THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys win 4 in a row; Eagles up next

The Cowboys have won four in a row. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (7-5) won their fourth game in a row Thursday night when they defeated the New Orleans Saints (10-2) by the score of 13-10.  This is their third game in a row where they scored on their opening possession and never trailed the rest of the game.

Dallas held one of the best offenses in the league to only 10 points and now ESPN Stats & information give them an 80.2 % chance of reaching the playoffs.  They played great defense and held the Saints to nine possessions by controlling the ball. The Cowboys had the ball for 36 minutes and 53 seconds of game.

The Cowboys defense was swarming all game long.  They didn’t allow the Saints to pick up a first down until their third possession of the game.  Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were the top two leading tacklers and combined for 19 total (both had 6 solo).  They kept constant pressure on Drew Brees and caused him to start a game 0-for-4 passing for the first time in his 18 year NFL career.  

With the Cowboys defense keeping the Saints from moving the ball, the offense was able to grind out first downs and keep the Saints offense off the field.  Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball 29 times. He had 23 carries for 76 yards, 6 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott was very efficient and went 24 of 28 for 248 yards and one touchdown.  He also ran the ball five times for 22 yards. He connected with superstar receiver Amari Cooper 8 times for 75 yards and was also able to find rookie receiver Michael Gallup on a 40 yard pass.

The Cowboys play calling and execution on both sides of the ball was excellent all game long.  They had a great mix of run/pass plays and it seemed like they were running plays out of the Saints playbook.   If they keep this up they could have a chance to make a real run in the playoffs.

With the win, the Cowboys now have a 76.9 % chance of winning the NFC East according to ESPN Football Power Index.  Dallas can basically clinch the division with a win against the Eagles on Sunday.

Players to Watch

  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): After week 13 Zeke is the NFL’s second leading rusher.  He is 25 yards behind Todd Gurley.  He might have a hard time finding some running lanes as the Eagles are the 10th best rushing defense in the league.  The Cowboys night need to get creative and get him the ball on some screens and swing passes.  

  2. Michael Gallup (wide Receiver): Had his best game of the year last week and led the team with 76 receiving yards on 5 catches.  He looks to have good chemistry with Dak and had an opportunity to take advantage of Philadelphia’s 26th ranked pass defense.  

  3. Leighton Vander Esch (Linebacker): Dallas’ best defensive player is going to have to come up big and guard the middle of the field against Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz who torched them earlier this season for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys (7-5) will be hosting their division rival Philadelphia (6-6) in which the winner will almost be guaranteed to win the NFC East division.  Kickoff is set for 3:35 pm CST at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA: Jerry’s World). Both teams are coming off wins this past week and the Cowboys are going to have to be prepared because games against the Eagles are always a struggle but if they keep playing the way they have been playing they should be able to win a fifth game in a row.

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

Cowboys:  Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR), Dak Prescott (QB)

Eagles:  Carson Wentz (QB), Zach Ertz (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -3.5 and the over/under is 43.  With the Cowboys defense playing so well recently, I would lean Dallas on this one but only if you can get -3 or less.  

 

Some physical standouts for the Texans as the youngsters get to work

What you need to know from Texans rookie minicamp

University of Kentucky Athletics

The Texans hosted a part of their rookie minicamp Friday and here is what you need to know. Obviously, the caveat is these are all rookies or players with very little NFL experience at all so take it for what it is worth.

Kahale Warring is an absolute specimen

When people talk about physical specimens you usually don't get the full effect until you see them in person. Such is the case with the Texans new tight end. He had some very nice catches and reps going out as a pass catcher.

Just on his size and movement he had more than a few moments that turned heads. He is fluid in his movement on the field. You can tell every now and then he hasn't been playing the position long but those flashes are few and far between.

He will have to grow into a role and experience in joint practices and preseason games will be important for him this year. It is easy to see how he can eventually fit on a team.

The Bouncers at tackle

I don't know if I can get the nickname to stick but I want to see Tytus Howard and Max Scharping on one of those campy 90's posters with Deshaun standing behind them like he is already in the club.

Both of these guys are physically imposing for different reasons. Howard looks like a monster athlete and showcases it with ease. He moves so well for someone at his size and it is easy to see why he draws Duane Brown comparisons when people are discussing his body and body type. Scharping is built like a brick wall. He is thick and you can see how powerful he is from just looking at him.

There is obviously a long way to go, even to either one of these guys starting, but if it works out like the Texans hope Howard is the team's left tackle and Scharping is the team's right tackle of the future (and hopefully the near future).

Go Johnnie go

Johnnie Dixon is fast and he has a chance to work his way into the conversation at wideout. The former Ohio State pass catcher has crazy fast feet frequently showcasing his agility. He can scoot too and it wouldn't surprise me if he was one of the fastest players on the field Friday.

The wideout room is a little crowded. Obviously DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee are on the team without question. DeAndre Carter is the team's specialist with returns so he will have to fight to keep his special teams spot as well as his wideout spot. The other spot has Vyncint Smith as the early leader since he played with the team last year but he can absolutely be challenged.

I will be anxious to see what Dixon can do when he is catching passes from Deshaun Watson and A.J. McCarron.

Kentucky's imposing duo

Lonnie Johnson looks a lot bigger in person than he does on television. He is every bit his 6 foot 2 inch frame and has some thickness to his frame as well. The Texans have rarely had a cornerback with his physical makeup and presence. He had some nice reps staying with wideouts today.

His former Kentucky teammate Derrick Baity is on the team too. He is also huge standing an inch taller than Johnson. Though I didn't see a ton of his reps he had some success in a few team reps and forced one wideout come down with a ball out of bounds that would have not been a catch.

Johnson is obviously on the team but his former teammate's journey to be his teammate again is something to watch.

Duke Ejiofor's career on hold

The Texans announced second-year linebacker Duke Ejiofor was placed on injured reserve. He had a shoulder injury before last year's draft that caused him to drop and he also got injured with the Texans last year. Bill O'Brien addressed Ejiofor's placement on IR.

"It's been unlucky. Duke's a great guy and he just has had some bad luck. He'll be back, though. He'll be back at some point and he'll have a chance to be a good pro football player. He's a good guy, he can do a lot of different things, he's a versatile player. It's just one of those things. It's tough. It was a fluky thing. It's just bad luck really, to be honest with you."

Longshot to roster spot

It is early to be thinking about an undrafted player making the roster but Bill O'Brien laid out Friday there are plenty of Texans players who started as undrafted free agents.

"So, really the message is – the draft is important," O'Brien said. "Like, don't get me wrong. But it's a small portion of the roster building. You have seven draft picks, you have 35 guys out here. So, if you're on the 90-man roster, I think we've proven as an organization that it's what you do when you get here. It's not how you got here, it's what you do when you enter the building from that point forward."

The Texans entire special teams unit is made up of players that weren't drafted. New safety Tashaun Gipson carved out a role in the NFL after his name wasn't called. Brennan Scarlett and Brandon Dunn were two defensive role players who started as free agents who didn't get drafted.

Here is my early longshot to roster spot player: Chris Johnson, safety, North Alabama.

He ran a 4.42 at a regional combine. He flashed a little today with play recognition and athleticism. He will likely do most of his work when the pads are on and he can showcase a little more of what he brings from the safety spot. There is room in the defensive back room for someone to contribute right away on special teams.

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