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The 5 O’Clock Club: About the Cowboys

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Dallas will come to Washington and play the late game on CBS, then — since they have a bye the following week — will stay in town to do a bit of sightseeing, taking in the monuments, the landmarks and the museum of African-American history.

This post is all about the Cowboys, and from a variety of sources.

Tony Casillas:

What does a win like Jacksonville mean to the Cowboys? In the current NFC East it could be everything. The Giants are done, Philadelphia is getting better, and the Redskins won last week in dramatic fashion against the Panthers which makes this weekend huge. The Cowboys have yet to win in the road and doing so against the Redskins could almost be a signature win of sorts to this point in the season.

Alex Smith:

Every game is huge, division games are even bigger – they almost count for double. But, anytime you have a storied rivalry like this that goes back that long, there is obviously a lot on the line. A lot of history there on both sides, for us, we’ve got them at home, we’ve got them here, a chance to get them in our place and take advantage. Certainly, thinking back to this last Sunday and what that looked like in the fourth quarter, FedExField was pretty sweet. It was rocking and we certainly hope to carry that over to this next week. But, we’ve got to go out and prove it. There is nothing we can really say or talk about, we’ve just got to go out and do it.

We know how important division games are [and] we know how important the Cowboys game is to a lot of people in this area. It’s a game that everybody circles on their calendar. It’s going to be a packed house and we have to use that emotion to our benefit. We have to get the crowd involved. We have to get out to a fast start because once FedEx Field starts rocking; it’s a great benefit to us. It is going to be critical for us to get out and use the home field to our advantage. Players all know, they all know what the rivalry means. We haven’t fared too well the last couple of times we played them, so it’s going to be important for us to come out of the gate, come out of the tunnel, and play fast.

Just a fact:

Dallas, in 2018, is 3-0 at home; 0-3 on the road

Jay Gruden, talking about facing the Dallas defense:

we haven’t handled the movement very similar to Indianapolis. We didn’t handle the stunts, the line stunts, and the pirate so to speak, the defensive end spike and the three technique spike and those wrapping around or what have you, a lot of moving parts that we haven’t handled very well, and then defensively, we’ve got to stop the run. I think that is an Achilles heel, that’s part of the reason we drafted Daron Payne, for games like this, for Zeke Elliott and the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants, Saquon [Barkley]. I think stopping the run; we have had marginal success but not good enough against the Cowboys and obviously blocking their line stunts, both in the running game and the passing game

From Blogging the Boys:

Coming into this season, the Cowboys as a team were 1-7 over the last three years without Sean Lee. It was as if the group fell apart without their field general. They weren’t able to stop the run and opponents took full advantage. No Lee usually meant - no win.

But not anymore.

Over the last three years, the Cowboys have used a couple premium draft picks to add Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to the squad, and, despite the early criticism, both of those decisions are turning out to be genius moves. Both Smith and Vander Esch have been playing well this season. In fact, both are ranked in the top 10 for linebackers according to Pro Football Focus.

It brings such a great feeling to see Jaylon Smith playing at the level we were all hoping for when the team gambled on him in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is explosive and has come up big for the team already. Not only is he tied for the team lead in tackles with 50, but he’s second to only Lawrence in sacks (3.0).

Not only is Smith a physical specimen, but his football IQ is off the charts. With Lee out, Smith is now the leader of this defense. He can be seen running the huddle, communicating with everyone, and even correcting players when they are not lined up correctly.

His leaderships has been extremely valuable to his rookie partner in crime. Even though this is Vander Esch’s first year in the league, he’s already showcasing the strengths that made him a first-round pick. LVE keeps his hips open, keeping his center of gravity low, which allows him to change direction on a dime. He flies to the ball and uses those long arms to snatch ball carriers. Nobody has been able to get past him. And he has the athleticism and length to be a force in coverage.

The play of these two is being recognized around the league and their head coach doesn’t hesitate to praise these guys.

More of Jay’s notes on the defense:

Their defensive line is very athletic and strong. Their linebackers, Jalen Smith – and I don’t know if [Sean] Lee is going to play or not – very, very, good. They have a big long corner, so they are very effective. They’re fast and physical and they play [until] whistle and they pursue extremely well.

