Giants’ OC: ‘Dallas’ defense is one of the top in the league’

With all the attention this week on Ezekiel Elliott’s return, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense has been relatively overlooked in the run-up to the team’s Kickoff Weekend game against the Giants in AT&T Stadium.

But the defense has received the full attention of the Giants’ offensive players and coaches, who know they are going to face a daunting challenge against a unit laden with talent at all levels.

“We’ve talked all week about how active their defense is,” coach Pat Shurmur said today. “Not only are they good one-on-one, but they also move a lot, which requires good coordination from the guys up front. They’re a big challenge.”

“It’s going to be a great challenge,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “Dallas’ defense is one of the top in the league, and they’re really, really good at home, especially with having the crowd noise, their speed and their talent.”

The Cowboys return all 11 starters on a defense that finished the 2018 season in the top 10 in both points allowed (20.3 per game/sixth) and yardage (329.3/seventh). By comparison, the offense that features Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher, quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper finished 22nd (gaining 343.8 yards a game). The Cowboys were 10-6 and won the NFC East largely on the strength of their defense.

The D in Big D is coordinated by Rod Marinelli, but passing game coordinator Kris Richard calls the plays from the field. They lead a unit that is fast and disruptive and makes opposing offenses work for every opportunity.

“They have a number of good players,” said Eli Manning, who will begin his Giants-record 16th season with his 30th regular-season start against Dallas. “They play very fast, it’s a fast defense, they run to the ball. They are very disciplined in their assignments and their technique. It’s a team, they have good players all around, we just have to know their scheme, have answers for certain looks and execute our game plan.”

“Their speed and quickness (jump out),” Shula said. “They’re built for speed. They’ve always been. They get to the ball fast. They fly around, and because they get to the ball so quickly, they’ve created a lot of turnovers. Their scheme allows them to play really, really fast and they’ve drafted guys within that scheme that can be very disruptive.”

The strength up front is at the ends, which are manned by DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. Lawrence was selected to the last two Pro Bowls while compiling 25.0 sacks, the league’s fourth-highest total in that span.

Weakside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was also a Pro Bowler after totaling a franchise rookie record 176 tackles (151 solo). He teams with Jaylon Smith, who plays in the middle, to give Dallas what is arguably the NFL’s best linebacker tandem. Two-time Pro Bowler Sean Lee is a still a force on the strong side, though he is removed in sub defenses.

Saquon Barkley learned on the Giants’ trip to Dallas last year how difficult it is to run on the Cowboys. The Rookie of the Year rushed for a season-low 28 yards. He did catch a franchise-record 14 passes, but they gained just 80 yards. A 68-yard run helped Barkley gain 109 yards on the ground vs. Dallas in the season finale.

“Their front seven is very, very difficult to run on,” Barkley said. “Their linebacker corps is amazing – Jaylon Smith, all those guys – every single one of them are amazing players. They’re fast, they’re physical, they flow to the ball well, they tackle really well in open space. I know it’s not going to be a cakewalk. It’s never a cakewalk in the NFL, so it’s going to be a physical game. They move up front a lot, so we’ve got to be patient, and when the opportunity comes and we can split it and gash for a long run, however many times that opportunity comes, we’ve got to be ready for it and take advantage of it.”

“(They) are very coordinated with their linebackers to play the run,” Shula said.

It’s almost as difficult to pass against the Cowboys, who were 13th in the league last year allowing 234.7 yards a game. Byron Jones has such impressive coverage skills he was named second-team All-Pro and to the NFC Pro Bowl team despite not intercepting a pass. According to the Cowboys, Jones allowed only one touchdown pass – against the Giants on Dec. 30. Safeties Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods are also productive players.

“We have to do a good job of staying out of the long yardage situations, as we always talk about,” Shula said. “But then if we’re in passing situations, we have to make sure that, whether or not we’re sliding our protection, using chip help or getting the ball out fast, we do all of those things well, because they’re really good rushing the passer and they’re also good against the run too. They bring movement. They have speed on third down, whether or not it’s up the field or change of direction, and they really, more so than other teams, do that on first and second down too.”

In the Cowboys’ Week 2 victory last season, Dallas’ defense did a good job of preventing long passes. Only one of Manning’s 33 completions gained more than 18 yards.

“If teams are going to try to stay back and keep guys in front of them, then you have to be able to be patient,” Shula said. “We call it with our quarterbacks being ‘aggressively patient’. When there are good looks there down the field, take them. If not, be patient and take things underneath. As the year went on, not necessarily against Dallas but just in general, when we saw those looks, because they weren’t the only team we saw them against, we were much better, when we got the ball underneath, of making yards afterwards. I think there were a couple of plays, even in our second game against Dallas, where Wayne (Gallman Jr.) caught a ball underneath and went for 15 yards. Saquon caught one underneath and went for…

“Dallas is really good in space, but we’ve got guys that are pretty good with the ball in their hands in space. I think all of us, and I said this throughout the offseason, the comfort level is much higher, so our guys should be playing faster now than they did at any point last year because of their experience in the system.”

