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Cowboys news: Why Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Marc Colombo are key to Cowboys revenge fantasy

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys will have not-so-secret weapon vs. Atlanta this time – Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk
The Cowboys are looking for revenge for what Jerry Jones calls the “burning of Atlanta,” and are banking on at least one big difference versus last year’s game.

When the Cowboys return to the scene of the crime Sunday, they will have their not-so-secret weapon. Elliott enters seeking redemption as the Cowboys travel back to Atlanta still in a “must-win” frame of mind.

“That is how we are going to be for the rest of the season,” Elliott said. “It’s hard to need extra motivation when you go into this game 4-5. For the rest of this season, our backs are going to be against the wall. We have to do what we can to go out there and try to win every one of the rest of these games.”

Gut Feeling: Predictions For Cowboys-Falcons - Staff
The staff writers offer their predictions for Cowboys-Falcons and go 4-2 in favor of the Cowboys. Rob Phillips argues a heavy dose of Zeke will seal the deal for the Cowboys.

Rob Phillips: Here’s a three-year formula that has proven true time and again: When Ezekiel Elliott eats, the Cowboys typically win. Last week the Cowboys improved to 13-3 when Elliott gets at least 100 yards rushing. Atlanta is allowing 5.2 yards per carry, tied with the Rams for most in the league. No doubt they’ll be focused on containing Zeke. That’ll be a matchup to watch this Sunday.

But the key for me is whether the Dallas defense can limit the Falcons’ passing game despite their depth issues up front. (Defensive linemen Taco Charlton, David Irving and Daniel Ross have been ruled out of the game, and Antwaun Woods is listed as doubtful.) Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense will likely make plays, but I expect the Cowboys’ offense to carry over momentum from last week. We might just see another high-scoring game in the second half, but I’ll take Dallas to improve to 5-5.

Cowboys’ revenge against Atlanta hinges on these 3 key matchups - Brian Martin, InsideTheStar
Zeke could be the difference maker this time around.

As much as I’m excited about the damage Amari Cooper could do to the Falcons secondary, I’m even more excited about how dominate [sic] Ezekiel Elliott can be against Atlanta’s defensive front. A lot of that has to do with the way both of these teams played in these areas a week ago, and it’s a matchup that heavily favors the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are coming off their best rushing attack of the 2018 season. The offensive line completely manhandled the Philadelphia Eagles top ranked [sic] run defense last week, allowing Zeke to rush for 150+ yards. We could see a repeat performance, especially with the way the Falcons failed to stop the run last week against the Cleveland Browns.

Rookie Running Back Nick Chubb had a career day against the Falcons a week ago, amassing 176 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another 33 yards and a touchdown through the air. If that’s an indication of what we can expect from Atlanta’s run defense, Zeke should have a huge game. Controlling the clock with the running game would more than likely secure a much-needed victory.

Amari Cooper has injected life back into the Cowboys' offense - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Machota looks at how Cooper has revitalized the offense.

What his presence on the field has done for his teammates, particularly running back Ezekiel Elliott, hasn't gone unnoticed.

The running game has started to look elite again.

Elliott's career rushing average is 4.7 yards per carry. When Cooper has been on the field the last two games, Elliott has carried 25 times for 158 yards, a 6.3 yards per carry average.

The separation he's creating has provided larger throwing windows for Prescott. According to Next Gen Stats, the average target separation for the Cowboys before Cooper arrived was 2.9 yards. With Cooper, it's 4.0 yards, which has helped Prescott's passer rating go from 87.4 in the first seven games to 101.2 in the last two.

Why Cole Beasley thinks Amari Cooper helps all of the Dallas Cowboys receivers - Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Cole Beasley is no longer Dak Prescott’s top target since Amari Cooper joined the Dallas Cowboys. But Beasley expects the addition to eventually help him and the rest of the receiving corps get more action, too.

“It depends on what we do offensively,” said Beasley, who still leads the team with 40 catches (on 52 targets) and 403 yards. “That definitely helps. But any time you’ve got a new guy, you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing. They moved me around a lot more last game and that’s why it was better, so we’re getting there. We’re about to be [even] better. I think we’re going to keep getting better and better each week as long as we just do our part on the field. I think schematically the game plan is getting better.”

How WR Allen Hurns is coping with reduced snaps since the arrival of Amari Cooper - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hurns also weighs in on the effect Coper has had on the offense.

