Scouting the Los Angeles Rams 2019 Opponents: Dallas Cowboys

Jan 12, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Los Angeles Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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The Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys will get together for a rematch of the NFC Divisional Playoff game from a year ago. In that one, it was the Rams that came out on top. This late in the season, this is a game that could have playoff implications and seeding on the line.

Schedule:

Week 1 – at Carolina, 1 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 2  – vs. New Orleans, 4:25 ET – Opponent Preview
Week 3 – at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 4 –  vs. Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 5 – at Seattle, 8:20 p.m. ET (TNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 6 – vs. San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 7 – at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 8 – vs. Cincinnati (in London), 1:00 p.m. –  Opponent Preview
Week 9 – BYE WEEK
Week 10 – at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 11 – vs. Chicago, 8:20 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 12 – vs. Baltimore, 8:15 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 13 – at Arizona,  4:05 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 14- vs. Seattle, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 15 – at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 ET
Week 16 – at San Francisco, TBD – Opponent Preview
Week 17 – vs. Arizona, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview

Recapping 2018: 

The 2017 season left a sour taste in the Dallas Cowboys mouth as they saw division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles crowned Super Bowl champions. The Cowboys had missed the playoffs and heading into the 2018 off-season fans were distressed, it didn’t get better. The Cowboys cut their all-time leader in touchdown receptions, Dez Bryant. Not long after that fan favorite, Jason Witten retired. This left the Cowboys without a number 1 receiver and a couple of TE’s some of whom had never registered a catch in an NFL game.

Things didn’t get better when training camp started. In August all-pro center Travis Fredrick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, forcing him to miss the whole season. The Cowboys offense struggled without a true receiving threat at the beginning of the season, and they were 3-4 heading into their bye week. It was in this bye week the Cowboys made shook things up.

Following the week seven loss to the Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys called the Oakland Raiders and agreed on a deal that would send Amari Cooper to Dallas. The Cowboys also made a coaching change by firing current offensive line coach Paul Alexander and promoting former player Mark Colombo to the role.

In their first game with Cooper, the Cowboys lost to the Titans, but after that, they went on a roll winning 7 of their last eight games. The Cowboys won the NFC East and then beat the Seahawks in the first round, setting them up for a date with the Los Angeles Rams. C.J. Anderson put the Rams on his back, ending the Cowboys run.

Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses:

Added: TE Jason Witten, WR Randall Cobb, S George Iloka, DT Christian Covington, DE Kerry Hyder, DE Robert Quinn

Losses: WR Cole Beasley, TE Geoff Swaim, DT David Irving, WR Allen Hurns, OLB Damien Wilson, WR Terrance Williams

The Dallas Cowboys off-season started with a surprising twist, the return of Jason Witten. Once free agency officially started though the Cowboys went back to their typical ways, by watching. Many fans clamored for Earl Thomas or Landon Collins, but to no avail. The Cowboys like they always do, stood pat during the first wave of big-name free agents set the market. They then came in and signed Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington.

The Cowboys spent a good portion of the off-season working on the contract of star DE Demarcus Lawrence. As uncertainty started to set in about Lawrence’s contract and a possible suspension of DE Randy Gregory, the Cowboys made a trade to bring in Robert Quinn from the Dolphins. Shortly after that the Cowboys made another move and brought in WR Randall Cobb.

A Look at the Draft:

Following a slow start to the season the Dallas Cowboys made a trade with Oakland, sending their first-round pick in the 2019 draft for Amari Cooper. The Cowboys first selection was in the second round, and they picked Trysten Hill, a DT from UCF. In the 3rd round with pick 90, the Cowboys surprised most by selecting G Connor McGovern. This pick is a look to the future as the Cowboys have a lot of contract extensions coming up, and they likely won’t be able to resign La’el Collins.

The Cowboys have long craved for a “gadget” type player for their offense. They tried it with Ryan Switzer and ultimately traded for former Ram, Tavon Austin. With Austin injured for a majority of last season, they took another swing at the position by drafting RB Tony Pollard in the 4th round. In the fifth round, the Cowboys had a pair of picks, and the Cowboys took two players from Miami CB Michael Jackson Sr. and DE Joe Jackson. With their last 3 picks the Cowboys selected S Donovan Wilson in the 6th, RB Mike Webber and DE Jalen Jelks in the 7th.

The Cowboys draft isn’t spectacular by any means, but it helps provide depth which was a significant need for them. The Cowboys defensive line was beaten up going into the playoff game against the Rams last season; they addressed that by adding three players in the draft and 3 in free agency. They also knew they needed to give Zeke some rest, so they added two players at the RB position as well. There may not be any immediate impact players in this class, but they will be role players.

Biggest on Field Question:

What will the Dallas Cowboys offense look like?

The Cowboys parted ways with Scott Linehan over the off-season and are letting the young Kellen Moore take the reigns. While Moore wasn’t the most successful NFL talent as a player, many have raved about his smarts on the whiteboard. There is speculation that Moore will bring in concepts from his days as a player at Boise State, but only time will tell.

