Knowing the Enemy : Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week 2

Photo By Keith Allison (Flickr)

In hopes of bouncing back from an abysmal performance in preseason week 1, the Indianapolis Colts offense needs to find a rhythm and get some momentum going against a very good Dallas Cowboys Team.  In this edition we will look at the strengths of the Cowboys, as well as take a look at how their roster is shaking out before the Colts and Cowboys meet Saturday evening in big D.

Cowboys offseason notes:

Building the Defense: 

The Dallas Cowboys in 2016 were headlined by a young and exciting offense, led by rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot as well as perhaps the best o-line in the NFL.  The defense also made significant strides last season, however only finished 14th overall, but was able to only give up 19 points / game (good for 5th best in the league)

In order to improve the defense and hopefully build a Super Bowl Contender, the Dallas Cowboys went all in on defense this offseason through both the draft and free agency.  First rounder Taco Charlton out of Michigan is looked to as becoming a leader of the defensive line and bolster a pass rush that was lacking last season.  To address the secondary, the Cowboys drafted cb Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie in the 2nd round, as well as cb Marquiz White.  In the 5th round they drafted safety Xavier Woods who will compete for a backup role.  Thats a massive overhaul in the secondary that is similar to the Colts.  The young guys will compete for the starting spot with current starter Nolan Carroll to go opposite of the always reliable Orlando Scandrick.

Last week, with many of the stars sitting, the secondary and defense gave up an early touchdown to Jarod Goff and the L.A. Rams on a 5 play 33 yard drive.  Other than that not much happened in the game for L.A., and the game in general.  The Dallas defense gave up 271 yards, forced a turnover, and had 2 sacks.  This week we will see more of the starters on defense as they look to be full strength. Even Jaylon Smith will make his professional debut after the knee injury he suffered at Notre Dame kept him out all of last season.

 

Defensive Analysis:

When looking at the Dallas defense, it is easy to underestimate what they did a year ago.  While giving up some yardage through the air, and lacking the ability to pressure the quarterback, the defense did a great job of not allowing opposing offenses to finish drives in touchdowns.  They rarely gave up big plays and forced teams to put together long drives, using more of a “bend but don’t break” mentality.  With the addition of Taco Charlton, and the comeback of Demarcus Lawerence, the Dallas Cowboys should be able to apply more pressure this season than last years team.

If i’m the Indianapolis Colts, I want to establish a run game early, and continue to pound the ball into the heart of the defense.  With a shaky offensive line that the Colts currently have without center Ryan Kelly, running the ball will be critical to keep Scott Tolzien out of 3rd and long situations.  T.Y. Hilton and the receivers must win 1-1 match ups vs this defense as well.  They are not great at taking the ball away, but they do not make many mental mistakes that lead to big plays.  I’m optimistic that the Colts starting unit will be able to move the football tonight, however, scoring in the red zone proves difficult vs Dallas and the Colts are down some key red zone weapons (Moncrief and Swoope)

Offense:

The offense for the Dallas Cowboys starts and ends with the best o-line in the NFL.  This allows the Cowboys to do a multitude of things, both running and passing.  The Colt’s will benefit from Ezekiel Elliot being out due to his suspension, but that won’t mean the Cowboys won’t try to run the ball with Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris.  McFadden had 1000 yards in 2015, and took to the backup role when the team drafted Elliot with the 4th overall pick in 2016.

Aside from Elliot, the Dallas offense should be at full strength and has a wealth of weapons at 2nd year quarterback Dak Prescott’s disposal.  Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrence Williams, and Cole Beasley will put a major test on the Colt’s young secondary, and could be a major problem all night long for the Colts defense.  Dak Prescott showed last season that he isn’t just a game manager, finishing 3rd in total QBR, while throwing for 23 touchdowns and nearly 4000 yards.  However he did have the ability to rely on the NFL’s 2nd best rushing attack which makes life a whole lot better.

 

Offensive Analysis:

Like I said, the Dallas offensive line is absolutely no joke, and is the lifeblood of the offense for the Cowboys.  Everything starts up front and it will be a MAJOR test for this new Colts front 7.  The Cowboys game plan relies on dominating the line of scrimmage and running the football which sets up for play action passes and crossing routes to Dez Bryant over the middle.  Jason Witten is still rolling as his illustrious career comes to a close perhaps after this season.  The offense has a lot of weapons to work with and is the real deal when it comes to moving the ball and scoring points.

This is a Super Bowl caliber offense with Ezekiel Elliot, and without him it can still do plenty of damage.

3 Things To Watch For:

Battle in the Trenches:

This is where this game will be fun to watch from the get go.  The Colts spent a lot of money bringing in new defensive talent to stack up against the run and get after the quarterback.  We should see them at full strength at the start of the game, and the Dallas Cowboys is the best test we can ask for.  I can’t wait to watch Jonathon Hankins and Al Woods go against the best in the business.  I want to see if Jon Simon can set his edge and if the Colts can generate a pass rush on Dak Prescott early.

Marlon Mack-

It appears that Marlon Mack will make his first appearance for the Colts later tonight.  He brings a whole new level of speed and breakaway ability to the Colts backfield that they haven’t had for some time.  I’m hoping to see him catch passes out of the backfield and find a hole or two to burst through and show his talents.  However, what I’m really interested in is seeing if Mack can provide pass protection and take on blitzers.  Josh Ferguson essentially lost out on his opportunity last year when he proved that pass blocking was too much for him after showing a lot of ability with the ball in his hands.  Marlon Mack’s playing time may be determined by whether or not he can protect the quarterback, whether that be Luck or Tolzien

 

The Big Mo-

Perhaps more than anything else, after last Sunday’s performance, the Indianapolis Colts had little to no momentum to carry into this week.  There were some positives to build off of, but the Colts got it handed to them and had to feel pretty small all week. You can feel it in the locker room, the fan base, the local radio shows, there is no buzz right now.  I think more than anything else this Colts team needs to put together a performance on a big stage that builds momentum for the rest of the preseason.  It starts with the offense putting together what resembles an NFL drive by an NFL quarterback.  Score a touchdown early and get a defensive stop and things will pick up from there. The fans need it, the players need it, and I know I sure as hell need it.

 

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