Preseason grades, Week 2: Tony Pollard rolls, Kyler Murray fails - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
NFL.com analyst (and my bet to be the next guy to move from the studio to a front office) Bucky Brooks liked what he saw from Tony Pollard, the Cowboys rookie running back. But like many media folks erroneously blames the rookie for a blown assignment.
Cowboys RB Tony Pollard
Drafted: Round 4, No. 128 overall
Whenever Jerry Jones is capable of making “Zeke who?” jokes based on a running back’s performance, it speaks volumes about the player’s impact on the game. Pollard dazzled playing alongside the Cowboys’ starters, amassing 51 scrimmage yards (42 rushing, nine receiving) on six touches (five rushes, one reception), particularly on the team’s 97-yard scoring drive that concluded with the rookie back’s 14-yard touchdown run. No. 36’s ability to handle the workload on the kind of smashmouth drive that embodies the Cowboys’ preferred style of play certainly eased some of the anxiety associated with an extended holdout from their franchise running back. However, Pollard’s poor pass protection led to a Dak Prescott sack. He could be a liability on passing downs when opponents force him to stay in the backfield with heavy pressure.
Monday Morning After: Analyzing Tony Pollard’s breakout night in Hawaii – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Sturm takes a deep dive into the impressive series the Cowboys had Saturday night. He liked Pollard a lot, and also shined the light on Dak Prescott, too.
Here we see how easy a decision this is for Prescott when he sees the weakside safety drop into the middle and a robber position. The safety moves down to cover Witten, who is heading down the middle into the seam. That route combination offers two very enticing throws that will be available against man coverage. First, Jon’vea Johnson running the crosser is open and available, but Prescott sees Gallup versus a depth corner who thinks he can press him with no safety able to get over the top. That is what we call a no-brainer. I saw some who didn’t like the ball location on this throw (no way!), but Prescott is throwing the back-shoulder fade with the safety trying to get over. That location is pretty darn solid on that throw, and if he leads him, it might go right into the safety and not be completed. On 3rd and 7, the back shoulder location might be a tad more outside, ideally, but this still puts his man at a tremendous position to “Moss” his man at the high-point. Brilliant work here, and the design of the play that present the offense with multiple appealing targets and reveals the coverage before the snap are both very exciting.
Satisfied? Not ‘Student Of The Game’ Vander Esch - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
Future Hall of Famer Jason Witten going against rookie All Pro Leighton Vander Esch? That’s a discussion I’d like to hear more about.
It was one of a hundred red zone plays you see the Cowboys attempt over three weeks in training camp. What happened afterward was more intriguing: a meeting between newly-acquainted competitors.
Leighton Vander Esch (23 years old, fresh off a Pro Bowl rookie season) and Jason Witten (37 years old, 11-time Pro Bowler back from a 10-month retirement). Witten had seen an outside look from Vander Esch in coverage and buzzed inside for a catch.
“He just asked about the route, what I was doing,” Witten said. “He hasn’t gone against me, but I haven’t gone against him either. … It’s a different style going against him because he can cover a lot of ground.
“He’s a student of the game. He wants to know what you’re thinking on certain routes. There’s a reason why he’s had success like he has.”
Devin Smith Humbled To Have Opportunity - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com
Devin Smith has thrust himself into serious consideration for a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. Helman catches up with the one-time second-round draft pick.
For those unfamiliar with the story, a lot has happened since Smith entered the league in 2015. The former Ohio State star has a bigger profile than the average futures signing, largely due to his draft stock. Smith was drafted No. 37 overall by the New York Jets. He averaged 28.2 yards per reception during his final year in college, and he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, so his big-play ability was undeniable.
Unfortunately, he was never able to showcase that in New York, as he had two seasons cut short by knee injuries. The second of those saw him miss the entire 2017 season, and he was waived during the summer of 2018.
With ample time to recover, Smith said he feels better than he has in quite some time.
“I definitely feel a lot stronger. I feel a lot more explosive, just from all the work that you have to do – all the maintenance stuff you have to do to keep up with it,” he said. “Every now and then it does ache, and it is tough at times. But I definitely feel a lot stronger.”
Broncos coach Vic Fangio influenced by hometown of Dunmore, Penn. - Conor Orr, SI.com
Another media member who erroneously puts responsibility for Dak Prescott’s first-quarter sack on Tony Pollard, but also thinks Dak Prescott would be a sought after commodity on the free agent market.
