THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys’ Cooper debut spoiled in loss to Titans; Eagles up next

Dak Prescott had a rough night. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys lost another heartbreaker on Monday night to the Tennessee Titans by the score of 28-14.  The addition of Amari Cooper paid dividends right away but bad play calling and costly turnovers were the Cowboys downfall.  

Dallas came out fired up right out of the gate and seemed to be the better team on the field for the first quarter and a half.  They had a good balance between run and pass plays and the defense was swarming all over the Titan offense. The game turned when the Titans intercepted Dak Prescott in the end zone that would have given Dallas a 14-0 lead.  Instead, Tennessee marched down the field, tied the game at 7, and never trailed again.

The loss drops the Cowboys to 3-5 and makes next week’s game against the Eagles a must win game if they have any hopes of winning the division.  Dallas was never able to get super star running back Ezekiel Elliott going. He ended up with 17 carries for 61 yards and 4 catches for 51 yards.  Zeke never had a great chance to make any plays because the play calling was very predictable. The coaching staff basically called a running play on every 1st and 10 and the Titan defense as ready for it every time.

Quarterback Dak Prescott quickly put to use the speed and skill of newly acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper by connecting with him for a 5 yard touchdown on their second offensive possession.  Cooper’s talent was seen instantly, his has the ability to create separation from almost any defender and was clearly the best pass catcher on the field for Dallas.  Prescott finished the game 21 of 31 for 243 yards with two touchdowns and the lone costly interception. One issue for him was his offensive line did not play very well. They were flagged for numerous penalties and allowed Prescott to be sacked five times which also included a fumble that was recovered by the Titan defense.   

If there is a silver lining, it is that the presence of Cooper to the Cowboys offense is a real threat to opposing defenses and they will have to worry about him in their game plans.  This could lead to a boost in the Dallas offense as it opens possibilities for Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper to make big plays down the field as long as they coaches are smart enough to call the right plays.  

Players to Watch

  1. Amari Cooper (wide receiver): Caught 5 balls for 58 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Cowboy.  The Eagles have an average pass defense and the Cowboys should be looking to get their best receiver the ball more than 5 times.

  2. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): as good as Zeke is, he will be going up against the #2 rushing defense in the league.  Hopefully, the Cowboy coaching staff can get him the ball in space with misdirection plays and line him up as a receiver to give him the ability to make plays.

  3. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith (linebackers): Once again defensive star Sean Lee is injured and it will be up to these two players to help stabilize the defense.  They are the top two tacklers on the team and are only getting better.

The Cowboys (3-5) will be on the road playing their division rival Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at 7:20 pm Central time.  Dallas must win the keep from falling further back in the NFC East race. A victory will put them in 2nd place and keep them in the hunt to win the division.  

If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:

Cowboys:  Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR).

Eagles:  Carson Wentz (QB), Alshon Jeffery (WR), Zach Ertz (TE), Golden Tate (WR).

  • Tate will be playing his first game as an Eagle he was traded from Detroit last week

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are +6.5 and the over/under is 43.  The only play that you should make is taking the Eagles at anything less than 7.


 

J.J. Watt is headed for illustrious but strange company

Maximize opportunity before Watt gets wasted

Houstontexans.com

Thursday the reality of what J.J. Watt is facing really hit me. The Houston Chronicle reported Watt had a minor offseason knee surgery. The last three years prove he's far from immortal, though the once incredible career is back on track. For how long, no one knows. Then I finally realized it.

J.J. Watt is on pace to be the greatest defensive player to never play for a conference championship or a Super Bowl.

I started digging into the lists of the all-time great defenders and the best pass rushers in the game's history. Most of the players who would easily be considered a great on defense have at the very least won a Lombardi. If they haven't won the big trophy they've either played or been one game away.

Two names stick out on the all-time greats list. Deacon Jones played three postseason games all in the divisional round. Dick Butkus never played in the postseason. You have to go to 24th all-time in sacks, Pat Swilling with 107.5, to find a sack leader who hasn't at least played in a conference championship or better.

It's a line on almost every great's resume and Watt's missing it.

Watt's only 30 sacks away from the top 20 in career sacks. His three defensive player of the year awards in four years cemented an era of dominance rarely matched in NFL history. He will put on the gold jacket one day. It would be bittersweet to find himself among those greats having never played in a game with that level of importance.

Unless he plays in one.

Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien can't mess this up or they will be accessories to a sports crime: cementing Watt's place as the all-time great without a huge game to his name. The Texans enter one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. They have to find a way to protect Deshaun Watson as he's the key to making sure Watt's schedule pushes beyond 16 games each year. It's no easy task, but go do it. Make the defense's job just a little easier with some powerful offense.

Give Watt and company just a second more too with better secondary play. Help him out with a better pass rush next to him and not just opposite him. There's so many things the Texans have to get right with their massive cap space and three picks in the top two rounds.

It won't all be Gaine and O'Brien's fault if they don't do it, however they have a chance, with Watson and the rest of this team, to make sure a truly significant game appears on the schedule for Watt. Just one conference championship appearance, then, who knows. Maybe the big one and the Lombardi trophy.

Now here's a thought that will shake all Texans fans.

If the Texans don't nail it this offseason and show the next few seasons they're not legit threats, maybe Watt fills the hole in his distinguished career elsewhere. Reggie White left in his 30's. DeMarcus Ware found glory with the Broncos after a long Cowboys career. It isn't unheard of to see one franchise's legend don another team's colors.

I'm not sure what would hurt Texans fans more. Knowing Watt never played in the biggest games with the Texans or seeing him get to one of those games with another team. It's the hope neither of those things happen. There are almost never happy endings in football, but Watt's story deserves one or more of those chapters.

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