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Cowboys news: Why the Dallas defense is good and may be getting even better

The offense might be sorting things out as well.

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New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
Byron Jones helped neutralize OBJ and the Giant’s offense.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Practice Update: Dallas Defense Getting Healthier - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
Remember, the Dallas D already looks like one of the top units in the league, with players getting closer to return from injury. Oh, and David Irving is coming.

Slowly, the Cowboys are getting closer to full strength on defense.

Several players who have missed recent practices and games – safety Xavier Woods, defensive end Randy Gregory and defensive tackle Datone Jones – were on the field for the open portion of Wednesday’s practice.

The Marinelli Report, Week 2: How the Cowboys blitz became a real weapon – Bob Sturm,The Athletic
This nicely sums up the role the much-improved defense played in the Cowboy's win last Sunday.

The defense put up a nearly flawless and historically impressive performance. The historic part is as follows: Since the NFL-AFL merger, the Cowboys have played 28 games in which their defense has provided six sacks while allowing less than 260 yards. In those 28 games they now have a record of 27-1. The one and only loss during that entire five-decade span of time was on September 9, 2002 – that awful loss in Houston to a franchise that had never played a single NFL game until that night. Somehow they sacked David Carr six times that night, allowed only 210 yards of offense, and still lost 19-10.

Despite that bizarre evening in Houston, this record is pretty convincing. Getting to the QB that many times and avoiding any disastrous big plays always points to a dominating performance by a stout defense.

'Can't speak enough good words about Taco': Charlton looking increasingly worthy of Cowboys' 2017 first-round pick - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
After a year adapting to NFL football, Charlton looks to be living up to his draft pedigree.

Business in 2018 appears strong after a murky rookie season for Charlton. He is looking increasingly worthy of his status as a first-round draft-pick, which some openly questioned after the No. 28 overall pick in 2017 got off to a slow start last season.

Charlton's been noticeably active in both games this season from the right end spot. He had a tackle for loss the play before his sack last Sunday of Manning, which started a six-sack spree for Dallas. He secured a fumble recovery at the start of the second half, which Dallas turned into a field goal.

"I can't speak enough good words about Taco," veteran defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. "He's matured. He's definitely doing his thing on the field. That's a testament of his work in the offseason. ...You saw him come back and he looked like a monster, he was ready to go, extremely focused. ...

Film room: Is Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith really back to his old self? | John Owning, SportsDay
The answer from a bunch of video is "yes". Be happy.

Think of the best linebacker prospects in recent memory -- Roquan Smith, Reuben Foster, Tremaine Edmunds and Haason Reddick, all first-round picks in the years since Smith was drafted. Before his injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, Smith was a better prospect than all of them. He was a special talent, blessed with otherworldly athleticism, great instincts and unique pass-rushing ability for an off-ball linebacker.

After a mediocre 2017, many thought that Jaylon Smith was long gone. He was explosive with his linear movements, but it was painful to watch him change direction, as the drop foot condition he was suffering from because of the damaged nerve severely limited his agility. Smith struggled to change directions and opposing teams took full advantage throughout last season.

This year, however, Smith looks closer to his pre-injury self than the post-injury version.

He's not the same player he was then, significantly bulking up to handle the rigors of the NFL game -- he's more powerful, but slightly less agile. Nevertheless, after 17 games in a Cowboys uniform, the old Jaylon Smith finally showed himself Sunday night.

Smith led the Cowboys in tackles (seven solo, three assists) against the Giants, showing well in coverage and against the run. He even outplayed Sean Lee, who is widely regarded as the leader and best player on the Cowboys defense.

NFL Secret Superstars – Week 2 | Neil Hornsby, Pro Football Focus
So how's that switch from safety to cornerback going for the former first round draft pick?

BYRON JONES, CB, DALLAS COWBOYS

Week 2 grade: 83.9

This year, Jones completed his four-year tour of the Cowboys secondary by taking up a role he’d only flirted with previously: outside cornerback. In Weeks 11, 12 and 13 of his rookie year (2015), he played ostensibly on the outside but that was it as he stayed at free safety in Year 2 and then, last year, moved into more of a hybrid box safety/slot corner position. It’s probably not unexpected, therefore, his performance over that period could best be labeled “good but inconsistent.” Since being drafted, he has played more defensive snaps for Dallas than any other player and graded a very sound 74.9 overall but you always got the feeling there was more in the tank.

Playing exclusively right corner so far, Jones is showing that very much to be the case and was particularly good against the Giants on Sunday Night Football. Targeted five times, he allowed only one reception for zero yards and a passer rating against of 39.6. He’s currently our second-ranked cornerback but a few more weeks like those just gone and his “secret” is out-of-the-bag.

Byron Jones off to hot start in full-time CB role - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports
It's great to see Jones off to such a good start on the year, but here's a lament for him not getting this chance so much earlier.

The Dallas Cowboys have been trying to figure out exactly what they want the uber-talented defensive back to be heading into his fourth year in the NFL (oy vey), but to no avail. That certainly isn't to say Jones has not been impactful throughout his rookie contract, because he has. The problem is he hasn't reached his full potential as of yet, and a lot of that is accountable to the fact the team has failed to fully commit him to the one position he'd truly excel at more than any other.

