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Cowboys News: Dallas defense turning heads, linebackers dynamic, and Dak nearing another record

Zeke is focused on what happens on the field, and some injury updates

New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Sturm: Unreal! Why Cowboys' defense could turn heads if it recreates performance vs. Giants | Bob Sturm, SportsDay
The weekly Marinelli Report is always informative. And this week, the news is all good.

It happened Sunday night after 9 p.m. With roughly 13 minutes to go in the second half, the Giants were able to accomplish something they had been unable to do in the first 32 minutes of the contest. They crossed the 50-yard line on a six-yard end-around by Sterling Shepard before Jaylon Smith raced around Ereck Flowers to drag him down.

The Giants, finally, broke into Cowboys territory. Twelve plays later they pulled a field goal out of that effort, which would be the only time all evening they got points for their work.

Three points. The New York Giants managed three points against the worrisome Cowboys defense, allowing us to quickly wonder what the story of the game was -- is the Cowboys' defense is better than we think, or are the Giants are in for a really long year? Well, we should never get too caught up on Week 1, but I think the Cowboys have a chance to turn some heads if they keep playing like they did Sunday.

2-Sack Tank Lawrence: 'When Production Matches Talent, That's When You're Ballin' - Mike Fisher, Cowboys HQ
DeMarcus Lawrence was one of the defensive standouts against the Giants in a game where the D was generally impressive. He is looking to do even more as the season goes along - and he has a lot of help.

Said Tyrone Crawford: "(The Giants) were trying to pound it up the middle. We’ve got Paea and Maliek in there. And that ain’t happening.''

Lawrence has already doubled his sack total from 2016, another injury-plagued season that counts as a positive to coach Jason Garrett, who applauds Lawrence for his willingness to battle through ailments and play hurt. Tank himself, though, is trying to do more. He talks about the Pro Bowl, he talks about a 10-sack season, he talks about "living up to expectations.''

Ability to adjust on the fly is one reason for Dallas Cowboys' success - Todd Archer, ESPN
Don't overlook how big the ability to overcome adversity is in winning games.

An offseason of planning can go awry quickly in the NFL.

On the first play of Sunday's season-opening win against the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams sprained an ankle.

After nine defensive snaps, cornerback Orlando Scandrick's night was over because of a broken hand that required surgery Monday. He was replaced in the slot by second-year cornerback Anthony Brown, and Chidobe Awuzie, who was limited for the second half of training camp because of a hamstring strain, moved into Brown's role as the third corner.

Cowboys Film Room: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith proving dynamic - Marcus Mosher, Fansided
Say more things like this, Marcus.

On Sunday night, there was no better player on the field than Lee. His ability to diagnose plays and route combinations makes him the most instinctual linebacker in the entire league. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism of a Luke Kuechly, nor the size of a Dont’a’ Hightower, but his ability to see things develop before the snap of the ball make him one of the best in the entire league. When he’s on the field, it’s hard to find a better overall linebacker in the entire league.

While Lee has been dominant since entering the league in 2010, he’s never had a dynamic linebacker next to him. That is, until now. In his first NFL game, Jaylon Smith showed why the Cowboys were willing to take a chance on a player who had nerve damage in his foot. He’s clearly not 100 percent, but he has progressed so much in the past few months that it’s hard to believe that he won’t eventually get there. Even at 90 percent (or so), Smith can be a difference-maker for the Cowboys’ defense and a true complement to Lee.

Jaylon Smith, Charles Tapper Building On 2016 Draft Success ⋆ Jess Haynie, Inside the Star
Last year, the stellar production of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, and Anthony Brown were key contributions from that years' draft in the 13-3 regular season. And things just are getting better with the injury-delayed debuts of Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper, who both had a very good game against the Giants.

Indeed, the 2016 draft class is already the crowning jewel of the brain trust headed by Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett. It’s perhaps the single greatest haul of talent that the Dallas Cowboys ever brought in, even eclipsing the work of Jimmy Johnson in the early 90s.

What’s so amazing is how much better it can still get. Charles Tapper could be on his way to joining Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown as key defensive contributors. And if Jaylon Smith reaches his full potential, he may be as much a star on defense as Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are on the other side of the ball.

Ezekiel Elliott won't talk legal fight, but will talk football: 'You got to stop us, you got to be better than us' | Kate Hariopoulos, SportsDay
Ezekiel Elliott is focused on what he can do for as long as he is able to be on the field to contribute.

