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Cowboys news: Catching up on all the bye week reviews, who needs to improve, who needs to play

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Film room: A closer look at the 3 biggest disappointments on the Cowboys’ roster in 2020 - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

These three players need to pick it up in the second half of 2020.

Yes, a large portion of Ezekiel Elliott’s struggles this year are due to inconsistencies on Dallas’ injury-riddled offensive line. However, when viewed — and paid like — one of the best players at a given position, it’s assumed he’s still going to thrive in areas where he has greater control.

Elliott hasn’t been a disappointment this season because he’s averaging the least rushing yards per carry and game of his career, or because he’s failed to generate 100 rushing yards in a single game this season — it’s easy to explain those away due to Dallas’ issues up front. He’s been a disappointment largely because he hasn’t gotten the job done even in instances when you can isolate his performance from those around him. He leads the league in drops (six) and fumbles (five) among RBs this season, per Pro Football Focus, which are both areas where Elliott has greater control. Yet, Elliott has still struggled with consistency.

While he’s typically one of the best backs in pass protection, Elliott has also been a little more inconsistent there than in previous years, allowing the most pressures (nine) in pass protection among all RBs and possessing the fifth-worst pass-blocking efficiency among the 17 RBs who are consistently relied upon in pass protection (at least 170 snaps in pass protection this season), per PFF. In only nine games this year, Elliott has already more pressures than any other year in his career outside of 2019 (13), a total he’s on pace to break this season. While he’s had some truly impressive performances in pass protection this season (notably against Seattle), he’s also had way too many instances where he’s not getting the job done either.

Although Elliott hasn’t been gifted with as many open running lanes as in the past, when he does get good blocking, he hasn’t done a great job of taking advantage, struggling to consistently break tackles or make defenders miss when one-on-one in the open field. Elliott is averaging the least yards after contact per carry (2.61) of his career this season and ranks 35th among RBs in elusive rating (39.3), per PFF.

Cowboys’ Future With Aldon Smith: More Complicated Than It Seems - Mike Fisher,

There’s a lot going on here...

FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys’ claim of “turning down offers’’ for Aldon Smith just before the NFL Trade Deadline is the stuff that future negotiations are made of.

The claim makes it much easier for ownership to attempt to extend or re-sign the “rescue-project’’ Smith to a new deal for 2021 and beyond, the Joneses being able to say, “Not only did we give you a second chance in the NFL, but we believe in you so strongly that we wouldn’t even listen to trade offers!’’

But there is some mythology here that gets in the way of the facts, and some truths here that make an Aldon Smith re-signing more complicated than it seems.

Did the Cowboys really turn down offers for Smith? The buzz we hear is that the Seattle Seahawks are the only team that made an offer - and that their proposal included only a “mid-round pick.’’

Given the fact that if Smith leaves after 2020, the Cowboys will likely receive a compensatory selection worth the same “mid-round pick,’’ Dallas hardly demonstrated any “special devotion’’ to the player by spurning the offer.

Draft Show: 12 Prospects To Watch on Saturday - Kyle Youmans,

Keep your eyes peeled soldiers.

TCU at West Virginia, 11:00am CT, FOX

Much like the Cowboys’ draft focus in 2021 should be, let’s focus in on some defensive prospects in this Big 12 battle in Morgantown. TCU has a pair of safeties in Moehrig and Washington that are extremely physical and patrol the middle of the field nicely in a heavy passing league. And while the bigger name prospects from the Mountaineers have mostly come on offense, it’s been ‘almost heaven’ in West Virginia for defensive players lately. Karl Joseph in Cleveland, Kyzir White with the Chargers, and Nick Kwaitkoski are all starters in the league and have paved the way for West Virginia to be a destination for defensive prospects.

