zzzzzThe Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys have been more tightly linked together over the last year than teams who rarely are in competition with one another should be. That’s all the work of one Earl Thomas. But despite’s Earl’s plea to be traded and to go to his hometown team, the Cowboys were not interested enough to give up anything of notable interest to the Seahawks and on Sunday, Thomas will have to put his Dallas bias aside and help Seattle avoid 0-3.
Otherwise, the Seahawks may find themselves in a hole they can’t climb out of and then may find it reasonable to trade Earl to Dallas after all ... wait ... oh no!
Well, barring Earl tanking the game (I don’t actually believe this but the internet keeps proving to me that sarcasm must be dripped in italics or something) this is Seattle’s best chance yet to get a win. They’re at home. They hope to have Bobby Wagner back. And the Cowboys may also be in the midst of figuring things out amid some transitions, most notably at center with the unexpected loss of center Travis Frederick to a medical condition. To get better insight into the current state of the Dallas football team, I sent Dave Halprin of Blogging the Boys five Qs and in kind he sent me five corresponding As.
Here they are and here they be:
Q: The first thing that pops up in the Seahawks-Cowboys connection is Kris Richard. After so many years of studying defense and specifically defensive backs under Pete Carroll, Richard brings a lot of experience and knowledge about that unit to Dallas this year. Which seems important given the Cowboys young secondary with Byron Jones, Xavier Woods, Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown. I’ve heard that Jones is off to an excellent start. Have you noticed a difference with Richard and how much confidence do you have in this secondary to become one of the league’s best? How has Kavon Frazier done subbing in at safety?
A: Kris Richard has done a fantastic job with the secondary so far. Byron Jones is off to a great start in his switch from safety to corner, and Chidobe Awzie also is playing extremely well at the other outside corner. Additionally, Anthony Brown who mans the slot corner has turned it around so far in 2018 after stumbling so much in 2017 that he was benched for a while. Kavon Frazier has held his own nicely at safety and has been a real asset in the run game. Ask any Cowboys fan and they will tell you they are very pleased with how the secondary is playing, and the “pressure at the line” and “bump the receiver off his route” techniques that Richard brought with him are being absorbed by the players and put into action.
The Cowboys just don’t have Richard coaching the secondary, he’s the passing game coordinator on defense, and since he’s been here the Cowboys are blitzing more and it has paid off. Dallas is second in the league with nine sacks so far, and many of them have come off of blitzes, either by the guy blitzing or because it caused a disruption of the pass protection. Richard has brought an aggressive mentality to this defense which is paying off.
Q: I watched Brett Kollman’s recent video detailing how Scott Linehan is a bad offensive coordinator but that Dak Prescott also wasn’t doing himself any favors. That he only has one read and he is not good at diagnosing a defense. How concerned are you about the quarterback position and do you at all believe that we’ve seen the best of Prescott? Or is he progressing and Week 1 was just an off game against a very good Panthers defense?
A: Linehan has been in Dallas since 2014, in two of those years the Cowboys offense was in the Top-10: 7th in yards per game and 5th in points per game (2014), 5th in yards per game and 5th in points per game (2016), and last year without Ezekiel Elliott for six games, it finished 14th in those categories. I respect Brett Kollmann, I love his stuff, but there were some things I disagree with. He spent a few minutes ripping the call of a Cowboys screen on third and 12, but fails to mention the play would have worked beautifully and gotten the first down if the linemen simply make their blocks. Is it the play-call or is it the execution? He also notes the Panthers stacked the box on Dallas and the Cowboys ran into an outgunned blocker ratio. The Cowboys have done that almost every week since they’ve had Zeke, and have had a ton of success. It’s not like that is new. Although I agree with the point that they should have run more read-options, which they did in Week 2. Truth be told, Linehan had a poor game along with much of the team in Week 1. So yes, there are issues with Linehan, but the Cowboys biggest problem was the lack of execution from the players. There were numerous play-calls in that Carolina game that had people open in the passing game or in a position to succeed in the running game, but the offensive line or Dak Prescott failed to execute. Linehan had a bad game, but I can’t say he is a bad coordinator with all the success he has had.
As for Dak, he played much better in Week 2 than in Week 1. He was more decisive on his reads, and managed to come off his initial read quicker if it wasn’t open and move on to the next guy. He also trusted his arm more and took some deep shots which he failed to do in Week 1. The other thing was he got better protection, but he also looked more relaxed in the pocket and didn’t take off scrambling at the the hint of any pressure. In Carolina he was jittery in the pocket, leaving way too soon on some plays. He seemed to learn from Week 1 and looked okay in Week 2. He’s never going to be the kind of guy who lights it up in the volume stats department, but if he stays efficient, doesn’t turn the ball over and adds the run element to his game on designed read-options, the Cowboys can get back to form on offense.
Q: Jaylon Smith was atop football news many times from his final year in college to the devastating knee injury to the draft and his return last summer. We all expected that it would take some time before he’d ever return to form and many doubted that he’d ever get back to where he was before. Well we are now into Smith’s third NFL season -- second as an active player -- and he’s yet to miss any time since his rookie campaign. But is he playing well? Is he an exciting player? Does he change the defense? Or is it potentially a case of Dallas forcing the issue and putting him out there or there just aren’t any better options? How good is Smith right now, because I really have no idea.
A: Last year, the Cowboys had to play Smith more than they wanted because of injuries to Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee. He didn’t look awful, but you could definitely see the rust in his game and the physical abilities weren’t there, so he was mediocre at best, and a liability at other times. It was a case of needing to play him because they just didn’t have any other good options. This year is totally different. Smith no longer needs a brace, and his physical abilities, while probably not all the way back, are there enough to make him a playmaker again. Last week he lead the team in tackles with 10 along with a TFL, and basically looked very good. You can see that mentally his instincts are coming back and he’s reading plays faster and correctly. He might not be the player he was before the knee injury, but he’s pretty close. He’s definitely in the lineup on merit, and not because the Cowboys have no depth. He’s kept first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch in a depth role with the way he has been playing.
Q: One of the big issues for the Cowboys seems to be at receiver, where Tavon Austin is somehow second on the team in yards following a 64-yard grab on Sunday (plus 15 more yards), and Cole Beasley leads the way at 84. Allen Hurns was supposed to be the number one, but he’s got just two catches for 29 yards. Any hope for this group growing and getting better throughout the season? Any one to look out for in particular? And is this your number one concern for the 2019 offseason?
A: I know people keep talking about the Cowboys receivers, but if you watch the tape on them, there are definitely plays were they are getting open and it’s not like they are dropping passes left and right. The problem with the Cowboys offense has revolved more around the play of Dak Prescott and the offensive line, especially in the first game. Things came together more in the second game, but the Cowboys only had eight real drives on offense in that game. They scored touchdowns on two and they kicked field goals on two more. So it’s not like it was a total bust. I think once Prescott and the receivers play together more, they will start having more productive games. One guy we haven’t seen produce much that we had high hopes for is rookie Michael Gallup. I’d really like to see him breakout and he’s a guy to watch.
My number one concern is not the receivers, it is the play of the offensive line. We’re missing Travis Frederick, we have a rookie at left guard, and the tackles played awful in Week 1. Things were much better in Week 2 on the offensive line, but I need to see them play consistently to believe they are back to being a strength of the team.
Q: Have you heard of Michael Dickson?
A: Yes, I saw he did a drop-kick kickoff. Is that even legal? Good stuff and a great interest story.