There is plenty we can learn from the first two games of the Cowboys season.
Aldon Smith Is Back, Playing Like He Never Left...Aldon Smith hasn’t performed like a player who missed four seasons. In fact, the Cowboys used him on 74.0 percent of their defensive snaps in his first game back since November 2015. He saw a slight increase last week (81.3 percent).
Smith has registered 16 tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack as arguably the Cowboys’ best defender. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan lined him up on the end, on the interior and even at inside linebacker, where he showed some strong-arm power against the Rams. During his time with the San Francisco 49ers, Smith stood up and rushed from a two-point stance, which has helped shorten his learning curve in Nolan’s multiple-front defense.
Smith looks fresh without much rust. The 30-year-old could lead the team in sacks. The Cowboys need him to provide a push for a line that’s lacked a consistent punch at the point of attack.
Why the Cowboys use their best pass rushers in coverage despite struggling to create consistent pressure - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning Cowboys
An interesting defensive strategy, to say the least.
According to Pro Football Focus, defensive end Aldon Smith was on the field for 37 pass plays but in coverage on seven of them. Griffen was in coverage three of 36 times. Rounding out the usage, defensive end Dorance Armstrong twice dropped back into coverage with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence once backpedaling away from Ryan.
Run-stopping nose tackle Antwaun Woods, all 310 pounds of him, dropped back once in the fourth quarter for good measure.
While Mike Nolan is neither the first nor only defensive coordinator to occasionally use his defensive linemen in coverage, the uptick from the season opener was noticeable. Smith was the only Cowboys defensive lineman used in coverage on multiple snaps against the Rams. He dropped back twice on 25 pass snaps.
“I really do believe there is one simple benefit, and that is you believe that you’re freeing up someone else to get pressure based on the number count by the offense,” Nolan said. “So in a simple way of saying that, you’re trying to defeat protection because there is always somebody assigned to block a potential rusher, someone like an Aldon Smith or another lineman on any team for that matter. …
Film room: The real reason Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence isn’t meeting expectations as a pass rusher - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys star defensive end, DeMarcus Lawrence, is still working on his technique in this new defense.
Lawrence has struggled to beat the jump sets of offensive tackles so far. He’s just not comfortable attacking them due to a lack of experience in rushing from a stand-up position You’re probably thinking, “OK, but how do the Cowboys fix the issue?”
From a technique standpoint, the best way to eliminate Lawrence’s pesky false step out of the two-point stance is to force him to put more weight on that front foot. The more weight that’s loaded on the front foot, the harder it is to pick up, making it more difficult to take a false step. While those slight technique changes would help fix the false step issue, they don’t help Lawrence’s lack of comfort with the movement patterns from a two-point stance. With the pass rush struggling mightily, the Cowboys don’t have time to let Lawrence work out those kinks in-season.
The Cowboys would be wise to let Lawrence revert back to a three-point stance for a majority of the snaps, tabling the transition to a two-point stance until he has more time to sort things out in a normal offseason.
The Cowboys rookie wideout has been outstanding in his first two NFL games.
As stated prior in the article, Lamb was able to reel in half of his receptions on third down against Atlanta and this one went for 37 yards. The Cowboys are running “four-verts” and Lamb is the inside most receiver tasked with a seam route. Lamb sees that he has two safeties splitting the field so he knows that in order for his route to be a success he has to catch the ball somewhere in between the two safeties.
In order to do that, Lamb starts off by widening his route forcing the safety to widen out as well. Once Lamb feels he has created enough space over the middle he begins to bend his route back in and finds himself in the perfect place to make the catch, between the safeties and right behind the linebackers. At the top of his route, he does a great job maintaining space and not flattening out too much or getting too vertical; he finds the soft spot for a big gain.
With Chidobe Awuize out, Dallas will need Trevon Diggs to step up even more, if he’s healthy.
Diggs is the focal point; the guy that Dallas claims they’ve have drafted with their 1st-round pick if CeeDee Lamb hadn’t been surprisingly available. With that statement hanging around his neck, Trevon might as well have been a 1st-rounder given the expectations. So far Trevon Diggs hasn’t wilted from that heat. From being a Week 1 starter to facing off against Julio Jones in his second game, Diggs has accepted the challenges and shown way more good than bad in his NFL infancy.
Again, there’s still plenty of season left for the hype train to go off the rails. Even Morris Claiborne had some good moments in his rookie year. But something just feels different right now with Trevon Diggs. There’s a spark to his play at CB which we just haven’t seen much of around here.
What’s behind all the high-scoring games this season?
Half the teams in the league scored at least 30 points this week. Is it possible that the Dallas defense isn’t as bad as we think – that most defenses are struggling early this season? – MARCUS WHITT / MULLENS, WV
Nick: That’s another good point. And let’s not act like the Cowboys haven’t faced teams that have been to the Super Bowl in recent years. I really don’t think the defense is that bad. The fact the Cowboys basically had five turnovers and the score wasn’t worse, is a credit to the defense. Just somehow, they’ve got to find a pass rush. If that can happen without having to blitz half the team, then I believe they will be Ok in the long run.
David: Nobody wants to hear excuses, but I think we’re watching the result of a lot of new players coming together in a new scheme for the first time. This group isn’t elite, but they have the ability to be average. I’ve been encouraged by the way the DBs are playing the ball, and the tackling really seemed to improve in Week 2. Like Nick said, they just need the pass rush to pick it up. Hopefully that comes as some of these veteran players get their feet underneath them with more reps.
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