmithSmith
LearyLeary
FrederickFrederick
MartinMartin
FreeFree
CollinsCollins
BernadeauBernadeau
WeemsWeems
GibsonWetzel
DTDT
T. CrawfordT. Crawford
HaydenHayden
J. CrawfordJ. Crawford
ColemanColeman
McClainBishop
Bishop
DEDE
HardyHardy
MinceyMincey
LawrenceLawrence
GregoryGregory
RussellRussell
GardenerGardener
Edwards
LBLB
LeeLee
McClainMcClain
HitchensHitchens
GachkarGachkar
BrinkleyBrinkley
WilberWilber
WilsonWilson
Smith
CBCB
CarrCarr
ClaiborneClaiborne
WhiteWhite
PatmonPatmon
JonesJones
SS
ChurchChurch
WilcoxWilcox
HeathHeath
McCray
STsSTs
BaileyBailey
JonesJones
LadouceurLadouceur

 

ASHLEY

It’s easy to see that the backup play behind Romo has been subpar. I don’t think that anyone has made their case to the Cowboys to encourage them to add another roster spot there. I believe they’ll roll with 2 QBs, because once we get to Romo’s backup, we’re in trouble anyway.

I think we’ll see the Cowboys go deep at DL, especially given the way Marinelli likes to rotate through players. McCray was tough to project, but given the loss of Spillman, the Cowboys may keep him around strictly for what he offers on STs, though he may not be the McCray of old.

If it were up to me, I’d be more inclined to keep Keith Smith at LB than Jasper Brinkley based on their preseason performances, but Brinkley’s contract tells me to follow the money. I’d love to see the Cowboys be bold here, and make that move… so long as they’re comfortable. We may not see that until after McClain comes back from his suspension, if at all.

The fifth WR spot is hard to predict as well, and the 5th guy may not even be on this team. But so far, Lucky has caught 4-of-6 passes thrown his way. His running with the #1s against Minnesota can only be seen as a good thing, catching a TD pass from Romo. Lucky is not to be overlooked in the run game, either, as he’s made nice blocks there for a rookie WR. I would’ve liked to see AJ Jenkins take this spot, but he’s 2-of-5 on catches thrown his way, and doesn’t play special teams. That could hurt him.

I could easily see the Cowboys cutting Gibson and Bishop once Hardy and McClain are through with their suspensions. All in all, the Cowboys don’t have very many roster spots to fill from last season, and will cut some decent talent along the way. That’s a good problem to have. I could also potentially see Hanna being used as trade bait a la Dante Rosario.

 

JORDAN

Dustin Vaughan hasn’t shown me anything to make me hesitate cutting him and going long at a position like the defensive line. Probably the biggest surprise in my projection is AJ Jenkins over Lucky Whitehead. I think Lucky lost his spot on the team when Cole Beasley proved to be an effective punt returner. He isn’t the sexy threat that you would prefer but he’s steady. That being said, I don’t think Jenkins spot is safe. While he has come on in recent weeks and he does have great draft pedigree I believe his spot is available should a WR/KR shake loose that the front office likes.

Once Week 4 rolls around Hardy and McClain will return from their suspensions prompting a pair of cuts. I’ve gone long at both linebacker and defensive line to accommodate this. I’ve liked what I have seen from the younger players so far this offseason so to make room for McClain I would cut Brinkley and keep Smith. Cutting a defensive lineman to make room for Hardy will be a tough decision.

It will likely come down to either Bishop or Edwards. However, in a perfect world the young guys will continue to push the pocket from the 1-tech position causing Hayden to become expendable. John Wetzel is an extra offensive lineman that could be replaced when Chaz Green is healthy.

 

#SACKSCOMING BACK?

Back in 2011, DeMarcus Ware finished the regular season with 19.5 sacks and the Dallas Cowboys finished with 42 total sacks. The Cowboys pass rush back in 2011 consisted of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, and Marcus Spears. You look at that defensive line/linebacker depth chart and you understand how the Cowboys finished with 42 sacks. As we all know, all of the guys listed are no longer with the Cowboys, and he sack total for the Cowboys started its decline after the 2011 season.

In an effort to help the pass rush before the decline hit its lowest point, the Cowboys jumped up in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and selected Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence only played 2 years at Boise State, but in his 2 years he registered more total tackles, 4 more sacks and only less than tackle for loss than 2014 number one overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney. Lawrence would suffer a foot injury in camp and he’d be out for most of the year until the playoffs. In the playoffs he sacked both Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. 2014 was the year where Jason Garrett and company really saw how bleak the pass rush was. The Cowboys finished the season with just 28 total sacks and Jeremy Mincey lead the team with 6.

The Cowboys made it a priority in 2015 to go out and fix their pass rush any way they could. On March 18th, the Cowboys went out and signed former Carolina Panther, Greg Hardy. This signing was rather controversial because Hardy had been wrapped up in a domestic violence case involving his then girlfriend. A month later, the NFL suspended Hardy for 10 games, but Hardy would challenge that suspension in court and get it reduced to just 4 games. Hardy will return in Week 5 to play the New England Patriots.

Before Hardy’s suspension was reduced the Cowboys stole the NFL draft. The Cowboys took falling Nebraska defensive end, Randy Gregory in the second round. Gregory was a projected top 15 pick until he failed a drug test at the NFL Combine in February. Gregory finished his 2 year career at Nebraska with 119 total tackles, 26.5 for loss and 16.5 sacks. To put it into perspective, in his 2 years at Nebraska compared to number 3 overall pick, Dante Fowler Jr, Gregory finished with more solo tackles, tackles for loss and total tackles. He also finished with 16.5 sacks compared to Fowler’s 12. Fowler was selected 3rd overall, and Gregory was selected 60th overall. Stats don’t lie.

In the 5th round of the same draft, the Cowboys drafted Purdue DE, Ryan Russell. Russell finished his 4 years at Purdue with 149 total tackles, 24.5 of those for loss and 9.5 sacks. Russell is just another piece in an attempt to fix the miserable pass rush of 2014. Russell obviously won’t be the starter, but for the rotational defensive line coach Marinelli loves to run, we’ll be seeing some of Ryan Russell.

Tyrone Crawford, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ben Gardner along with the additions of Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory and Ryan Russell will all help fix this pass rush. Jason Garrett has quickly rebuilt the defensive line like he did the offensive line. The pass rush will be an intricate part in the success of this defense.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
#SACKSCOMIN

  • Random Quote

    We might lose a game, we might lose a first down; they may score a touchdown, someone may get hurt– but you have to persevere.

    — Jason Garrett