Trevon Moehrig, TCU (Safety) - Quite possibly a top-5 safety in this year’s class, Moehrig showcases incredible athleticism and frame for the safety position. His aggressiveness can sometimes get him in trouble but has the sideline-to-sideline ability that you want to see from a centerfield. Had his first interception of the season last week in the win over Texas Tech. Early Projection: Mid 2nd Round

Ar’Darius Washington, TCU (Safety) – Just a redshirt sophomore, Washington has a lot of growth to go from a play recognition standpoint and is stalled way too often on play-action and misdirection to be classified as a ‘quick trigger.’ However, his instincts and production make me seriously doubt he’ll return to Fort Worth next season despite taking a step back from an incredible 2019 season. He may be as fun of a safety to watch and a prospect that has an unbelievably high ceiling at the position. Early Projection: Late 3rd Round

Dak or draft? ESPN’s Mel Kiper weighs in on what Dallas Cowboys should do at QB - Sydney Hunte, Saturday Down South

Will the Cowboys look at quarterbacks with their potential top five pick?

Not lost in that discussion is the fact that Dallas is 2-7 and would have the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft if the season ended on Friday. The possibility of the team moving on from Prescott and selecting a quarterback, whether it is Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence, is certainly in the realm of possibilities.

But for ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., the choice is clear: Trade the pick and improve the team in other areas while retaining Prescott.

“You’re not talking about a young quarterback who is unproven, who is still going through those rough starts and inconsistency,” he recently said on ESPN’s “Get Up”, according to “Dak is a heck of a quarterback and you can get an awful lot — you can get a tremendous amount in return for a pick that represents Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. That’s got to be under consideration here.”

Let John Fassel cook? In a season full of disappointment, Cowboys special teams has been the steadiest, most surprising unit - Michael Gelkhen, Dallas Morning News

Vintage John Fassel came to play in week nine, will he show back up in Minnesota?

What we expected: The Cowboys could only upgrade at punt returner from Tavon Austin, who seemed entirely disinterested in the role last season. Lamb returned 54 punts at Oklahoma and was the favorite to replace him. Pollard represented a wild card at kick returner, having not consistently demonstrated a strong feel for the role as a rookie.

What happened: Lamb has provided a nice spark at times, but the juice may not be worth the squeeze when it comes to exposing the dynamic first-round pick to potential injury. Wilson is sure-handed and offers a nice arm, too. He threw a cross-field lateral Sunday to cornerback C.J. Goodwin on a punt, producing a 73-yard gain. Pollard botched a kickoff return to start a drive at the Cowboys’ own 1-yard line in Week 3. That led to a safety.

What we’d like to see now: Fassel’s creativity is the best asset in Dallas’ return game. Be it laterals, misdirection or otherwise, he is encouraged to keep his foot on the pedal. Barring a tightening in the NFC East standings, it may be best for Wilson, not Lamb, to close the year at punt returner. There is no obvious upgrade for Pollard on the kickoff return team.

Fast 5: What Young Player Needs To Play More? -

Play the kids!

Rob Phillips: Fifth-round draft pick Bradlee Anae has played only six defensive snaps this season, and he was inactive against the Steelers. I’m all for giving Randy Gregory a ton of playing time — he was really active with five pressures last Sunday — but I’d like to see what Anae can do with a few snaps in the rotation. With Everson Griffen now in Detroit, there could be ways to work Anae into the lineup. He’s a skilled pass rusher, and perhaps most important at that position, he’s got a terrific motor.

Kyle Youmans: BRADLEE ANAE PLEASE. It’s been nine weeks now and each week I plead to the coaching staff to see significant snaps for Anae who has six on the year and three different forms of pressure in just those six snaps. He plays well on special teams, doesn’t have Everson Griffen in his way anymore, yet he can’t find his way on to the active roster. The rookie is a gamer. He had double-digit sacks last year for Utah and the tape got him to the NFL despite scouts everywhere asking “where does the production come from?” He’s a poor practice player, which may be why he doesn’t see the snaps, but I want to see the rook get a significant chance.

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