clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cowboys News: Can The Packers Handle Ezekiel Elliott And The Cowboys O-Line?

New, comments

Latest Cowboys headlines: The No. 1 rushing offense meets the No. 1 rushing defense; Morris Claiborne ranked top corner in NFL; DeMarcus Lawrence energizes Cowboys' pass rush.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

"They can't play with us, man. We're too physical." - NFL Turning Point via Youtube

The Packers’ Run Defense Is Absurdly Good  -  But Can They Handle Zeke and the Boys? Danny Kelly, The Ringer
Kelly turns his attention to the unstoppable-force-meets-immovable-object matchup between the Packers and the Cowboys.

Capers and his run defense will set out to make Dallas one-dimensional on offense. They want to take the ball out of Elliott’s hands and task their other star rookie with carrying the load. Prescott has been extraordinarily efficient managing the game for Dallas while Tony Romo rehabs his back injury, but he’s still relatively limited as a passer and has thrown just four touchdowns on the season.

On Sunday, we’ll see the mythological battle of Hector vs. Achilles reenacted on the football field. We all know how that played out the first time, but while Elliott and the Cowboys’ run game look invincible, if Green Bay can get to their heel and collapse their rushing attack, the Cowboys start to look pretty mortal. It comes down to the Cowboys’ offensive line against the Packers’ elite, run-stuffing front. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage controls the outcome of the game.

No. 1 vs. No. 1: The Cowboys' league-best rush attack meets the Packers' stout run D - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Dubin offers a recipe for how the Cowboys can beat the Packers on the ground.

The strength of Dallas' running game is right there up the middle, but they actually might be best off in this one attacking the edges of the Green Bay defense, especially with read-option plays. Dak Prescott has shown through the first few weeks of the season that he is more than capable of making the right decision when reading the man on the edge of the formation, and anyone who has watched Dom Capers' unit the last few years knows how vulnerable they are to the read-option, especially on the perimeter. Their crew of outside linebackers are mostly pass-rush types, and they love to come screaming around the edge to make a big play.

Using that aggressiveness against them has worked well for other teams in the past (see: Kaepernick, Colin and Wilson, Russell). The Cowboys have been able to add that read element to their running game this season with Prescott at the helm (it helps that Elliott was in an offense that used it fairly often when he was at Ohio State), and it has made them even more dangerous, especially near the goal line. If the Packers get over-aggressive trying to contain Elliott's runs up the middle, don't be surprised if Dak pulls one and takes off around the edge of the defense. At that point, it will be up to Capers and the Green Bay defense to adjust.

Final Thoughts: Run to the edges - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus with some final thoughts on what it will take to get the ground game going.

If the Cowboys have success running the football, I believe it’s going to be on the edges and not inside. The Packers will try and crowd the box inside by walking Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix down. Look for those plays where the Cowboys pull their offensive linemen on the outside. This will allow them to down block in order to seal the corner and get their blockers in space. This is the way that they can trap their defenders inside. The Cowboys must make sure they get a hat on rookie linebacker Blake Martinez – if unblocked he has the talent to make every tackle.

Cowboys cashing in on long drives - Eric Goska, Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
Goska takes a long look at the Cowboys drive stats and concludes that "overstaying their welcome is a new wrinkle for the Cowboys."

Sixteen of the Cowboys’ 48 drives (33 percent) have consisted of 10 or more plays. That number and corresponding percentage lead the league.

Seven of the 16 drives culminated in touchdowns. Eight resulted in field goals. One, their most recent, ended with a fumble. Long drives are often assumed to end with positive results. The majority do. But scoring on 15 of 16 (93.8 percent) is above the norm.

The team is on pace to stage 51 drives of 10 or more plays this season, which would easily be the most by any team this century.

Star_medium

Cowboys' Morris Claiborne Ranked Top Corner in NFL - James Kotroczo, 12up
Airplane Mo is living up to his draft pedigree, and people are starting to notice.

Morris Claiborne finally living up to hype - Ike Taylor, NFL.com
In his fifth NFL season, Dallas Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne is finally living up to his lofty draft slot, but faces a tough test in Green Bay. Taylor explains.

This week, the Cowboys travel to play the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who are still trying to their hit stride on offense. Rodgers has thrown for just 876 yards in four games, but his connection with receiver Jordy Nelson hasn't skipped a beat. With the No. 1 receiver's return, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb are coming along. Nelson is a combat catcher similar to Brandon Marshall, Adams has size and speed, and Cobb is elusive and quick. With these three receivers, Claiborne is going to face his toughest challenge of the season. To have success, he needs to tackle well and keep his eyes clean -- he must not peak [sic] back at the quarterback, must stay in close relationship to the receivers.

He's not Tebow. He's not Brady. But the Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott comparisons will continue - Ian O'Connor, ESPN
This 2,800-word article is too long to summarize, but well worth the read as O'Connor looks at Dak Prescott's development from when he was a 6-year old all the way to today. Here's an excerpt in which Brian Johnson, the Bulldogs quarterbacks coach, talks about Prescott.

"It was the first time I'd seen him in person," Johnson said, "and he absolutely crushed it. It was crazy. You would've thought Dak was a middle linebacker with the edge and intensity he had. I was like, 'Holy cow, I've never seen a quarterback perform like that in a workout.' He was ripping off reps, doing a super heavy leg press, just a brutal workout. We had three different groups, and he stayed around for the second one to cheer on guys and help them through it. That told me a lot about Dak as a person."

