Never content to let a bye week go by without some breaking news, the Dallas Cowboys’ brain-trust made another major move Monday, dismissing offensive line coach Paul Alexander after less than a half season with the team. We have all the news.
Dallas Cowboys fire offensive line coach Paul Alexander - Todd Archer, ESPN
An insider view of the situation.
Alexander came to the Cowboys with a strong reputation as a teacher and inherited a line that included three Pro Bowlers -- Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. He also had an experienced right tackle, La’el Collins, and a second-round pick at left guard, Connor Williams. Frederick is on injured reserve after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The Cowboys have been able to run the ball fine in the first seven weeks of the season, averaging 136.9 yards per game on the ground, good for fourth in the NFL, but the pass protection has not been good enough. Dak Prescott has been sacked 23 times. He was sacked 25 times as a rookie and 32 times last season.
Smith has not played as well as he had in the past and Collins has been flagged a team-high seven times for penalties. Alexander uses a different pass-protection technique than most line coaches and some believe that has played a part in the pass-protection issues.
Cowboys fire OL coach Alexander, promote Colombo - Nick Shook, NFL.com
The outsider’s view at NFL.com.
Dallas ranks 10th in the NFL in run blocking, and 16th in pass blocking through eight weeks, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades. The Cowboys’ rate of pressures allowed (26.6 percent) ranks right near the middle of the league.
But it’s true that this isn’t the crushing offensive line of just a year or two ago. Dallas lost All-Pro center Travis Frederick to an autoimmune disorder before the start of the season, and was forced to fill a hole at left guard with rookie Connor Williams, who has exhibited expected struggles in his first season. Those are two rather large hurdles, and ones Dallas was at least weathering.
When things aren’t going right in the NFL, changes must be made -- even if it means creating a peculiar scapegoat at the end of Week 8.
The Cowboys are putting all their chips in the middle of the table. This is what NFL teams do when they’re desperate and trying to save a season. Jason Garrett needs a Hail Mary. He’s desperate to save his job. He’s desperate to save his team and he’s desperate to save the season.
Jerry Jones is desperate, too. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1995. He’s on his fifth head coach since then and is betting on Garrett to fix things. Jones doesn’t believe firing the head coach would help his team’s odds right now. The only time he ever fired a coach in the middle of a campaign, he saw Garrett salvage something from the 2010 season — but in the big picture, he still hasn’t added anything to his trophy case.
So now, two days before Halloween, two desperate men are making moves to salvage the 2018 season.
Garrett dumped offensive line coach Paul Alexander and promoted former Cowboys offensive tackle Marc Colombo to the position on Monday. Garrett also persuaded former line coach Hudson Houck to leave Palm Springs and become an adviser at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
Instant Analysis: Marc Colombo ascension to OL coach is perfect timing - K.D. Drummond, CowboysWire
Finally, our good friend K. D. Drumming weighs in with the analysis.
This season, the line is ranked just No. 13 in Adjusted Line Yards, a measure of how much impact the group has on the team’s rushing attack, and all the way down at No. 27 in Adjusted Sack Rate, which puts QB takedowns in relation to drop backs.
Last year they were fourth and 15th, respectively. In 2016 they were fourth and 13th.
Conversely, the Bengals moved from No. 20 in 2017 to currently No. 8 in adjusted sack rate with Alexander gone. They were No. 26 in 2016. Their new OL coach? Pollack.
Alexander admitted the troops weren’t all buying in to what he was selling technique-wise.
Our first look at next Sunday’s opponent, breaking down what’s at stake for each team.
Both teams are coming off their bye week, during which the Cowboys hoped to jolt their offense by acquiring wide receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders. Dallas paid a hefty price for Cooper, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, sending a 2019 first-round pick to an Oakland team in the early stages of a rebuild.
The Cowboys (3-4) hope Cooper can be a bonafide No. 1 receiver to balance the offense, which has topped 200 passing yards just twice in their first seven games. The move also puts Dallas in a win-now mode for this season as it enters the contest two games behind division-leading Washington in the NFC East and also puts head coach Jason Garrett squarely on the hot seat as owner and general manager Jerry Jones has actively sought to upgrade the roster on that side of the ball.
The Cowboys’ unveiling of Cooper at home for a national television audience will likely make things tougher for first-year coach Mike Vrabel as the Titans have also struggled on the offensive side of the ball.
After Six Years, Maher is Overcoming Long Odds - Kristi Scales, DallasCowboys.com
The Mothership chronicles place-kicker Brett Maher’s Oedipus-like journal to the NFL.
Kicker Brett Maher is either the most persistent or most obstinate player in the league. Either way, he simply won’t take no for an answer.
Six years after his first NFL tryout with the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie free agent, the 28-year-old from Nebraska finally cracked a 53-man roster. And he did so with the Cowboys on his second go-round with America’s Team.
While Maher’s first and last field goal attempt haven’t gone his way, it’s all the kicks in between that prove Maher is worth the wait.
He missed his first try in Carolina, and of course, had a 52-yard game-tying kick clang off the upright last week in Washington. In between, Maher made 16 straight field goals, including a game-winner vs. Detroit that earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Maher’s 16 made field goals is the third-most by a Cowboys kicker in the first seven games of his career. But that career actually started way before this year. In fact, he wasn’t exactly a new face when he joined this team this offseason.
‘No Issues’ For Sean Lee After LB’s Return - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
Normally the return of Sean Lee would be big news but the emergence of Leighton Vander Esch has made it not so weighty. Still, it’s good to hear Lee emerged from the Redskins’ game unscathed.
The bye week meant valuable midseason rest for veterans like Sean Lee, but the Cowboys’ 32-year-old defensive captain felt “great” physically after his return to the lineup Oct. 21 against Washington.
Last Thursday, after the Cowboys wrapped up their final practice of the bye week, Lee said he had “no issues” with the left hamstring that sidelined him for three games.
“I’m past the treatment phase, which is nice,” Lee said last Thursday. “I’m practicing normally, which is also nice. I’m trying to build some momentum and some continuity week to week. I need to be out there practicing and playing, so hopefully I can do that down the stretch here and for the rest of the year.”
John Owning breaks the film down and gives us insights on the three areas the Cowboys have to improve in order to salvage the 2018 season.
Prescott has inconsistent reading defenses both pre and post-snap, leading to missed big-play opportunities.
Adjusted net yards per pass attempt (ANY/A) is the passing stat most correlated with wins, and Prescott ranked 28th (5.51) going into the bye week. On top of that, Prescott was 27th in completion percentage (62.1), 24th in touchdown percentage (3.9) and 27th in yards per attempt (6.9) going into the bye week. Prescott simply isn’t playing well enough. He’s quickly running out of excuses with Cooper in the fold.
One way the Cowboys can get improved play out of Prescott is providing him with better pass-protection. The Cowboys offensive line may look like the best unit on paper, but it’s been far from it. The Cowboys have allowed the sixth-highest adjusted sack rate (9.7 percent) in the NFL.