Hurns believes the passing game was already showing signs of progress in the 20-17 loss to the Redskins before the bye. Quarterback Dak Prescott passed for a season-high 273 yards and Hurns had a season-high five catches for 74 yards.

But he doesn’t deny that the addition of Cooper has made them more efficient while opening up things for the other receivers, especially on third down.

“He has helped out a lot,” Hurns said. “The passing game has excelled. We can build on it. It shows we are on the same page. The last couple of weeks we didn’t have any communication errors. And with (running back Ezekiel) Zeke (Elliott) running the ball well we are able to do what whatever we want.”

Mailbag: Colombo’s Impact? - Rob Phillips and Bryan Broaddus,
Phillips and Broaddus look at the changes Marc Colombo has brought to the O-Line.

Bryan: I applaud Jason Garrett for making this change. Paul Alexander was a poor fit and the results proved that. Marc Colombo is respected not only by the staff for his intense demeanor but by the players as well. As a unit they will be more tough-minded and technique sound, which is something that Alexander couldn’t bring.

Rob: We’ve seen a difference, for sure. The Philly game might have been their best performance yet. We’ve talked about the technique changes that former O-Line coach Paul Alexander brought. The veteran linemen are more familiar with Colombo’s approach. A staple of this line and offense is their ability to wear down defenses as the game goes on, and I think we saw them get stronger with the run game last Sunday.

2018 NFL Offensive Line Rankings: All 32 teams' units after Week 10 - Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus
The Cowboys O-line jumps from 14th to 6th overall after the dominant performance in Philly.

Facing one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, the Cowboys weren’t supposed to dominate the way they did this past weekend. They were one of the highest-graded run-blocking units in the league in Week 10, and Tyron Smith led all players in pass blocking grade.

Is Dak the answer in Dallas - Albert Breer,
In a day and age where reasonable takes are becoming increasingly rare, here's one from Breer, with an assist from former Cowboy Bobby Carpenter.

Question: Is Dak the answer in Dallas?

Breer: It depends on what you’re looking for, Frank. My buddy/ex-NFL linebacker Bobby Carpenter did MMQB TV with us this week, and he offered up what I thought was a pretty apt comp for Dak Prescott: Alex Smith. Totally makes sense. Mobile, some play-making ability, good head for the game, a bit limited as a passer. And hey, if the Redskins make it, this would be seven out of the last eight years in the playoffs for Smith.

You can win with Dak, just like you can win with Smith. But neither guy is going to load the team on his back. That’s why, when you see Elliott really get going, you get a different Prescott. In the win over the Eagles last week, Prescott was 26 of 36 for 270 yards and a touchdown. No coincidence that Elliott cruised to 151 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

The Cowboys coaches have also done a better job of late of getting Dak into a rhythm early in games by generating early completions. He seems like a better player late in games as a result.

Jerry Jones explains why the team passed on Calvin Ridley for Leighton Vander Esch - SportsDay Staff
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan and explained how the Cowboys had their sights set on Vander Esch in the 2018 draft from the start.

On Vander Esch vs. Calvin Ridley on draft day: "Well, we were, I'd say in more of a need at receiver, but thought that the player that could probably help us the most, strange as it seems offensively because it would help us get off the field, was the uniqueness of Vander Esch. So, we obviously made a choice. I believe -- was Ridley gone when we got there? I actually forgot, but I think we made the choice. It was without hesitation when Vander Esch got there. He was really our guy in the clubhouse when we started the draft and we hoped and thought that he would be there for us, and we were going to pick him from the get-go."

Should Cowboys be worried about K Brett Maher, who has missed 3 of his last 5 field goal attempts? - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
Do the Cowboys have a kicker issue? The last few games show that they certainly might.

TThe front office was initially vindicated for keeping the former Canadian Football League kicker, 28, and letting Dan Bailey walk after seven seasons. Maher missed his first attempt with the Cowboys, but then seemed a great bargain as he nailed 16 in a row.

Things started to turn, though, at the end of the Washington game Oct. 21. Maher missed a 52-yard attempt, hitting the ball off the left upright, that would’ve tied the score late. It was a controversial situation because long snapper L.P. Ladouceur had been called for the rare snap infringement penalty, moving the ball back from a 47-yard try.

Since then, Maher missed a 38-yard attempt against Tennessee and a 42-yard attempt last Sunday at Philadelphia. He also made kicks of 25 and 31 yards against the Eagles. He’s 18 of 22 for the season, including a long of 55 yards.

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