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Cowboys news: Dallas made calls before the trade deadline

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys Rumors: Dallas ‘Tried to Make a Move’ at NFL Trade Deadline, Eyed LB Help - Paul Kasabian, Bleacher Report

Dallas did not make a trade before last week’s deadline but it was not for a lack of trying. Some have opined that the team never took the initial steps to make a trade. However, we’ve learned otherwise.

That didn’t happen, but the 5-2 Cowboys are pleased with their roster as a massive NFC East showdown with the 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles looms.

Dianna Russini of The Athletic provided the latest on Saturday:

“Speaking of ownership with a strong say in roster decisions, I had to check in with Dallas. The Cowboys didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline despite their NFC rival 49ers, Eagles, and Seahawks all trading to get better, but I was told the Cowboys did work the phones and tried to make a move. A source shared they were hunting for a linebacker, as we have seen Dallas is thin at the position. In the end, no deal made sense. When I texted with a team source about their quiet day, the response was, ‘We feel good about our roster.’”

Dallas is notably shorthanded at linebacker right now without Leighton Vander Esch, who is on injured reserve with a neck injury.

The Cowboys also lost rookie linebacker and third-round pick DeMarvion Overshown to a torn left ACL during the preseason.

The Cowboys’ defense has been hit hard by injuries all year, most notably to 2021 All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL during a Sept. 21 practice.

Feeding own, starving Eagles WR among key matchups for Cowboys - Reid Hanson, Cowboys Wire

This one matchup out of several that will decide the winner of this week’s game against the Eagles.

A.J. Brown vs Dallas secondary

A.J. Brown may just be the best WR in the NFL not named Tyreek Hill for the 2023 season. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound behemoth has been an unstoppable force this season for Philadelphia and a major reason why the Eagles’ passing game is soaring right now.

It will be strength against strength because Dallas’ secondary is doing some spectacular things as well this season.

Per PFF, on passes <10 yards, the Cowboys are allowing an EPA of -0.47. This ridiculous number is almost unheard of in the NFL since short passes generally offer both a consistently positive EPA for offenses and a high winning success rate. Dallas offers neither.

To put this in perspective, only two defenses in the entire NFL have a negative EPA/play on passes below 10 yards, and no one is coming close to Dallas’ gaudy number.

At 47.1%, Dallas runs man coverage the second most often in the league. Leaning on their pass rush, their ball-hawking secondary has done them well. With that said, Brown is something different than anyone they’ve faced in 2023.

Per Next Gen Stats, Brown leads the NFL in yards against man coverage. He’s a whopping 158 yards ahead of the next closest WR in this category.

Brown has over 125 yards receiving in each of the last six games. He’s not just getting targets but he’s catching everything in sight. His 72.3 catch percentage is a career best and a testament to his ability in contested ball situations.

Dallas has to limit his damage and mix their coverages, but they can’t devote too many resources to stopping Brown because the Eagles have a capable No. 2 in DeVonta Smith waiting in the wings. It’s unlikely the Cowboys will travel their CBs so it will be a team effort in stopping Brown on Sunday.

‘Teams Are Scared Of Me!’ Dallas Cowboys’ KaVontae Turpin Explains Limited Role - Jonathan Alfano, Sports Illustrated

Speed kills (if you let it). Pro Bowl returner KaVontae Turpin is a threat to take it the distance any time he touches the ball. Opposing teams are also aware of that and it has impacted Turpin’s production.

KaVontae Turpin, who is now in his second season with the Cowboys after dominating the USFL, boasts breakaway speed and is always a threat to take a kick back.

However, it seems that teams have come around to this fact. Turpin had 50 total returns in 17 games last season (29 punts and 21 kickoffs), but has just 13 in seven games this season (eight punts and five kickoffs).

For Turpin, his lack of opportunities this season is a byproduct of how opposing teams truly feel about him.

“Teams are still scared of me, so I don’t think I’ll get any more chances, to be real with you,” Turpin said this week.

Turpin has career averages of 9.4 yards per punt return and 25 yards per kick return, but he has yet to score a special teams touchdown. That almost changed in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 43-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, when Turpin ran a punt back 87 yards only for the return to be nullified by a holding penalty.

The Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas’ next opponent, don’t punt very often, and don’t tend to allow many returns when they do. If Turpin wants to make some big plays, he and the rest of the Cowboys’ special teams unit will have to take advantage of their few opportunities.

Cowboys at Eagles referee report: How the zebras could affect crucial NFC East clash - David Howman, Blogging the Boys

In a perfect situation you want the game to be decided by the players. However, many know the impact officiating has on the outcomes of games. Here’s what you need to know about the referees this Sunday.

The Cowboys were only penalized four times against the Rams, who also had four penalties. That kept the discrepancy between penalties for and against the Cowboys fairly even, as there’s only been one game all year where Dallas has been significantly more penalized.

That trend seems likely to continue this week in Philadelphia, as the Cowboys draw Tra Blake for their clash against the Eagles. Blake is only in his second season as a head referee and fourth total season as an official in any capacity. His first full season as a head referee saw Blake’s crew finish firmly in the middle of the pack in total penalties called, with slightly more penalties called against the road team.

So far this year, that trend has held true. Blake is throwing more flags, averaging two more total penalties per game than a year ago, but is still calling things pretty close between the teams. Right now, he’s called three more penalties on the home team. In the seven games Blake’s crew has called this year, three of them have seen more penalties on the home team, three of them have seen more on the road team, and the seventh game had an equal amount of penalties. Week 1 was the only time where the discrepancy between teams was more than two penalties. In other words, Blake does not play favorites to either side.

One common theme for Blake is that he tends to call things close for the defense, especially on passing plays. His crew leads the league in both pass interference and holding penalties against the defense. The Cowboys have only been called for pass interference four times this year, while the Eagles have five such penalties; both of those figures could jump this week.

Blake balances it out a little bit by having an eagle eye (no pun intended) when it comes to ineligible man downfield penalties. These penalties have become much more common with the expanded use of RPO’s in the league. Blake’s crew leads the NFL in these penalties as well. Of note: the Eagles have run the third-most RPO’s this year, while Dallas is 10th in RPO frequency. Don’t be surprised if a flag gets thrown for ineligible man downfield in this one.

Like all officiating crews, Blake’s most commonly called penalties are false starts and offensive holding. False start penalties are really outside of the referee’s control, but offensive holding is so prevalent in any game that it really becomes a judgment call from each crew as to how often they’ll call it. And so far this year, Blake’s crew has been more lax than most crews in that regard: they’re in the bottom third of all crews in offensive holding calls.

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