I always like doing the Wednesday morning clips, because during the season they include Bob Sturm’s breakdown of the Cowboys offense. A great read.
This team has installed an offense that fits its personnel and allows it to take each drive and move the chains and the clock. On Sunday, the worst drive was 33 yards and gained two first downs. That was the worst drive. You can check around the league and you won't find many teams that can say that against any opponent. Now, the Cowboys were playing what we consider to be an elite defense. So, to be able to say that coming out of the gate in Week 1 is pretty impressive stuff, for sure.
Tom Ryle lays out the six point formula the Cowboys have been following to victory. Here are the first four points. Click on the article for the rest.
What is that formula? It is a bit complicated, but it goes something like this.
1. Pick a side of the ball to be the strength of the team (for the Cowboys, that is obviously the offense).
2. Invest your resources heavily on that side to get it right.
3. Build from the inside out, and make the line the foundation of the team.
4. Use a run-first approach to exploit the trend with most other teams to smaller, quicker defenders to focus on pass defense.
Jason Witten just passed Michael Irvin to have the most receiving yards in Cowboys history. This week, he’s going to pass Ed “Too Tall” Jones for most games played as a Cowboy.
"It's outrageous," linebacker Sean Lee said. "For him to be able to play like that, I mean, he's a legend. We all see him as a legend in this locker room.
"As much as that's impressive, it's also the day in and day out that goes along with him playing so well, how he practices."
It can be the final practice of training camp or the last day of preparation for a game and there's Witten on a 7-on-7 route, fully extending himself for a diving catch.
That's what teammates see day in and day out. They don't see a 35-year-old star scaling back in practice or picking his spots. That's why he's revered by Lee and others in the Dallas locker room.
Even though the Cowboys didn’t hand the ball to Zeke first and goal from the Giants three yard line, they did use him more than last year, as Archer explains.
Elliott played in 60 of the Cowboys’ 74 offensive snaps, or 81 percent.
As a rookie in 2016, Elliott played in a higher percentage of snaps on just four occasions. He played in 90.7 percent against the Green Bay Packers, 83 percent in the first matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings and 82 percent in the second meeting against the Washington Redskins.
Elliott had 24 carries for 104 yards. He had only three games as a rookie with more carries, topping out at 30 against the Chicago Bears in Week 3. Against the Giants, he caught a career-high five passes for 36 yards.
The defense was dominant on Sunday night, and one of the stars was second year cornerback (and sixth round pick) Anthony Brown. He’s building himself quite a resume.
Brown’s INT was just the first in what the Cowboys hope will become a deluge of forced turnovers. (They need the refs to do their jobs, as a forced fumble by Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee earlier in the game was blown dead.) Aim high guys!
The Dallas Cowboys’ defense wants to get 40 takeaways.
That’s double what they had last year. Is it even realistic?
The NFL hasn’t had a defense hit the 40 takeaway mark since 2012. That season saw two teams accomplish the feat — Chicago (44) and New England (41).
While we’re on the defense, Orlando Scandrick had successful surgery on his hand and is holding out hope he could play vs. Broncos on Sunday. Remember when Demarco Murray broke his hand in 2014 and didn’t miss a game?
It’s a pain tolerance issue at this point and he said Tuesday, “I feel good honestly.”
Jaylon Smith is feeling great after getting in 36 snaps Sunday night. Justin Durant had only two snaps.
“There was going to be a rotation between Jaylon and Justin Durant, not based necessarily on series, but we anticipated Jaylon playing more in the base stuff, and some of the third-down packages that we had, Justin was going to play more in those,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “It ended up that we played more of our base or our nickel stuff where Jaylon was involved in it and less of our three-down package that Justin was going to be more involved in.”
DeMarcus Lawrence had a monster game Sunday night. Nice way to start off a contract year. Most have thought he’s probably a goner, but will the Cowboys try to re-sign him? One of Archer’s Five Wonders.
DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries in the opener. He was as dominant as he has been since joining the Cowboys in 2014. He is also entering a contract year. I don’t want to be cynical and say that’s why Lawrence will have a big year. I think more of it will have to do with health. He wasn’t really healthy all of last season when he knew he needed another back surgery. But here’s the wonder: let’s say he has a 10-sack season. I wonder how far the Cowboys go in breaking the bank for him on a new deal. They say they don’t want to pursue big-money free agents because the risk is hardly worth the reward. Would the fact that they know Lawrence, injury risk and all, make them stretch a little bit financially to keep him in 2018 and beyond?
Our sister SBN site for the Giants did us a favor by breaking down Lawrence’s first sack of Eli Manning. It’s a very nice write up, including snaps of how the Cowboys coverages gave Lawrence time to get home. Includes lots of screen shots.
From my unofficial timing, there were around three seconds from snap to sack on this play. That’s not an especially fast sack and it’s nearly a half-second more than the average time Manning took to throw last season (2.53 seconds), per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. It was also nowhere near as fast as the 2.56-second sack Charles Tapper had on Manning in the third quarter, which was the overall fourth fastest sack of the week.
But while this play certainly could have been blocked better up front, that’s not the whole story of the sack. Dallas should get credit for using the extra defensive back because there was nowhere for Manning to go with the pass and he had enough time to attempt three reads on the play.
A little look ahead to this Sunday’s game.
Does Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott present the bigger challenge for the Broncos D on Sunday?
Kiz: And now it gets real. The Broncos held on by Shelby Harris’ fingertips to beat the Los Angeles Chargers Monday night. That was a must-win at home against the worst team in the AFC West. Now Denver gets a real test, against the Dallas Cowboys, who are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. So what’s the biggest chore for the Broncos: shutting down quarterback Dak Prescott or running back Ezekiel Elliott?
Jhabvala: Given the way the Broncos’ defense played last season, I would imagine most would say Elliott poses the bigger problem. The Broncos’ run defense tanked to No. 28 in the league and the pass defense ranked No. 1 for the second year running. It’s a pick-your-poison debate, but after Week 1 this year, when the Broncos’ run defense held its own against Melvin Gordon, I’m inclined to say Prescott poses the bigger challenge. The Broncos’ secondary and pass rush held Philip Rivers to only 192 passing yards, but they had their mistakes, and some of them could have been much more costly than they ended up being.
A few numbers tidbits.
Dak Prescott’s efficiency in his infancy as an NFL quarterback has been remarkable. In his first 498 pass attempts he has thrown 4 interceptions. According to the NFL, he’s on the verge of becoming the first quarterback in league history to throw 5 or fewer picks in his first 500 pass attempts.
More legal jockeying in the Ezekiel Elliott appeal. The NFL is fairly desperate to try to get the case away from Judge Mazzant, whose blistering ruling was an embarrassment to the league. Zeke will certainly play this week.
Mazzant granted the preliminary injunction last week, citing that Elliott did not receive a fair appeals hearing before league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson.
Mazzant ruled that Elliott would suffer irreparable harm if the suspension took effect while the legal case plays out, and that Elliott also met the other criteria necessary for an injunction.
He and the Fifth Circuit would have to reverse the decision based on the same reasoning, citing irreparable harm to the NFL if he didn’t serve the suspension immediately.
It’s unlikely that Mazzant will reverse his own decision when he rules on the motion.
The Ezekiel Elliott case has implications for leadership of the NFLPA as well. Cyrus Mehri, a lawyer from Washington DC (whom I’ve met), is running to replace DeMaurice Smith as Executive Director. It was Smith who led negotiations on the current labor deal that grants Roger Goodell near absolute powers over player discipline.
First of all, Mehri cites his track record. He's gone head-to-head with Texaco, Coca-Cola and the Ford Motor Co. All bigger than the NFL. The secret, he says, is consistent dialogue.
"What we have," he said, "is a much more elaborate playbook. Our playbook starts with negotiation. Being at the table. Working in good faith to solve problems."
Mehri plans to implement something called an "owner accountability campaign." What it entails requires more space than I'm allotted, but Mehri provided the bottom line.
"It puts all the pressure on management and will not require players to miss a single game," he said. "This gives the players leverage.
"Under our plan, we will have the leverage, and that will create the dynamic to get a fair deal going forward."
This is an unspeakable tragedy.
A man shot and killed eight people at a Dallas-area home where people had gathered to watch a Dallas Cowboys football game on TV.