Scouting the Cowboys: Linebacker Lee could be the difference

Discussion in 'Green Bay Packer Football' started by Mark Eckel, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. Mark Eckel

    Mark Eckel Guest

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    Owner Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys will have home field and significant motivation Sunday as they attempt to make amends after almost a decade of futility against the Green Bay Packers.

    The Packers are on a 6-1 run against the Cowboys since 2009, including two NFC divisional playoff games in the last three years.

    “We have a team and we have players that can win these big games,” Jones said in January at AT&T Stadium after Dallas lost to Green Bay, 34-31, on Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal as time expired.

    Now his Cowboys have been installed as a two-point favorite for the rematch in Dallas.

    The Cowboys (2-2) haven’t made the playoffs in successive years since 2006-’07 whereas the Packers (3-1) have qualified eight straight times. The Cowboys saw their eight-game home winning streak end Sunday with a 35-30 setback to the Los Angeles Rams.

    “Dallas is coming off that loss to St. Louis and has a lot to prove,” an NFL executive in personnel said. “I like Dallas, 21-20. If Sean Lee doesn’t play I’d go with Green Bay, 28-21.

    “That (Lee’s absence) would benefit Green Bay in the passing game. They’d isolate on 54, Jaylon Smith, in coverage. Their tight end (Martellus Bennett) would have to be big. He can’t be out there dropping balls and stuff like that.”

    Lee, the leader of the Cowboys’ average defense, missed the Rams game with a hamstring injury.

    The Cowboys, 13-3 and seeded No. 1 in the NFC playoffs a year ago, dispatched the winless Giants, 19-3, in the opener before being roughed up by Denver, 42-17, despite being a 2 ½-point favorite at Mile High.

    “I just think they thought they were going to walk in to every place they went and people would lay down to them and they’d just whip the (expletive) out of everybody,” an assistant coach for one of the Cowboys’ opponents said Tuesday. “Obviously, that’s not the case at all, which you love.”

    The assistant forecast a victory for the Packers, 35-32.

    “I’d be shocked if Green Bay didn’t beat them,” he said. “Dallas has an overrated defense and Dez Bryant is just a mere shadow of himself, really. You hear everybody talk about him but he’s nothing like he was. He’s more of a possession type receiver than anything.”

    Another personnel man also called it for the Packers, 27-24.

    “I think Green Bay’s tackles will be back,” he said. “I don’t know if Sean Lee will be back, which will be a big deal. I don’t think the lack of a running game will hurt (the Packers) and they have enough playmakers to overcome Davante Adams.

    “I think Green Bay is stout enough to eliminate the run and then take away some of the skill set that Dallas has. The key will be (how) to match up with Dez Bryant, and does Green Bay have enough to stop (Cole) Beasley?”

    The Cowboys, who ranked second in rushing last season at 149.8, rank 14th at 114.3 after four games. Their best rushing performance (189 yards in 27 carries) came against the Rams. The low point came in Denver when Ezekiel Elliott rushed nine times for 8 yards.

    “Zeke kind of showed up out of shape, to tell you the truth,” said one scout. “He was just looking a little fleshy. I thought he was almost pouting during the Denver game. The effort wasn’t always there.”

    Elliott, who averaged 21.5 carries for 108.7 yards last season, finished 21-85 against the Rams.

    “The Rams game he was starting to work himself back into shape and starting to run like he’s to supposed to run,” the scout said. “They were actually punching people in the mouth like they should.

    “This guy could end up getting suspended at any given time. If not, they just bloody your nose by letting that offensive line kick your ass and run the man-child behind them. Then they’re pretty good.

    “Their defense has the ability to rush the passer up front and their secondary will be good enough to hold up. They can be a playoff team. I think they’re going to hit their stride.”


    Coordinator – Scott Linehan (third year).

    Key assistants – Derek Dooley, wide receivers; Frank Pollack, offensive line.

    Notes: Linehan’s run ratio of 39.7% through four games is far below his 51.5% entering a game against Green Bay on Oct. 16. The Cowboys also rank just 23rd in time of possession, a far cry from third last season. Linehan utilizes run-pass options, bootlegs and rollouts designed to get Dak Prescott on the perimeter. It’s a play-action passing attack. The Cowboys rank tied for eighth in giveaways (four), 12th in yards (343.3) and tied for 13th in points (23.5).

    What scouts said: “I’ve always liked Linehan. Even when he was in Detroit (2009-’13) he had some innovative stuff. Put it this way. He’s always done a nice job using his players. Now it didn’t always happen right on time but eventually, when they were at their best, is when he was figuring out the best way to use the talent that he had. They’re better off going with two tight ends and one back.” … “They’re not a team that pulls that much. They don’t have many running plays.”


    Starters – Dez Bryant (6-2, 220, 4.54 before 2010 draft); Terrance Williams (6-2, 210, 4.50).

    Key backups – Cole Beasley (5-8, 180, 4.50); Brice Butler (6-3, 220, 4.39); Ryan Switzer (5-8 ½, 185, 4.49).

    Notes: Bryant is playing 88.2% of the snaps but is off to a slow start with 16 receptions for 212 yards (13.3) and two touchdowns. Williams, a 59-game starter, does a lot of body catching. Beasley, who led the club in receptions (75) last year, has played 165 snaps but his reception total is just 11.