As for Dallas, their running back protection left some seasoning to be desired. Dak Prescott was buried for a loss of 12 after Tony Pollard got hit with a swim move. While it looked like he may have been setting up a quick out or screen, Pollard put the Cowboys in an early hole there … which Prescott still dug the team out of with some pristine passing to Michael Gallup and Tavon Austin. If the franchise is still undersold on his worthiness to reset the quarterback market, go ahead and make him available and see what happens.
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott’s agent irked by Jerry Jones’ joke - Jori Epstein, USAToday.com
Jerry Jones knew exactly what he was doing, and knew what it would lead to... but just couldn’t help himself. Beat writers looking for a story know gold when they see it.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paused for effect at the question.
Jones was asked Saturday night after the Cowboys’ second preseason game against the Rams whether rookie running back Tony Pollard, the team’s fourth-round selection, is the Cowboys’ best leverage in negotiations with rushing titleholder Ezekiel Elliott.
“Zeke who?” Jones quipped after a few seconds, breaking out into laughter. “We’re having some fun.”
Jones made clear in the same interview Saturday night that he wasn’t implying Pollard will mask the absence of Elliott, who has held out more than three weeks in pursuit of a contract extension. Rather, Jones said, he hopes Pollard and Elliott will threaten well as a duo.
“If [Pollard] continues this through the next several weeks, that’ll really complement what we’re doing with Zeke,” Jones said. “Not replace that, and I mean that. And nobody’s getting cute here. It’ll certainly be a great complement to have a great running game. I can picture those guys in the same sets at the same time out there really giving those defenses fits.”
“I didn’t think it was funny and neither did Zeke,” agent Rocky Arceneaux told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. “We actually thought it was disrespectful.”
As emotions start to become involved, the Cowboys have entered a pivotal time in Ezekiel Elliott's holdout - David Moore, SportsDay
Whether Elliott and his representatives are truly “disrespected” is debatable; what’s not debatable is Jones gave them ammunition and, well, they’re going to use it. Moore points out both sides have a reason to maybe feel such disrespect.
The level of disrespect Ezekiel Elliott and his agents feel over the comic stylings of Jerry Jones is open to interpretation.
Did Elliott take the "Zeke who'' retort to heart or did he and his representatives simply see a way to score a negotiating point?
Can anyone watch how the Cowboys owner delivered his punch line after the preseason win in Hawaii and not accept it was more mischievous than malicious?
It doesn't matter on which side of the divide you fall. This is always the danger during a holdout.
In the absence of meaningful dialogue, small, often innocuous comments carry a disproportionate amount of weight. Remarks that shouldn't be given a second thought become impossible to ignore and can erode an otherwise strong relationship.
NFL Runway with Vinny and Dave: NFC East - Dave Bernreuther and Vincent Verhei, Football Outsiders
If you’re a uniform junkie, the open-ended discussion going on at Football Outsiders is fun and a little infuriating for their lack of respect for the greatest uniform in sport.
Vince: I have such powerfully conflicted emotions about Dallas' uniforms. I hate that they almost always wear white jerseys -- and when they do, I hate that the silver in their helmet doesn't show up anywhere else in the uniform. I hate that the navy blue star on the helmet doesn't match the royal blue in the jersey numbers. I hate that the silvery green pants don't match the blue in the star or the blue in the numbers or the silver in the helmet -- or, for that matter, anything else in nature. I hate that the royal blue numbers don't have outlines even though the royal blue stripes on the sleeves do -- but then, I even hate those outlines, because they are black, and there is no black to be found anywhere else in this uniform.
But then one year the Cowboys came to Seattle to play the Seahawks at night, and I went to the game and saw them in person, and … oh man. The TV cameras do NOT do those things justice. Everything stands out so brightly and sharply. They don't just look shiny, they look luminescent, like they are producing light themselves. In person, these uniforms are breathtaking.
Dave: You think? I've seen them in person and found them just as full of conflict as you describe on TV. If anything, the pants seemed greener and even more out of place.
I'm never one to argue with long-standing tradition. In fact, I'm as likely as anyone to pardon bad choices on account of history. But man I hate that the Cowboys wear white so often, and I hate that for years, only two division rivals -- Washington, who also defaulted to white at home, and Philadelphia, who apparently did it for spite -- forced them to wear their navy set. I *really* hate it, because the current navy non-throwback set that dates back to 1996 is easily one of the top five uniforms in football.
Everything matches. The color scheme of navy and silver alone is unique. The striping from top to bottom is consistent and great. The numbers have the spaced outline that you highlighted in our first column and it looks great. The sleeve stripes with the star in the middle look great. The silver actually shines, unlike the Raiders' "silver" pants. There is not one single negative thing to say about that uniform set, and this is coming from a person that grew up DESPISING the Cowboys.
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