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Cowboys News: Why Dak Prescott And Ezekiel Elliott Are "Shredding Defenses."

Latest Cowboys headlines: Why the Cowboys' rookie-led offense is one of the best in the NFL; Randy Gregory facing another suspension; big day for Ezekiel Elliott in Pittsburgh?

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How Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys are shredding defenses - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
Who deserves credit for the Cowboys' success on offense? Ezekiel Elliott? Dak Prescott? The offensive line? Seifert offers a highly readable article in which he suggests the Cowboys' success is due to a "little bit of everything, complementing each other in just the right way."

One of the ways [the offensive line] has helped Prescott is to allow him a relatively long time in the pocket to find open receivers and make good decisions. This season, Prescott has spent more time per throw in the pocket on average than all but one qualified NFL quarterback.

With enough time to stand in the pocket, Prescott has been able to establish himself as one of the NFL's most accurate downfield throwers. No quarterback has completed such passes at a higher rate than Prescott over that period; his completion percentage of 68.4 on throws of at least 15 yards in the air is 25 points above the league average.

Elliott leads the NFL in yards before contact, which generally speaking implies the consistency of strong blocking. But he is also atop the league in rushing yards after contact, which are a credit to the runner.

It helps that Elliott has gotten 177 opportunities to carry the ball this season, second most in the league, but you get the point.

Seifert also offers up these two interesting stats about the Cowboys' rookie quarterback:

DAK_comp.0.jpg DAK_long_comp.0.jpg

Why NFL teams need to use more play-action - Peter Keating, ESPN
Play-action passes lead to bigger plays and fewer sacks -- so why aren't more teams taking full advantage of one of the NFL's best weapons?

The numbers are loud and clear: Misdirection still pays.

QBs threw for 9.23 yards per attempt on play-action through Week 9 this season, compared with 6.9 ypa on all other passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's a huge gap. 
It's the difference between Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota! Further, play-action passes lead to first downs on 44.3 percent of completions, versus 33.3 percent for non-PA, and result in fewer sacks despite QBs holding the ball longer (5 percent of dropbacks, versus 5.6 percent). Essentially, play-action is a way to grab extra rewards without incurring extra risk.

For some, the pure pocket passer is the beau ideal of quarterback play, and once a QB has established a high level of standard performance, it's almost as if he shouldn't need to resort to anything so gimmicky. Other clubs still think you have to run to set up the pass and will use play-action only if they are already confident in their rushing game. Indeed, as Football Outsiders pointed out in July, four of the five teams that ran most often last season (as a percentage of plays) were also among the half a dozen that deployed play-action the most.

But analytics long ago debunked the idea that you need to run to set up the pass-and besides, even the worst teams in the league rush more than 20 times a game, so you especially don't need to run to set up fake handoffs.

Bold predictions: Ezekiel Elliott rushes for 150 yards and two touchdowns against Steelers - Nick Shook,
Shook has obviously been given the gift of prophecy.

Pittsburgh struggles against the pass, allowing the ninth-most passing yards per game. So this would be an easy selection for Dak Prescott to hit 300 yards and at least two touchdowns, right? But bold predictions aren't easy. We're turning to Dallas' bellcow running back, rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott. A week after the Cowboys ran roughshod over the Browns' defense, Elliott picks up where he left off. Against the Steelers, Elliott gets going on the ground early, rushing for big chunks and breaking tackles as he so often has against various NFL defenses. Elliott runs through Pittsburgh's 13th-ranked rush defense for 150 yards and two touchdowns and spells out O-H-I-O in enemy territory with each touchdown as Dallas records its eighth straight win and tightens its grip on the NFC East.

Daryl 'Moose' Johnston: Why Dallas has a better overall offense than the Atlanta Falcons - Staff, SportsDay
The Falcons loom as a potential playoff opponent for the Cowboys, so this is an interesting comparison Moose is drawing.

Q: Dallas and Atlanta, which of those offenses is the better overall unit?

I think because of how Dallas plays offense, I would give the nod to the Cowboys. I don't think anybody can really match the explosive capability of what Atlanta has. Carolina is right there when you talk about big plays down the field. But Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu ... they've got a nice three tight end package that they roll at you. They've got two really good running backs coming out of the backfield. From an explosive standpoint, very impressed with Atlanta's offense. But I think what sets Dallas apart is their offensive line. I just don't see anybody across the league that comes off the ball in a wave like the Dallas offensive line does. They're on the same level. They're step for step. They're knocking people back. It's just really impressive.


Sturm: I've been a longtime Romo apologist, but here's why the Cowboys must stick with Dak Prescott - Bob Sturm, SportsDay
Sturm carries a lot of weight in parts of Cowboys Nation, and he comes down firmly in the "Play Dak" camp.

Q: Where do you stand on the player should or shouldn't lose his job due to injury question?

I stand on the practical side that in the NFL -- an injury profession -- that there are no promises to those who lose their health. That feels more like a baseball truism that people have tried to apply to football. Football is about whoever can be here, is here. And if they are playing well, they will keep playing. I am one of the biggest Tony Romo apologists for a decade now, but I think this -- in its current form -- is a complete non-issue. Dak Prescott has authored a season he has now earned the right to see through, in my opinion. It is great to have options, but anyone who would touch this machine or slow down this train is out of their minds.

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones: I think Tony Romo would accept backup job if necessary - Staff, SportsDay
Feels like the support for Tony Romo's return wanes with every passing week. Here's Stephen Jones on Friday talking about Romo potentially being the backup to Dak Prescott.

"Well, first of all Tony's a competitor and obviously all competitors want to be the very best they can be, they want to play, they want to start," Jones said. "Any athlete who has ever played a sport wants to contribute and certainly he does.