"Dak wanted to understand how to beat teams with his mind," Johnson said. "He wanted a deeper understanding of the game. He wrote down his goals before each season, and he wanted to master the game. Dak's got an extensive memory bank where he can recall things, and if you go back and clearly watch the film, you'll see him at times appropriately getting to the fifth read in his progression.

"The passing game we ran was very much pro-style. There's some misconception about the spread system not asking the quarterback to do much; we asked Dak to do a lot of different things in protection, in making sure we're in the right run play, in understanding defenses. I think Tim Tebow is probably the greatest college football player to ever play, and if you watch film there are some similarities. But in the passing game, you'd see Dak do stuff we thought gave him a chance to play on Sundays for a really long time."

DeMarcus Lawrence's return energizes Dallas Cowboys' pass rush - JJ Taylor, ESPN
The Cowboys' pass rush perked up noticeably with DeMarcus Lawrence's return from suspension, and Taylor explains how Lawrence gets his pass rush going.

He's not a pure speed rusher like DeMarcus Ware, who could dip his shoulder, giving the tackle nothing to block, while going full speed around the tackle. Lawrence uses three or moves [sic] to set up the tackle, then attacks him with the one that's most efficient as the game goes on.

"I try to get in the tackle's head," Lawrence said. "Once you do that, it's over.

"Then he asks the guard for help on the inside move and you set him up to go outside. It's easy once you get in their head."

Witten on franchise starts record: I'm not Hercules - Connor Orr, NFL.com
Jason Witten will tie the Cowboys' record for games started against the Packers. But The Senator doesn't seem to be all that impressed by the feat.

"Yeah, I don't want to make it bigger than it is," Witten said, via The Dallas Morning News. "It's not like I'm Hercules or something."

He added: "I think it's just I love to play football. I think anyone who has ever been my teammate or I've been theirs understands how much I love that."

Star_medium

Will Cowboys K Dan Bailey sleep on the floor the night before the Green Bay game? - David Moore, SportsDay
After coming away with a bad back from the team hotel in San Francisco, Bailey is looking forward to the Sleep Number beds at the team hotel in Green Bay.

Bailey experienced no discomfort until the morning of the San Francisco game on Oct. 2. His back didn't feel right and he informed the training staff immediately. He believes a soft bed was the culprit.

"I think that's what triggered it or made it flair [sic] up,'' said Bailey, who has never had a problem with his back before. "But obviously there was something there pre-existing I didn't know about.''

Diabetic Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Wade Wilson is fine after amputation of infected toe - Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram
Wilson is battling diabetes and considers himself lucky to have only lost a toe.

Wilson said he hasn't talked a lot about the amputation because of the role he played in the situation. He wasn't taken [sic] care of himself, thus letting the infection get worse.

The toe had been infected due to complications with his diabetes. It got so bad he had to be hospitalized for two days during training camp in August, when he received antibiotics and was forced to wear a walking boot for a week.

He had another setback when the Cowboys returned to Dallas. [...] So on the same weekend that it was announced that Romo would be out 8-10 weeks because of a broken bone in his back suffered against the Seahawks, Wilson underwent surgery to amputate his toe.

Star_medium

If you've grown tired or bored of all the Prescott vs. Romo talk, then this is your natural exit point from this news post. If not, read on.

Star_medium

Tony Romo’s current target: Week Eight or Week Nine - Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Florio, citing a "source with knowledge of the situation", writes that Romo is throwing the ball "with zip" and "working out aggressively" as he works his way back from injury.

The current target for his return, according to the source, is Week Eight against the Eagles or Week Nine at Cleveland. The belief continues to be that, when he’s healthy, Romo will play. That doesn’t mean healthy in the air-quotes sense, where the team’s doctors decide Romo’s not "100 percent" until Dak Prescott cools off.

The Cowboys intend to use Romo when he’s cleared to play, because they continue to believe he gives them the best chance to win.

Is there obvious answer to Cowboys' Dak Prescott/Tony Romo QB quandary? Tom Pelissero, USA Today
Ostensibly, this is about defensive coordinators having less film on Prescott than they do on Romo, but there's more to the starter question than just that.

In conversations this week with NFL executives, scouts and coaches — all speaking on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons — a strong consensus emerged that the Cowboys should stick with Prescott regardless of Romo’s status, unless the rookie plays himself out of the lineup. Some said this shouldn’t even be a question, given the risk of dividing the locker room, disrupting Prescott’s trajectory and messing with chemistry on an offense that’s rolling. A high-ranking scout compared Prescott to a young Warren Moon.

One general manager said the hype has gotten ahead of reality with Prescott, 23, and he’d be shocked if Romo, 36, doesn’t return as the starter. However, that was based mainly on the resources tied up in Romo — just $8.5 million in salary this year but over $20.8 million in cap space — and a close relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who reiterated after last week’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals that Romo remains No. 1 on the depth chart.

Why the Cowboys' season could hinge on Sunday's game in Green Bay - Dieter Kurtenbach, FOX Sports
Kurtenbach explains that the decision between Romo and Prescott hinges on one game.

If Prescott goes out and has a monster game — if he outduels Aaron Rodgers — how on earth could the Cowboys’ coaching staff bench him?

If the rookie struggles against one of the NFC’s perennial powers, the move to go back to the established starter becomes an easy decision. It’s not going to be an easy game for Prescott to win, either — it’s his toughest test yet.

Of course, if Prescott passes this test, the next "toughest test" will be the Eagles game, and then the Steelers game after that, and then something else after that.