The Cowboys get some very welcome help on defense, just in time to try and contain Aaron Rodgers. David Irving is back from suspension, and last year in the regular season he punked the Packers. On Sunday, it’s hoped he’ll team up with DeMarcus Lawrence and do some damage.
Irving might be the player the Cowboys have been looking for to help take some of the pass rush pressure off of DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence has been a one-man wrecking crew, but for the Cowboys defense to take the next step, they need a second pass rush end who can force defenses to spread protection to both sides.
Lawrence really needs Irving’s help, because teams are starting to slide protection to Lawerence. Rod Marinelli recognizes:
Marinelli knows offenses won't make life easy on Lawrence going forward.
"I got to find a way to get him in position where I can get him some singles too and there are ways to do that," Marinelli said. "And it's awesome. He's just a warrior. I don't know if you see him sprint to the ball, but that's the part to me, that is what separates a number of guys to a real All-Pro type of player. That is the difference to me. That's what helps your team win.
"He's resilient. He just keeps coming. That's his personality."
Bryan Broaddus reminds us, though, that you can’t just go after Aaron Rodgers like a bunch of crazed dogs, Rodgers can elude the rush and burn you. Discipline is the word.
Bryan Broaddus: This game is going to come down to discipline, and I don't know if the Cowboys defensively have enough discipline to play in this game. You have to be able to keep [Rodgers] in the pocket, make him play backwards. You've got guys like Russell Wilson, guys that get on the outside and work towards the line of scrimmage, eyes down the field. That's where Rodgers really hurts you - he escapes. Now you're in chase mode, you're not only chasing him, but you're chasing receivers, you're chasing tight ends, you're chasing backs. That's where I talk about the discipline, because the discipline comes from, "OK, I'm not going to drop coverage here. I've got to stay with my man no matter what happens." We've seen with the Cowboys, when things do break down a little bit, we've seen them have some busts in the secondary. It might be a little bit because of some of the young guys in the secondary that are having to play. I'm not saying it's all the young guys, but if you don't have the discipline to play against the Packers, it's hard to defend them.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys need to dominate a mediocre Packers’ defense. Ezekiel Elliott would like to repeat the success he had in last year’s regular season game.
Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line aren’t in panic mode even though they haven’t run the ball as effectively this season as they did last season. Maybe going against the Packers will jump-start the running game. Elliott had the best game of his career against Green Bay last October, rushing for 157 yards on 28 carries.
If they do get the run game going, they will probably have to do it dealing with Packers’ lineman Mike Daniels, who looks like he will return from injury.
A week after being terrorized by Aaron Donald, another undersized, explosive interior defensive lineman comes to town to make life difficult for the Cowboys offensive line in the form of Mike Daniels. Similar to Donald, Daniels is undersized by traditional standards at just 6-0, 310, and again similar to Donald what he lacks in size he makes up for with upfield quickness, timing, excellent leverage, and technique, particularly in terms of his hand use.
Over his first five years in the league Daniels put up an impressive 22 sacks, including at least four each year since 2013.
And who will be blocking Daniels in an attempt to get Zeke going? Broaddus thinks Jonathan Cooper is going to get another chance to start even though Chaz Green could play.
With Chaz Green taking snaps at tackle this week, look for Jonathan Cooper to once again start at left guard. Nothing was pretty about Cooper’s game last weekend. Aaron Donald is not an easy opponent to deal with, especially after limited practice like Cooper received. I expect that we will see better coordination between Cooper and Travis Frederick this week after working together the entire week during practice.
There is also the passing game for the Cowboys, something that is also a work in progress. Especially between Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant. Troy Aikman has a few thoughts:
I think that some of that has to do with the defensive backs that [Dez has] been facing, some of it has to do with the offensive line - I think it's given up more pressures, it certainly did on Sunday against the Rams. Overall, I think Dak has experienced a little more pressure than what he did a year ago. I don't think Dez is a great route runner. I think there's some uncertainty probably within the connection and the chemistry between Dak and Dez.
Dak-to-Dez isn’t the only issue in the passing game. The disappearance of Cole Beasley in the attack is hurting the ‘Boys.
"I think, for the most part, they're clogging the inside of the field. It's kind of obvious," Prescott said. "If Beasley isn't getting his catches, they are putting more bodies on the inside. They are double-covering him. You saw the last game. The safety runs out the middle of the field just to go double-team Beasley. So when you have the year he had ... you are going to draw that attraction."
The Cowboys' passing game worked best last season when it was Beasley- and Witten-centric. Defenses have figured that out, and the Cowboys have to adjust.
Indeed, the Cowboys coaches have been slow to adjust this year.
Todd Archer looks ahead to the bye week, and the possible changes the Cowboys could make. One of them is a full shift to the youngsters in the secondary, Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods.
Lewis has the Cowboys excited about his future. He has natural ball skills. Woods has found himself around the ball in his limited playing time, but the Cowboys are considering whether or not he is better served to play smaller doses than 60-65 snaps. The Cowboys drafted Awuzie with the idea that he could play safety and cornerback. Maybe they will start to tinker with the safety part of it with Lewis, Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown as their top three corners.
There will be growing pains. Rookies always have them. But the if the ceilings on Lewis, Awuzie and Woods are as high as the Cowboys believe they are, then it would be time to live with their mistakes now to see the growth down the road.