"At the same time, I think Tony's the consummate team player and I think if it meant as part of the process with Tony going into games as a backup then, I don't want to speak for him, but my guess would be that he would."


Final Thoughts: Creating Pressure Off The Edge - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Will the Cowboys' edge rushers come through against the Steelers? Broaddus hopes so.

The Steelers are not afraid to keep their tight ends in to block if they feel like there is a defensive threat off the edge. Dallas defensively has yet to show they have that type of player, since the majority of their pressure has come from inside at the tackle spot. If there is a game for DeMarcus Lawrence and the edge rushers to do some damage – this is the one. Alejandro Villanueva is a tall left tackle that tends to play with straight legs and a lack of power. There have been several games this season where opponents have taken advantage of Villanueva and his lack of blocking traits for pressure. After three weeks of Joe Thomas, Jason Peters and David Bakhtiari – Villanueva will be a welcome sight for these Dallas rushers.

On the Steelers: The offense has the tough task of outscoring the Cowboys - Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers are looking to use their no-huddle offense in an attempt to keep up with the Cowboys offense, which is going to be a tall task.

That Steelers offense that was supposed to whip up and down fields all over the NFL ranks a mere 12th in yards produced and 16th in points per game. In the meantime, the Cowboys carry a seven-game winning streak into their 4:25 p.m. game Sunday, built on the shoulders of the NFL’s No. 3-ranked offense in yards per game, No. 4 in points and the league’s best ground game.

If the Steelers are to snap their three-game losing streak, their once mighty offense will have to perform better than it has the past month, when it averaged 15 points per game, or half of its stated goal.


Ronald Leary can expect a big payday as a free agent - Pete Prisco,
In his look at the key matchups in Week 10, Prisco finds some nice words for Ronald Leary.

Cowboys right guard Zack Martin is the best offensive lineman in the NFL. But left guard Ronald Leary is also having a heck of a season. His timing is good as well since he's scheduled to be a free agent. Leary took over as the starter when La'el Collins got hurt in Week 4, and he's been a really good player.

In a league starved for good offensive linemen, he should get big play on the market next spring. Leary is a tough, physical player in the run game who has improved in pass protection. His ability to block on the move -- a big part of the Dallas offense -- has helped make Ezekiel Elliott the NFL's leading rusher.

DC Rod Marinelli Among Cowboys’ First-Half Assessments - Jeff Sullivan, Dallas Cowboys
Sully hands out some midseason awards, and makes a good point about the stunning turnaround Rod Marinelli has engineered with the Cowboys defense.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli – For me, there hasn’t been a head coach or assistant in the league who enjoyed a more impressive and stunning first half of the season. The Cowboys defense was thought to be among the worst in the league. And entering Week 10, they had allowed the fourth-fewest points in the NFL and the fewest rushing touchdowns, just three. They had also committed the fewest penalties of any defense in the league. The unit is also in the middle of the pack in sacks and turnovers. And there’s a real chance that Lee would be the only Pro Bowl pick as of right now. Incredible stuff.

Maliek Collins is another rookie making impact for Dallas - JJ Taylor, ESPN
Though a broken foot slowed him early in the season, rookie defensive lineman Maliek Collins, a third-round pick, is coming on strong for the Cowboys.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott get so much attention for what they’re doing as rookies that Collins, a third-round selection, hasn’t gotten much attention from fans. The coaching staff and his teammates have done nothing but rave about him since training camp. He’s disruptive, a key to playing for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

"Other than the sacks, he had some really nice takeoffs in run game," Marinelli said. "He has pop and that snap to him.

"He’s a really good young player that works really hard."

Scott Linehan on how Cole Beasley has graded out this season: 'It's pretty ridiculous right now'  - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Linehan sheds some light on how the wide receivers are graded.

"We have targets and then we have balls that are on target that aren't challenged, we have 50-50 balls and we have balls that are going to be tougher than that," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "We rate those all differently, but we're pretty strict on our approach to that. We certainly reward those really tough catches or we don't penalize somebody that's got a ball that maybe really is not that catchable."

How does Beasley grade out by the team's evaluation?

"It's pretty ridiculous right now," Linehan said. "He's playing at a high level. He catches good matchups too, so I'm not downplaying it, but he gets more open than a lot of guys based sometimes on who they get matched up with, but also he's an unbelievable route runner.

Cowboys' Randy Gregory facing year-long suspension - Jeremy Bergman,
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo were the first to break the news of Gregory's likely suspension, and as employees of NFL-owned entities likely breached the NFL's player confidentiality policy on drug-related matter in the process. Not that anybody cares of course, because the NFL does what it wants and the NFLPA is too weak to do anything about it.

The Cowboys defensive end has failed another drug test and is facing a year-long suspension, sources informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

The NFL said in a statement, "The league has not been notified of any new violations."

If true, this would be the sixth test Gregory has failed since falling under the NFL's jurisdiction. With a habit like that, you've got to wonder how Gregory managed to make it through the college system relatively unscathed.


Week 10 NFL Picks: The Moment of TV Ratings Truth - Kevin Clark, The Ringer
The NFL has repeatedly and consistently blamed the election for their ratings drop. With the election over, will viewership finally rise or will the NFL PR department have to cook up another excuse?

While a close examination of every variable points to oversaturation as the true culprit, many have posited that the election has also taken eyeballs away from the game.

If the ratings bounce back immediately, we’ll know the election really did contribute to the dip. If they’re up but not back to normal, that’ll still be encouraging for the league. But if they bottom out again, it’ll be be time for the NFL to be seriously concerned.

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