Random musings, misgivings, and wildly hyperbolic postulations about the Dallas cowboys 2016 season so far.
Dak Prescott needs to get Rolling in the Deep
Tom Ryle: One thing that has been incredibly impressive to me is how well the coaching staff has played to Dak Prescott's strengths. They have used his mobility and gotten great production out of him, especially on third downs. And the way they used play-action on first down against Washington not only gives the opposing defenses a real headache to deal with, it should open up some good runs for Ezekiel Elliott as the season plays out.
However, one thing Prescott has not done well is throw the deep ball. He was 2 for 10 in the opening game, and as Bob Sturm detailed in his weekly post on the offense, he didn't even attempt a pass more than about 15 yards downfield last Sunday. This has to be something that gets fixed. The Cowboys need that deep threat until Romo comes back, or defenses are going to start cheating down in pass coverage to take away some of the throws Prescott is making. He doesn't need a lot of deep completions, but he has to make some to maintain a credible threat. That is something to watch. Terrance Williams and Brice Butler were no-shows in the win, and they need to be a part of the attack downfield.
All Killer, No Filler
VAfan: I agree with Tom Ryle's point about Dak and the deep ball. But there's another way that Dak could stress defenses - by running the ball a bit more often. I'm not talking so much about designed read-option plays where he keeps the ball instead of handing off. It's the impromptu scramble that I think demoralizes defenses the most. He scored a TD against Washington on such a scramble, faking a throw as he was darting for the end zone. He had another nice third-down run that was called back because of a holding penalty. These are just killer plays, because the defense thinks they've covered everyone, only to be gashed by a quarterback who can see the field and take the yards that are there.
Dak Prescott on being a pass-first QB: pic.twitter.com/ITsHgnm6PX— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 21, 2016
It helped propel Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick into the Super Bowl, and Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair before them. Even Aaron Rodgers uses it to great effect. If you have to adjust by leaving a spy in to watch for these runs, that's one less guy who can cover downfield.
Is Cole Beasley the Space Cowboy?
OCC: Cole Beasley, who measures in at 5-8 and weighs maybe 180 pounds, is on track for 104 catches and 1,120 yards this year. And while the story of a small guy with a big heart has all the trappings of a Hallmark Channel movie, heart alone is not what enables guys to consistently make plays at the NFL level.
In our training camp coverage during Beasley's rookie season in 2011, both rabblerousr and I repeatedly marveled at Beasley's knack for finding the open space, or what I called his 'spatial awareness': He always seemed to have a clear understanding of where each defender was, even the guys behind him, and this ability allowed him to get separation, be open, and make plays.
This spatial awareness helped him make the team and today makes him one of the most effective space players in the league. In Beasley, the Cowboys have a dynamic receiver who's able to gain large chunks of yardage in space as he exploits the creases between defenders and capitalizes on one-on-one situations against guys unable to match his quickness.
Maybe not always, but more often than not.
More Than a Feeling
Jim Scott: I think Maliek Collins is better than we thought. Basically no training camp, but he's producing already. Also bear in mind that we think of him as a third-rounder, but the Cowboys got him very near where they got Randy Gregory.
Will Tyrone Crawford be Living on the Edge?
Danny Phantom: I wish there was some sort of "trench differential" metric. If there was, I think we'd find that the Cowboys offensive line isn't playing to the level they are capable and that the defensive line isn't playing at all. And collectively, there would be a big difference from what we all saw in 2014.
The good news is that things are looking up for both sides. Just like last year, the OL gets better as the season progresses. When the holes start opening, Ezekiel Elliott will add some big runs to this offense. As for the defense, the only obvious improvement will be the return of DeMarcus Lawrence in a couple weeks; however, there is another reason to be hopeful. It may take some time and several experiments, but I believe this coaching staff will find a combination that works. Is it Tyrone Crawford permanently on the edge? Is it Ryan Davis? Who knows, but when they find it, the improvement on defense will be noticeable.
Joseph.Hatz: Morris Claiborne has been the Cowboys best cornerback over the first two games and I think there must be consideration given to just how much the team should be willing to spend on him on a long-term contract if he maintains this level of play. Brandon Carr will most likely be gone after this season unless he takes another pay cut and Orlando Scandrick is nearing 30. With that said, the team should be hesitant when it comes to giving Claiborne a multi-year deal when you consider his past injury history and generally inconsistent play over the years.
The top corners in the league are paid anywhere between $10-15 million a year and of course there are no circumstances under which Claiborne should receive a contract paying him that much, but what type of number is fair if Claiborne continues to perform at this level and gives us somewhere around 2-4 interceptions this season?
Looking at recent contracts handed out to players like Kareem Jackson, Davon House, Johnathan Joseph, Tramon Williams, and Brandon Flowers, and factoring in a level of inflation, it would seem that a 3-4 year deal averaging about $7 million a year would be fair for both parties. Anything too much beyond that may pose too much risk for the Cowboys to take on a player who really hasn't shown any consistency in almost five years in the league.