It sounds silly. The Packers scored 34 points, yet the Cowboys found a way to “contain” Rodgers? The answer is yes. The Packers’ offense started off scorching hot, scoring 3 touchdowns on their first 3 possessions to take a commanding 21-3 lead, with 8:14 left in the second quarter. In the remaining 38 minutes and change, the Cowboys defense held Aaron Rodgers & co. to 13 points the rest of the game.
Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, employed a lot of 3 and 4 man rushes to start the game, allowing Rodgers to hold the ball and look for the open man. This defense is meant to be conservative, and wait for the quarterback to make a mistake.
The problem is, Aaron Rodgers, does not make many mistakes. When you play zone, and rush 4 against Rodgers, you need pass rushers who can win one-on-one battles. The Cowboys do not have those type of pass rushers, so Rodgers decimated the defense.
Rod Marinelli was fed up, so he started playing the Packer offense completely differently. He sent rushers from everywhere and had his corners play tight man coverage. It was risky, and there were times where the Rodgers was able to find the open man for a chunk play. But when Marinelli started calling aggressive plays on defense, the Packers only scored one touchdown on their remaining 7 possessions, including an interception by safety Jeff Heath.
The Dallas Cowboys had three sacks on the day, all by defensive backs. There were very clever disguises by the Dallas defense, as cornerback Orlando Scandrick often lined up in the slot, showing press coverage, and instead blitzed off the edge. Cornerback Anthony Brown and safety Jeff Heath both played very well in coverage, as the game progressed, which really helped make the scheme work.
The game plan was working. Rodgers was clearly flustered, and the offense was stagnant. The last touchdown they scored in the game was with 11:29 left in the third quarter. The Packer offense did not advance inside the Dallas 35-yard line until Jared Cook’s ridiculous sideline catch to set up Crosby’s game-winning field goal.
What went wrong for the Dallas defense that was playing so well? The play before the Jared Cook catch, Marinelli called a perfect play call. The defense shows all out pressure, but instead brings outside pressure, by sending Scandrick and Heath off each edge.
Heath went untouched, and it was truly mind-boggling how Aaron Rodgers held on to the ball. Rodgers was hit from behind, never saw Heath coming, and Heath laid right into him. Rodgers got up, and called timeout. No one should’ve thought the game was over.
Rod Marinelli went completely backwards. He used ‘prevent’ defense, a defense I have always hated. Why send only 3 people and allow the quarterback all the time in the world to throw the football? In a Hail Mary situation? I can understand. When Rodgers only needs about 20 yards to give kicker Mason Crosby a chance to win the game in regulation? Hell no.
Rodgers rolled left, and Cook was open down the sideline. He had about 7 seconds to throw the football, and that is way too long to ask for a defender to keep up with such a talented route-runner and pass catcher like Jared Cook. Rodgers placed it perfectly, Cook made the perfect catch, and the lesson was learned.
If you do not have pass rushers that can win one-on-one battles, you need to disguise blitzes, like Marinelli called. If you rush three or four, and drop men into coverage, it will never work. Rodgers will sit in the pocket, dance around, leave the pocket and eventually find a man. Send rushers, take risks, or sit back and get decimated by Rodgers.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch
Every year since 2014, Draft Day has been a holiday of sorts for me. I request the day off from my job, find a couple of friends, get some food together and enjoy watching 32 NFL franchises attempt to build the future of their team.
The Dallas Cowboys had just come off a disappointing 9-7 season that had fans and analysts across the country pushing for the firing of head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
America’s Team held the 19th overall pick in the first round. Several names flew through my head as I thought about which rookie I wanted to don the Star in 2018: Vita Vea, Derwin James, Calvin Ridley and Harold Landry just to name a few.
These players all filled glaring needs for the Cowboys. Vea and Landry would cement the defensive line that had seen major improvements in 2017. Derwin James would allow Byron Jones to move back to cornerback and would give new defensive backs coach Kris Richard an amazing slew of talent to use. Calvin Ridley would give the offense a tall, powerful receiver that could learn alongside Dez – prior to his eventual release from the team over the summer.
Vea and James both went before Dallas was on the clock, leading to those of us in the room to argue over whether Ridley or Landry would get their name called. I was pulling for Landry, as I knew he was one of the best defensive talents in the game and our offense would be fine without a cat like Ridley.
One name did not come to mind, however, and that was the name that was announced by Roger Goodell.
“With the 19th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State,” Goodell said.
First, there was shock. Then, there was disgust. Finally, there was sadness. Over the course of the next hour, I ignored the television and instead went to Twitter to let everyone know how upset I was.