Different day, same message from Jay:

With Dallas, [Demarcus] Lawrence (Cowboys defensive end) and [David] Irving (Cowboys defensive tackle) and those guys up front, they’re pretty good. They’re fast, they’re physical and they pursue the ball extremely well. They have linebackers [Leighton] Vander Esch (Cowboys linebacker) and obviously Jaylon Smith (Cowboys linebacker) and if Sean Lee (Cowboys linebacker) plays, they can follow the football extremely well.

Jay talking about Demarcus Lawrence:

He’s a very skilled rusher, but what makes him special is his relentlessness. He can be blocked, he can be doubled and somehow, I don’t know how he does it, he gets through, and not necessarily getting sack after sack after sack, but has a presence and it affects the quarterback a lot. I just think he’s very talented, but the way he plays, the effort that he plays with is second to none.

Jason Garrett talking about Demarcus Lawrence:

D Law has been someone who really throughout his career with us has been very productive when he’s had opportunities. Early on in his career he had some injuries in each of the first couple of seasons, but when he was able to play, he always seemed to be doing good things, and over the last couple of years, he’s been able to stay healthy and been able to sustain his performance. He’s obviously been very productive rushing the quarterback and sacking the quarterback. He makes a lot of difference making plays in the game, but is also a very good run defender. He takes great pride in that, he’s a very good example to the rest of our guys about how to come to work every day and practice and how to play snap in, and snap out. He’s really, really grown a lot as a player and we’re lucky to have him.

Jay, talking about how to play against Ezekiel Elliott:

Well I think number one, we have to gang tackle like always, but I think there is going to be certain defenses where we are going to possibly have a free hitter, whether it’s in the hole or within four or five yards, we’ve got to make the tackle. These one on one tackles against ‘Zeke’ are easier said than done but that’s what has to happen.

Great backs can make the unblocked player miss, or run through him for another five or six yards and that’s what he’s done in his career. They get hat-on-a-hat-on-a-hat because there is always a free player coming and that guy has got to make his presence felt and make that tackle, or at least hold him up until guys get off blocks and can make the tackle.

From Blogging the Boys:

This season many have suggested that the reason for the offensive struggles in Dallas has been the absence of Travis Frederick. Fredbeard is on injured reserve as he fights Guillain-Barré Syndrome, but what exactly is it about his absence that looms so large?

Frederick is the best center in the NFL. He’s an elite run blocker, pass protector, and he’s the brain of the offense in terms of adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Dallas has been unable to pull off a win on the road so far this season and that’s where the things Frederick does can be all the more evident. Ezekiel Elliott’s comments on Wednesday highlight that thought.

Communication is key. We hear that all the time. Not having the best communicator on the field is definitely not a great recipe for success.

We have no idea when Frederick will return to the Cowboys to play football, but we do know that his absence means more has fallen on the plate of Dak Prescott. As Dak is the quarterback it’s obviously fair to expect him to rise to the occasion, but the Cowboys are still missing a lot.

Joe Looney has done an admirable job at filling in for Travis Frederick, but the reality of the situation is that there’s almost nobody on earth as good at the job as Fredbeard. His loss isn’t just a loss, it’s an impediment to success that the Cowboys are trying to overcome.

Classic Jay Gruden (“so it’s good that its Week 6, or 7 whatever it is”):

Division games, we learned, obviously last year going 1-5, how much of an impact that can have on your entire season. But tiebreakers and all that stuff means a lot and obviously being Dallas, you’d like to have, with a new quarterback and some new, young, defensive players, you’d like to have some kind of games under your belt before you reach the Cowboys, so it’s good that its Week 6, or 7 whatever it is.

From Blogging the Boys:

If the Cowboys want to improve their win projections, they’ll need to win more games, preferably in similar fashion to their win over the Jaguars.

Since realignment in 2002, only 44 of 130 teams that started with a 3-3 record made the playoffs, which means the Cowboys currently have a 34% chance of making the playoffs.

The Cowboys are 3-3, and they are facing the most important game of the season in terms of their playoff odds. Win and their playoff odds get a big boost, lose and their odds drop to 14%.

And that’s not even accounting for the divisional ramifications of a win against the Redskins.