The Broncos limited the Chargers to 64 rushing yards in their Monday night win, but Dallas' identity is built on running the ball.

"That's what we expect every week," Elliott said. "We're a team where we're going to run the football. We're going to show you different looks, but it's going to be the same four plays, and it's going to be you versus us. You got to stop us, you got to be better than us. That's how we play week in, week out. Teams know that, so that's our mind-set going into every week, and I expect every week to be like that."

Dak Prescott closing in on NFL record - Todd Archer, ESPN
Not too shabby.

If Dak Prescott can open Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos without an interception on his first two throws, he will set an NFL record.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback could become the first quarterback in NFL history to have five or fewer interceptions in the first 500 pass attempts of his career.

Did La'el Collins Pass First Test Against Giants? - John Owning, Fanrag Sports
The journey of La'el Collins is the stuff of movies. His transition to tackle after starting his NFL career as guard was seen as one of the concerns for the Cowboys this season. Those concerns should be very reduced after his first game in his new job.

Collins is the starting right tackle, fresh off a battle against one of the top defensive ends in the NFL, Jason Pierre-Paul. If someone looked at the obstacles Collins overcame to get to this point, he or she may have come to the conclusion that Collins was in over his head.

That couldn’t be more wrong.

Collins was excellent against Pierre-Paul and the Giants. He wasn’t perfect, but when placed in the proper context, it is nearly impossible to not be impressed by the LSU product Sunday night.

Terrance Williams Limited By Ankle; Updates On Scandrick, Rookie CBs | Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas got out of the Giants game with only minor injury concerns, but this one will bear some watching.

The Cowboys will likely monitor Williams’ status throughout the week leading into Sunday’s matchup at Denver. Williams has not missed a game in his five-year career. He rolled his ankle on the first play of last Sunday’s season opener against the Giants, but returned to catch six passes for 68 yards in a 19-3 win.

Terrance Williams' practice run may give way to game streak - Todd Archer, ESPN
You may not be aware that Terrance Williams has a bit of an iron man streak going.

One of the things the Dallas Cowboys love about receiver Terrance Williams is his availability.

He has not missed a game in his career -- 65 and counting. He has also not missed a practice -- too many to count.

The practice streak could come to an end Wednesday because of a sprained ankle, but there is hope he can continue his games played streak Sunday when the Cowboys take on the Denver Broncos.

Scout’s Eye: Broncos Boast Impressive Talent In The Secondary & WR Group | Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
The resident scout at the mothership takes a look at three players who should have big roles for the Broncos this week.

This week is heck of a contrast to last week, considering the opponents in question. The Cowboys just finished playing the Giants, who they see twice every season. Now, it’s time to get ready for the Broncos – who they’ve faced just twice in the last decade. These two teams look almost nothing like they did when they last placed, in October of 2013.

DeMarcus Ware's loyalties split down middle Sunday for Cowboys-Broncos - Todd Archer, ESPN
DeMarcus Ware is a Cowboys legend, and he was a part of the Denver Broncos' recent Super Bowl. With ties to both teams, he is engaging in some delicate football diplomacy on Sunday.

Where will he sit?

“On the 50-yard line, in the middle,” Ware said.

What colors will he wear?

“I’ll have on blue,” Ware said. “Both teams have blue, so I’m 50-50 when it comes to that.”

And a hat?

“It will have a ‘D’ on there,” said Ware, who will have his kids with him at the game. “Won’t know what 'D' it stands for.”

The Trouble with NFL Offensive Linemen | Jenny Vrentas,
This is actually from Tuesday, but it is just one more reason to admire what the Cowboys have done in building one of the premiere O lines in the NFL.

The Giants and Seahawks both have Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, excellent defenses and playmakers on offense. And both have high expectations for this season. But neither team could figure out a way to muster a touchdown on Sunday.

Even though it’s just Week 1, it seems fair to ask: Can you really be a contender without a good offensive line?

The epidemic of poor offensive line play is something we are hearing more and more about across the NFL. Some blame the practice rules imposed by the 2011 CBA, which limit both offseason practice time and the number of padded practices in which linemen can get in full-contact reps. Others point to the rise of spread offenses in college, where linemen often aren’t asked to finish blocks or even put their hand in the dirt in a three-point stance.

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