I wasn’t alone, either. Most Cowboys writers, fans and analysts were upset with the pick. It seemed like a stretch.
Surely Vander Esch could’ve been drafted at a lower spot, right? What if they traded back a few spots and grabbed another second rounder? This was the third year in a row I was disappointed with Dallas’ first-round draft pick.
I didn’t like the Ezekiel Elliott pick at the time, but he proved me wrong very quickly, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record alongside fellow rookie Dak Prescott.
I still don’t like the Taco Charlton pick. His production has been disgustingly low for a first-round draft pick, tallying four sacks, 25 tackles and a forced fumble in 24 games.
And now Leighton.
I didn’t want to blindly hate the guy, so I went to watch some film, and I found one glaring constant – he played softly. He couldn’t get off blocks, and if he did, he got trucked by the ball carrier. Exactly what the Cowboys needed: another soft defender.
I was unhappy about the pick for the next 5 months. When the season came around, he didn’t start, which I expected as much. Vander Esch’s first start came in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys were 1-2 heading into the game and were without starting linebacker Sean Lee.
Prior to this game, Dallas was 1-7 in the past three years when playing without defensive captain Lee. That’s how big of an impact he has on this defense. Vander Esch’s six-tackle stat line wasn’t jaw-dropping, but it got the job done. The Cowboys won the game 26-24 and improved to .500 on the season.
In the following week’s loss to the Houston Texans, Vander Esch led the team in tackles with 14. This caught my eye. In Dallas’ second straight game without Lee, Vander Esch balled out.
Through the Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving, Vander Esch has tallied 93 total tackles, two interceptions with 56 return yards, six pass deflections and two stuffs. He currently leads the Cowboys in tackles, 15 ahead of fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith. He is the NFL’s leader in solo tackles with 72. According to @BobbyBeltTX on Twitter, Vander Esch has only played 73.6% of Dallas’ snaps, making this even more impressive.
He is tied for the lead with safety Xavier Woods in interceptions AS A LINEBACKER. His two interceptions lead safety Jeff Heath, cornerback Anthony Brown and defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence.
But, the stat lines don’t reflect just how well Vander Esch has played this season. His ability to recognize the play, change directions and make the tackle in open space is incredible. He’s much more powerful than his college film showed, stopping offensive players running full speed in their tracks.
Vander Esch has the potential to be the next General Lee, but hopefully with better hamstring and ACL health. If he can stay on the field, Vander Esch could be the best player wearing the Star for years to come.
So, this is my official statement on the matter.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch.
Troy Aikman Rips Cowboys Organization, Calls for Overhaul of Organization
Former Dallas Cowboys signal caller, Hall of Famer, and current color commentator Troy Aikman has seen enough of the Cowboys ineptitude following Monday night’s embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Aikman, who won 3 Super Bowl titles with the Cowboys, is calling for a major organizational overhaul in order to get things right.
“Go through the list and this team, over a long period of time, has been what it’s been,” Aikman said Tuesday on 1310 The Ticket, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. “It hasn’t always mattered who the head coach has been. So to me, if you’re asking me, I’d say there has to be a complete overhaul of the entire organization.”
Aikman is probably like a lot of fans, and even analysts, who believe that changes are needed in Dallas, particularly along the sidelines that head coach Jason Garrett currently roams.
Change beyond that seems unlikely as Jerry Jones still rules supreme and has since the late 1980s.
Cowboys Cut Dan Bailey From Team
Over the weekend, when teams are finalizing their 53-man roster, the Dallas Cowboys makes Cowboys fans say… why? Why did you cut Dan Bailey?
Eight-year veteran kicker out of Oklahoma State Dan Bailey was released from the Dallas Cowboys. When Bailey arrived in 2011 as an undrafted free-agent, he became the highest scoring Cowboys player in multiple games. Also, during those six seasons, he has made at least 95 percent of his kicks becoming the second most accurate kicker in the NFL.
In 2017 during the San Francisco 49ers game, Bailey injured his groin and had to miss four games. When he returned he would miss at least one kick dropping his accuracy to about 70 percent.
During the 2018 off-season, the Cowboys cautiously signed Kicker Brett Maher. Maher kicked for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks from 2014-2017. Since he is the only kicker on the roster, he is expected to start in week 1 when the Cowboys travel to Charlotte, NC to battle against the Carolina Panthers.
Now that Bailey is on the market and has cleared waivers, he is on the free-agent market. With that, he is expected to work out with the New York Jets this week.
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