Sure, he has the ability to play centerfielder, but his record-setting athleticism and physical build are much better suited for that of an NFL cornerback.

It took all of two seconds for Kris Richard to make this assessment after being hired by the Cowboys, giving a very real indication of how aggressive the secondary will look going forward. However, with a hamstring injury on starting free safety Xavier Woods that could keep him out of the season opener, some were beginning to form the opinion Jones could be moved back to safety until further notice. Head coach Jason Garrett didn't exactly rule out the idea in his latest press conference, when the question was posed, simply saying "ideally" the Cowboys would keep him at the cornerback position.

The Cowboys defender who may not be getting enough love after win over Giants | Jon Machota, SportsDay
The answer to the question in the headline is Tyrone Crawford, but this question seems more pertinent.

Question: Do you think we have a good sense of how good this Cowboys team could be?

Jon Machota: I don't. As good as the defense has been, it can certainly get better. Sean Lee hasn't played a typical Sean Lee game yet. Jaylon Smith continues to improve. Leighton Vander Esch looked better in his second game. Xavier Woods hasn't played. If they can stay eligible, Randy Gregory and David Irving could take this defensive line to another level. Offensively, Michael Gallup should only get better the more he's out there. There's no question the offense will only improve when Travis Frederick returns. Basically what I'm saying is that if they can stay relatively healthy, this team has the potential to get much better.

Jerry Jones wants QB Dak Prescott to run | Clarence Hill, Jr, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
I can't say if this is causation or correlation, but the numbers do look nice.

Maybe Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is on to something.

As good things happen quarterback Dak Prescott runs the ball.

The Cowboys are 15-4 when he runs at least four times in a game dating back his rookie season in 2016.

They are 9-2 when he rushes at least five times in a game.

They are 7-1 when he has six or more rushes in a game.

And they are now 5-0 when he has least seven rushes in a game following last Sunday’s 20-13 victory against the New York Giants when he rushed seven times for career-high 45 yards.

Week 2 Breakdown: Cowboys game-sealing 4Q drive a thing of beauty - Tyler Brooke, Cowboys Wire
For an example of just what Jerry was referring to, here is one from a look at the important fourth quarter touchdown drive against the Giants.

The final play of the drive I wanted to break down was one we’ve actually discussed on Cowboys Wire before: The Arc Read. Given Prescott’s mobility, I’m glad to see the offense running this play.

The key to this play is making a read on the defensive end (96). As he crashes inside, Prescott keeps the ball and has a lead blocker in the tight end coming across the field. In an ideal situation, the read defender has committed too far inside, allowing the tight end to block someone in the second level to give Prescott a wide-open rushing lane.

Mailbag: Kris Richard’s Impact; Thompson’s Start - Bryan Broaddus and Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
While the receiving corps is still lagging a bit, Deonte Thompson is quietly having a good season.

Bryan: I loved the signing at the time and still do today. He has some complete receiver to him in the areas you mentioned. I also respect his toughness. He’s not afraid to do the dirty jobs other than catching the ball. Every team needs a guy like Deonte Thompson on their squad.

Rob: Something Sanjay Lal said back in camp stuck with me and made me think the team had plans for Thompson on offense. Lal, who coached Thompson in Buffalo, said he really couldn’t believe how Thompson hasn’t stuck with a team because he’s a professional and he’s always been productive with limited opportunities. Right now he’s second behind only Cole Beasley in catches among the receivers.

Justin Britt injury: Seahawks starting center “day-to-day” with sore shoulder - Mookie Alexander, Field Gulls
Something to keep an eye on for the upcoming game. Dallas knows a thing or two about having to go with your backup center.

When Russell Wilson was strip-sacked by Danny Trevathan in the Seattle Seahawks’ Monday night loss to the Chicago Bears, it killed off feint [sic] hopes that Seattle could erase their 24-10 4th quarter deficit, and it also got Justin Britt hurt.

Head coach Pete Carroll confirmed at Wednesday’s press conference that Britt has a sore shoulder, and he’s “day-to-day,” which doesn’t sound too serious on the surface, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a certainty to play in Seattle’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

DeMarcus Lawrence patient while pulling for Le'Veon Bell to get paid - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
DeMarcus Lawrence is well on his way to a massive payday. And he seems to have a very different attitude towards things than another tagged NFL star.

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell for the second straight season and were unable to reach a long-term deal by mid-July. As a result, Bell is sitting out and is looking at missing his third straight game, costing him over $2 million.

The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Lawrence prior to free agency last spring and the early talks were so far apart that the sides did not have a conversation from March to July.

Lawrence happily signed the $17.143 million franchise tag this offseason, nearly tripling what he made in the first four years of his rookie contract. Publicly, he did not express any frustration at not getting a long-term deal.

NFL picks 2018, Week 3: Can the Chiefs and Rams stay undefeated? - Ryan Van Bibber, SBNation.com
This is included for two reasons. One, in addition to a panel of pickers and the OddsShark computer, they actually flip a coin to come up with a slate of picks. And the other is this.

This week’s guest picked is RJ Ochoa from Blogging the Boys, SB Nation’s home for all things Cowboys. Go check it out.


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