The Cowboys Report

Trouble in Big D? Offensive line takes some hits

Dak Prescott should see lots of action this week. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the start of the NFL season only a few weeks away, are the Cowboys already in trouble?  At this point in time they are down two great offensive linemen. Last week Pro Bowl Right Guard Zach Martin left the game vs. Cincinnati with a left knee injury and early Thursday morning it was announced that Pro Bowl Center Travis Frederick is out indefinitely with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.   This is a rare auto immune disorder that attacks the body’s nerves and causes muscle weakness and has to timetable. Along with the departures of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, this only adds to the question of “What is the Cowboys offense going to look like this year?”

Logically Jason Garrett and his staff would look to lean heavily on their young stud running back Ezekiel Elliott.  This will probably mean Elliott getting over 400 touches this season which relies on having a healthy O-Line. Luckily, starting QB Dak Prescott and the first team offense have looked good the first two preseason games.  Prescott has gone 13-of-18 for 125 yards, two touchdowns and NO interceptions. On the four drives he has had, they have scored three times. The most notable was a 30 yard TD pass to rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup.

Even with the Cowboys starting 0-2, things might not be so bad if Prescott can bounce back to his 2016 form where he threw for over 3,000 yards, 23 TDs, and only 4 INTs.  This would be a tremendous benefit to both Elliott and the O-Line by keeping the defense honest and not stacking the line of scrimmage.

3 Players to Watch

  1. Joe Looney, Cowboys starting Center due Frederick’s illness.  Looney is a 2012 4th round pick out of Wake Forest.  He is 6’3 and weighs over 300 lbs. but has only started three games in the last two years.  It will be good to see how he fits in with the first team offense.

  2. Tyree Robinson (Undrafted Free agent), who is fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster but has a great opportunity because the Cowboys also have multiple injuries to their secondary (starting safety Xavier Woods and backup Jameill Showers).  He is a 6’3 slender defensive back who put up decent college stats at the University of Oregon. He has the ability be be a great asset in the defensive backfield as well as contribute to special teams.

  3. Michael Gallup, rookie wide receiver from Colorado State who was drafted in the third round this year. (I will definitely have my eye on this one for fantasy purposes.)  At 6’1 he has favorable size and speed, which he has shown already. The coaches definitely see something there because he has been in on 85% of the first team snaps in the first two preseason games.  Not to mention the Cowboys have a few question marks at the position with Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin not being on the field much with lower body injuries.  

Coming up

On Sunday night, the Cowboys will take on the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA:  Jerry’s World). This should be a good one not only because it is the third preseason game which is said to be the one that most resembles a real game but the Cowboys haven’t won a game yet and I am sure they are going to push hard to get one in the win column.  Not only are we going to get to see a lot of reps out of Prescott and Elliott, but the Cardinals first team is loaded with a bunch of talent too.  Newly signed free agent QB Sam Bradford will be on the field with All-Pro running back David Johnson and potential future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

For you gamblers out there, you might want to put a small wager on the Cowboys at +1.5.  I know I am going to.




 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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