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HOF Gil Brandt believes the Cowboys can win it all(VIDEO)

Near the end of the 2018 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys started to play their best football, and after starting the season at 3-5, the Cowboys went 7-1 in the final eight games to finish the season at 10-6 and win the NFC East. Dallas would beat Seattle in the Wild-Card round before being eliminated by the Rams in the Divisional round.

Coming into the 2019 season, the Cowboys are a very talented team on both sides of the ball, but there are some uncertainties. RB Ezekiel Elliott is currently holding out and is hoping for a new contract. Also, QB Dak Prescott’s contract may have to be done as well, but he’s in camp, so it’s not as big of an issue as Elliott’s contract situation.

However, Hall of Famer and one of the architects of Tom Landry’s Cowboys, Gil Brandt, thinks the Cowboys have a great chance to win a Super Bowl in 2019.

“I visit 13, 14 training camps each year, so you get a pretty good feel for what the league looks like,” Brandt recently said. “The competitive balance in this league is unbelievable, as you know the Bears started from last to first, and every year we have that situation.

“The Cowboys started 3-5 last year and ended up in the playoffs, and if they could stop the run, they still be playing.

“I really do believe that the Cowboys have a team. They have a great, young quarterback, they have some great, young players, and I think they have an owner that really wants to win, and he’s going to do anything possible to win, so I like the Cowboys.”

Obviously, Dallas needs to make sure they have Elliott in the fold if they want to win anything, but if Prescott can make just a little more plays, and the defense picks up where they left off last season, Dallas could be one of the teams to beat.

Listen below as Brandt talks Cowboys:

NFL: Elliott did not violate Personal Conduct Policy

Here is a statement from the NFL following Ezekiel Elliott’s meeting with Roger Goodell to discuss Elliott’s incident in May in Las Vegas:

“Immediately following reports of an incident in Las Vegas in May involving Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL conducted a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with multiple witnesses, including security personnel and others with direct involvement, as well as a review of documentary and other information.

On Tuesday, as part of the review, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Mr. Elliott to reinforce the standards of conduct expected of him and the consequences for failing to meet those standards.

Mr. Elliott acknowledged that he demonstrated poor judgment and committed to make better choices in the future. He volunteered to take advantage of the resources available to help him continue to grow personally.

Commissioner Goodell determined there was no violation of the personal conduct policy and no further action is warranted.”

Cowboys and Texans will play preseason game in Dallas

Due to public safety concerns resulting from the ongoing weather emergency related to Hurricane Harvey, Thursday’s Dallas Cowboys-Houston Texans game originally scheduled to be played in Houston at 7 p.m. CT has been relocated to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.  Kickoff on Thursday will remain at 7 p.m. CT.  Details on tickets, parking and other game day logistics will be announced later this week.

As announced earlier today, The NFL Foundation will match Mr. McNair and the Texans’ $1 million contribution to the United Way Relief Fund to address the immediate needs of those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The total $2 million contribution will support first response efforts by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the United Way of Greater Houston. Our thoughts are with the Houston community during this difficult time and we encourage fans to text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey relief.​

The NFL and the Texans will continue to closely monitor the situation in Houston and adjust the team’s plans as necessary

Former Cowboys’ safety Barry Church on Tony Romo: ‘He looked like he had a lot of juice left in the tank’

Earlier this week, former Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo called it quits, and headed to the CBS broadcast booth. One of Romo’s former teammates Barry Church was shocked that Romo retired:

“I was going against him in practice every single day this year because he was on the scout team after he got back from injury,” Church told TMZ Sports. ‘The guy was ripping the ball left and right. He looked like he had a lot of juice left in the tank. For him to make that call to go to CBS, I was really, really shocked.”

Church, who signed with the Jaguars this off-season, believes there is a 60% chance that Romo could make a return.

“He’s a competitive dude, I see him just going after it one more time, but we’ll see what happens.”

 

 

 

Is Tony Romo a Hall of Famer?

Tony Romo will head off to the broadcast booth after 14 seasons in the NFL. Romo will join CBS Sports as a game analyst.

What is Romo’s legacy? He had a lot of good moments, but not enough great moments. He is 21st in touchdown passes(248) in NFL history. He is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in touchdown passes, QB rating and yards; all those numbers are better than Hall of Famers and former Cowboy greats Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.  He had 30-game winning drives, which is better than Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Fouts, Ken Stabler, Kurt Warner, Aikman and Staubach to name a few. However, most people only remember the failures; dropping the snap against the Seahawks, interception against the Giants in the playoffs (2007 season), and so much more.  Romo falls short because of his playoff failures. He is 2-4 in the playoffs. In the end, Romo did not win enough when it mattered the most!

If Romo could have found a way to win one Super Bowl, maybe he would have a case.

The Verdict: Romo makes “The Hall of Good.”