Will, the Cowboys, stick with the same concepts on offense, or will they be using a new system? Will they take pages from the Rams and Chiefs? Only time will tell.

Depth Chart Analysis 

Quarterback: Dak Prescott barring injury will be the starter for the Dallas Cowboys. Behind him will be Cooper Rush, and Mike White. In the past, the Cowboys have usually only carried two quarterback’s, so both Rush and White are potentially fighting for a spot on the final 53. The Cowboys recently brought in Taryn Christian right before training camp, but he is likely just a camp body.

Running back: Ezekiel Elliot will be leading the charge for the running back group this year. Behind him are Darius Jackson and rookies Mike Webber, and Tony Pollard. Elliot will be the workhorse for this group this year like always, but it looks like the Cowboys will be looking to take some pressure off of him. Pollard will likely be used all over the offense, and Webber will probably be used when Zeke needs a rest.

Wide Receiver: The Dallas Cowboys are excited to have Amari Cooper back, and this time for a full season. Opposite of Cooper we will see second-year receiver Michael Gallup accompanied by Randall Cobb. These three will likely be the starters, and they will probably be moved all around the offense. There is a lot of young talent gunning for roster spots in the likes of Noah Brown, Cedrick Wilson, Jalen Guyton, and Jon’Vea Johnson. Battling these young players is Tavon Austin as he looks to carve out a more significant role this year if he can stay healthy.

Tight end: Jason Witten leaves the broadcasting booth for another run, and will lead the Cowboys tight end group this year. Witten is likely entrenched as the starter, but we will see plenty of action from young prospects Dalton Schultz, and Blake Jarwin Jr. Rico Gathers and Cody McElroy will battle during training camp to try and win a roster spot.

Left Tackle: None other than Tyron Smith will be starting at left tackle for the Cowboys. After Smith, the Cowboys will likely have a veteran, Cameron Fleming. Undrafted rookies Brandon Knight and Mitch Hyatt will try to earn their spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad.

Left Guard: After a position battle throughout the season last year, it looks like the starting left guard spot will be held by Connor Williams this season. Williams is supposedly up to 320 pounds this training camp, as opposed to just under 300 when he was drafted. Behind him will be rookie Connor McGovern who will train to be the starter at left guard in 2020 potentially.

Center: Cowboys fans are ecstatic to see Travis Fredrick return as the starting center this year. Fredrick has reportedly recovered from his illness and will look to return to his all-pro form. Backing him up will be Joe Looney who surprised many with his performance last season.

Right Guard: Arguably the best at his position, Zack Martin will once again be the starter for the Cowboys at right guard. Behind him will be the player that started some games for the Cowboys at left guard, Xavier Sua’Filo.

Right Tackle: The Cowboys right side will be held down by veteran La’el Collins, in what could be his last season for the Cowboys. The Cowboys will likely use Connor Williams as his backup and cross-train Williams during training camp to take over the starting role in 2020.

Defensive End: The Cowboys have a lot of depth at defensive end this year. Demarcus Lawrence will be starting on the left side, and the starter on the right will likely be Robert Quinn. Cowboys defensive line coach Rod Marinelli likes to rotate his defensive line, so behind Lawrence and Quinn will be a mix of Kerry Hyder, Taco Charlton, and Randy Gregory if he is reinstated. Young players Dorance Armstrong, Jalen Jelks, and Michael Jackson will all contend for a final roster spot.

Defensive Tackle: like at the defensive end position, the Cowboys will rotate many players at defensive tackle during a game. The starters look to be Maliek Collins and Antwuan Woods. Behind these players will be the likes of Christian Covington, Trysten Hill, Daniel Ross, and Tyrone Crawford depending on his legal situation.

Linebacker: The starters for the Cowboys at linebacker contend for the title of the best linebacker duo in the league. Young stars Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. In 3 linebacker sets, we will see veteran Sean Lee fill in at strong-side linebacker. Backing up these players will be Joe Thomas and Justin-March Lillard.

Cornerback: After a successful transition to the position last season, Byron Jones will be a starter once again. Opposite of Jones will be Chidobe Awuzie, and in the slot will be Anthony Brown. Battling for a spot will be Jourdan Lewis, Chris Westry, Michael Jackson, C.J. Goodwin, Treston Decoud, and Donovan Olumba.

Safety: The Cowboys love what they have in Xavier Woods, and he will be the starter for them at free safety. Behind him will be Darian Thompson. At the strong safety spot, the starting spot is up for grabs. Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and rookie Donovan Wilson will all battle it out for the chance to be the starter.

Outlook for 2019:

The Dallas Cowboys have a demanding schedule this year if they want to make playoffs they will have to get off on a hot start. As the defending NFC East champions, they will have a target on their back, and they are likely nearing the end of their championship run window. With head coach Jason Garrett on a one year contract, the pressure is on. The fan base is tired of not making playoff runs, especially when the roster is good enough. If the Cowboys don’t make it to at least the conference title game, I would consider it a disappointment.

 

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