Also, the 3-3 Eagles are in the exact same spot as the Cowboys. A win on Sunday against the Panthers, and they’ll remain on track for the postseason. Lose and they can start re-discussing the reality of Super Bowl hangovers.

Jay Gruden, discussing the Dallas running attack:

We faced some diverse run schemes already. You don’t think New Orleans [Saints] is, but they’re very diverse with all the jet sweeps and traps and the toss cracks. Then Carolina [Panthers] comes to town and they have the zone reads and the quarterback powers and all that stuff. We’ve had some diversity we faced already, but Dallas is another unique-type team. They can line up and bust you between the tackles and they can get outside and the quarterback can run. It’s a great challenge for those guys and those guys just have to hold up against Zack Martin (Cowboys guard) and [Joe] Looney (Cowboys center) and those guys on the interior and hopefully free up the linebackers.

Alex Smith:

On film as far as, they don’t do a ton. They don’t make you prepare. They’re not one of these defenses that play eight different coverages or exotic pressures. They’re not reinventing anything. But obviously, I think you look at them statistically over the last few years and certainly this year, what they do, they do really well, and they play fast. They’re good across the board from a personnel standpoint up front, second level, [and] on the back end. They play together. They play fast and physical, so I think all those things. Sometimes you can watch the film and when you look at some of the numbers, like I said, they don’t [play] all these coverages and things, but the subtleties of what they do really jump out on tape and [they] have had a lot of success doing it.

Jason Garrett, talking about the win against Jacksonville last week:

I thought we did a good job blocking a very good front both in the running game and the passing game. We were able to run the ball fairly consistently throughout, and we made some big plays in the passing game. In situational football, I think we were better, better on third down, better down in the red zone to cash in on some of the opportunities. But really throughout the game, we were able to sustain drives by mixing the run and the pass and then finish the drives the right way.

From BtB: We can pretend otherwise, but it all comes down to Dak Prescott for the Cowboys

From Blogging the Boys:

The Cowboys have converted the highest number of fourth downs in the NFL in 2018. Dallas is six of eight on fourth down for a 75% conversion rate.

Those six made attempts rank first in the league. Eight attempts on fourth down is tied with three other teams for second place, while the the Cowboys next opponent, Washington, tops the list with nine attempts in 2018 (they have converted five for a 56% rate). The Cowboys 75% conversion rated is tied for second, behind four teams tied for first who are at an 100% conversion rate.

From Blogging the Boys:

“On Monday, Mothership writer Jeff Sullivan tweeted his feeling that Jason Garrett would be getting a contract extension soon, and speculation took off from there. Tuesday, Jerry Jones responded to the claim.

“I don’t know where Jeff is getting his information,” Jones said. “He’s pulling one out of the air there as far as any knowledge.”

On the other hand, Jones didn’t exactly deny that an extension could eventually be coming. As a matter of fact, the Cowboys owner went out of his way to note during the interview that his opinion of Sullivan’s report didn’t necessarily mean Garrett won’t be getting an extension.

”I would say that my response should not in any way indicate whether I’m thinking about it or whether it’s going to be there,” Jones said. “it’s just not something that I would have visited with anybody about, least of all Jeff.”

Garrett, discussing the fact that the Cowboys will stay in DC for an extra day after losing to the Redskins on Sunday:

Well, it was something that our players had a lot of interest in, a couple of our guys had been there and it just worked out that we have a bye after our game and obviously Washington is one of the great cities in the world and the capital of the United States and there are so many great monuments and different things you can go see there, so it just seemed to work out from a logistical stand point that we could just stay over after the game and get a chance to go see the museum of African-American history. It is something I’ve certainly wanted to see, a number of our players wanted to see it, they’ve heard about it, a handful of guys have been there. We just think it’s a great experience for us and a great opportunity that we have as a team.

(This sounds like an ideal time for DC residents to get down to the Mall and troll the shit out of Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett)

Poll

Predict the Cowboys’ season record:

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    11-5
    (10 votes)
  • 15%
    10-6
    (26 votes)
  • 17%
    9-7
    (30 votes)
  • 30%
    8-8
    (52 votes)
  • 20%
    7-9
    (34 votes)
  • 5%
    6-10
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    5-11
    (8 votes)
170 votes total Vote Now