THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys offense fails to show up in opener; Giants up next

The Cowboys need to get Ezekiel Elliot going. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys went winless in the Preseason (0-4) and have started the regular season winless as well (0-1).  They lost Sunday afternoon by the score of 16-8 to the Carolina Panthers and even though it was only a one score deficit, the game wasn’t that close.  

The main issue with the team was poor offensive line play.  The O-line gave up six sacks and couldn’t open running lanes for Pro Bowl Running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Dallas offense didn’t cross midfield until the third quarter and were held to 232 yards.  Quarterback Dak Prescott never had any time to get the ball to his pass catchers.  Prescott went 19 of 29 for 170 yards, no touchdowns, and a 2 point conversion. He was sacked on the Cowboys 15 yard line with about 1:30 left in the fourth quarter and was stripped of the ball which Carolina recovered and sealed the game.  Elliott was held to 86 total yards (69 rushing) but did get into the end zone for the Cowboys lone touchdown.

Another glaring concern was the lack of playmakers.  With the defense locked in on Elliott, none of the pass catchers stepped up.  Slot receiver Cole Beasley led the team with 7 catches for 73 yards, while $12 million dollar man Allen Hurns was basically a no show and  ended with only one catch for 20 yards.  A big portion of this problem is there doesn’t seem to be any production that will come from the Tight End position with departure of Cowboy great Jason Witten. Starting Tight End Geoff Swaim had three catches for 18 yards on mostly a short throws.  

The lone bright spot for the Cowboys is their defense was solid.  They sacked former NFL MVP Cam Newton three times and limited him to 161 yards passing.  In total, the defense held the Panthers to 293 yards and they went 4 of 12 on third down conversions.  The one glitch was they had a hard time containing Newton when he would scramble. He was the Panthers leading rusher with 58 yards which included a 4-yard touchdown.  

As terrible as the offense was, the defense kept the Cowboys in the game and if new kicker Brett Maher would not have missed his lone field goal attempt (47 yards) they might have been able to squeak out a win in a game they had no business winning.  Maybe Head Coach Jason Garrett is starting to rethink the decision to cut the NFL’s second most accurate kicker, Dan Bailey.

3 Players to Watch

  1. The entire secondary (safetys/cornerbacks). Playing against one of the best receivers in the league this upcoming Sunday (Odell Beckham Jr.) the entire defensive backfield will be interesting to see how they cover him.  Jeff Heath, Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown are going to have to bring their best games to the field.

  2. Cole Beasley (Wide Receiver). In the absence of former Cowboy great Dez Bryant, Beasley seems to be the only receiver willing to pick up the slack.  The 5’ 8 slot man looks like he is the only pass catcher on the same page as Dak and is always right where he needs to be.

  3. Brett Maher (rookie kicker). Has started the season 0 for 1 on field goal attempts and has some big shoes to fill.  It is curious to see how he deals with the pressure of kicking in the NFL.

Coming up

Sunday Night the Cowboys will play their home opener versus the New York “Football” Giants.  Kickoff is set for 7:20 pm central time at AT & T Stadium (AKA: Jerry’s World). They will be going up against two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning, his All Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and rookie running back sensation Saquon Barkley.

The Cowboys are going to need improved offensive line play to make things happen for Prescott and Elliott.  If they can open up some holes for Elliott to run through the defense will have to back off a bit and Prescott will have some time to find some receivers down field.  The Giants gave up 137 yards on the ground last week. Hopefully the Cowboys can exploit that.

For you gamblers out there, the current line is Dallas -3.  If you are going to bet on the Cowboys, bet them late this week because the line will probably go below 3.  




 

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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