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After further review: Van Jaylon not rock’n da house as Cowboys linebackers continue to be a liability

Let’s see what we can learn from re-watching the Cowboys game.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys did not have a good showing on Monday night as they fell 38-10 at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. It was a tough game to watch, so you might imagine that it wasn’t too fulfilling to view the game film a second time.

However, with a good nights sleep and more careful observation, sometimes we can derive some new conclusions from the game. Here are some new viewpoints after further review.

This mish-mash offensive line wasn’t too shabby

In real time, it looked as if this reserve offensive line unit struggled all night as it felt like Andy Dalton was pressured continuously. But after watching the game again, that was hardly the case. Sure, there were times when certain linemen didn’t win on the play and that turned out unfavorable, but there were far more instances where this group held together extremely well.

First, let’s check out some of the bad stuff. When the line caved, it was usually because they were being overpowered. On these plays, you’ll see:

  • Brandon Knight completely whiffing on his block as he never got out of his stance
  • Knight being pushed right into Dalton
  • Terence Steele getting shoved into the backfield
  • Tyler Biadasz being bull-rushed

All these things resulted in a negative play, and it looked as if it was going to be a long night for this young offensive line.

The team tried to mitigate some of the power by utilizing the tight ends. On this play, they lined up all three of their tight ends on the right side. Unfortunately, the line was shoved into the backfield, forcing Ezekiel Elliott to cut inside. This allowed the Cardinals defender to get a shot at Zeke’s feet, keeping him from flying through the gap.

While there were some early struggles, the group really settled in. Dalton had enough time to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball. There were many times that Dalton’s poise combined with solid protection allowed the offense to move the chains, even on some not-so-favorable down and distances. This included two different fourth-and-long plays, and they would’ve converted on a third-and-goal from the 16 if Michael Gallup hadn’t dropped the ball in the end zone. Considering the drastic state of this offensive line, that was very promising.

The Two Connors

When Zack Martin went down with a concussion, it just seemed like things would crumble; however, that didn’t happen. Connor McGovern came in and did surprisingly well. In fact, both the guards did a really good job with their assignments. Here a couple things that stood out from the two Connors:

  • Both Williams and McGovern get into the second level, creating more space for Elliott to run
  • Williams does a good job picking up the blitz to where he alters Budda Baker’s path to the quarterback just enough to allow Dalton to step up and complete the pass

Dalton Schultz is greatly improved in blocking

It’s a shame we weren’t able to see Blake Jarwin this season as he went down with a knee injury in the season opener. Losing Jarwin forced Dalton Schultz into the starting role. While nobody was real enthused about that one, the third-year tight end continues to impress with each week. Schultz has proven himself as a pass catcher this season, but the thing that makes him so valuable is what he can contribute as a blocker. Again and again, Schultz could be found making a key block to help spring his teammate.

Pollard in pass pro

The Cowboys offensive line consisted of four guys who had a total of one career start entering the season and Connor Williams. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. The fact that Dalton was only sacked three times is astonishing. What’s even more impressive is that of those three sacks in this game, two of them came from poor blitz pickups from Tony Pollard, and one was just a coverage sack.

Pollard is a great complement running back to Zeke as he was able to step in and run the ball effectively. He does a great job sifting through traffic and hitting the holes fast. While he’s a good option as a runner, he’s not the blocker Elliott is, and it shows. Most of his mistakes came as a result of Pollard just not seeing it or being slow to react. When he’s trying to make plays off balance, he doesn’t stand a chance.

But give Pollard credit as he did step in make some plays. It was a completely different result when he was ready for it and had his feet planted to gain leverage. It’s something that will take more practice, but it was nice to see him show he could get it done at times.

Killer Kyler

Not only did the Cowboys defense shut out the Cardinals in their first three possessions, but it should’ve been four. Even after a fumble gave Arizona the ball at midfield, the defense kept making plays and should’ve gotten off the field. Unfortunately, the legs of Kyler Murray helped the Cardinals convert a 3rd-and-10 as well as 4th-and-1 on the same drive. That hurt.

Murray is a clear mismatch for any linebacker, but if the Cowboys strategy to contain him was to rely on the lateral agility of Jaylon Smith, then they’ve already lost before the ball was snapped. And in fairness to Smith, it didn’t matter if it was him, Leighton Vander Esch, or Joe Thomas doing the spying, the Cardinals quarterback was just too quick.

It’s so disappointing to see the Cowboys linebackers struggle so much. Smith takes poor angles, struggles shedding blocks, and just doesn’t have the make up speed to run anyone down. Vander Esch isn’t any better. He just looks clumsy with his movement, and even when it appears he has the runner dead to rights, he just can’t finish. This linebacker group looks completely different than they did a couple years ago when they were so dominant.

Some other observations...