    What scouts said: “Dez is always an interesting study. I never thought of him as being a polished route runner. He struggles when you get legitimate elite corners that can get their hands on him and who read body language and anticipate his breaks. He gets frustrated then. Dez was always a superior athlete. He’d just out-athlete you for the ball. I don’t know if it’s the injuries he’s had over the years but he’s not off to a great start. You can’t count on him getting open.” … “Terrance is more of a finesse receiver. He’s the opposite of Dez. He’s a nice, smooth route runner. Can make some acrobatic catches but he can also have the focus drops. More of a build-up speed guy. Once he gets going on those over routes he picks up speed.” … “Beasley is a slot receiver but Switzer has taken a little bit of Beasley’s role. They’re very similar in body type. Switzer is probably a better run-after-the-catch guy. Beasley finds the open windows. He just kind of gets open. He’s a nice, smart guy who knows when to sit it down or run through the zone.” … “Beasley really has good quickness. It’s not like he’s going 100 (yards) on you. But he’s sort of like (Julian) Edelman or how (Wes) Welker used to be. Got really good change of direction.” … “Butler is similar to Terrance in that they’re taller, longer, lean guys. He’s got pretty good body control. You’ll see him show up in the red zone. More of a strider who can get going down the field.”


    Starter – Jason Witten (6-5 ½, 263, 4.67).

    Backups – James Hanna (6-4, 260, 4.45); Geoff Swaim (6-4 ½, 260, 4.72).

    Notes: Witten, 35, has played all 263 offensive snaps. He ranks second all-time to Tony Gonzalez in receptions (1,108) and receiving yards (12,056) by a tight end.

    What scouts said: “Believe it or not, Witten just keeps on going. You watch him on film, you think, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me?’ But he’s still a really productive player. He’s a decent blocker, too. I don’t know if he could run way back when, when you think about it. Now, if he could break 5-flat, I’d be shocked. Funny thing is, if you notice when he catches the ball and he’s coming across he just sort of lets his legs go limp. It’s not like he’s trying to break a tackle. It’s hilarious. When they go down to tackle him he just gives way. ‘Go ahead and tackle me, you’re not blowing my knee out.’” … “Witten is ‘Mr. Reliable.’ He’s also a descending player. Obviously, he was more of a factor for (Tony) Romo. He and Romo had better chemistry. He can hit you on those turnaround routes, option routes where he just comes down and boxes out the linebacker or the safety like a basketball player. He also shows up a lot in the red zone. He comes down and pushes off. He won’t get a lot of run after the catch. He’ll just move the chains on third and 3, third and 4. He might run 4.8 on a good day. I think he’s a 4.9. You’ll never know for sure because he’ll never run one again. It’s not going to be pretty, by any means.” … “Hanna is a smart guy. Got a little versatility. More like an H-back than a tight end or a fullback. Doesn’t have blazing speed but he can open, catch the ball and give you a little run after the catch. He does a lot of little things pretty well.”


    Starters – LT Tyron Smith (6-5, 320, 4.98); LG Chaz Green (6-4 ½, 318, 5.17) or Jonathan Cooper (6-2, 308, 5.11); C Travis Frederick (6-3 ½, 320, 5.56); RG Zack Martin (6-4, 315, 5.2); RT La’el Collins (6-4 ½, 320, 5.14).

    Key backups – T Byron Bell (6-5 ½, 339, 5.40); C-G Joe Looney (6-3, 315, 5.03).

    Notes: Smith, Frederick and Martin are perennial Pro Bowl players. Smith has played every snap despite back problems that have reduced his ability to move and bend. Green replaced LG Ronald Leary, who signed with Denver on March 9 (four years, $36 million, $24M guaranteed). Green woke up with a hip injury Friday so Cooper went the distance against the Rams. Collins replaced Manitowoc native Doug Free, who retired after last season.

    What scouts said: “Tyron Smith is really athletic with long arms (36 3/8 inches). He’s got everything. He’s one of the top left tackles in the game. Injuries have been a little bit of an issue with him. I don’t give too much credence to them because in the big games I think he’ll show up and be a pretty good left tackle. I think the injury stuff probably will cut his career short.” … “Green is their weakest link. Has some trouble in pass protection and isn’t as strong as the others as a run blocker. He’s just sort of a backup type guy. Has a ways to go to rank with the other guys. It’s definitely a big drop-off from (Ronald) Leary last year.” … “The beauty of having Cooper is he’s started a number of games (15) in the league so he’s a good, solid backup. If Green is good to go I imagine he’ll be the guy. Cooper was a little overrated when he came out. He’s more of a grab-and-hold type guy who struggles against the pass rushers. Not an ass kicker as a run blocker. At least now he’s pretty good coming off the ball. He’s got good enough strength where he can flip and seal you. He will struggle against quickness and speed and finesse pass rushers.” … “Frederick will get high and play straight-legged. He believes in his upper-body strength. He’s one of those guys. Average athlete. He’s got toughness. Smart. Plays at a pretty good level even though his technique isn’t always the prettiest.” … “Frederick is more of a power player. He doesn’t always get guys hooked.” … “Martin’s got a little nasty. He’s active. If he gets his body on you you’ll see pretty good leg drive, and he’s mobile enough where he can pull. They’ll run power with Zeke and this guy can pull. He’s pretty well-rounded.” … “With his size Collins is more of a typical right tackle. I wouldn’t say he’s a great athlete. Good strength upper and lower (body) as far as the run game. As far as the pass game, he’ll struggle to re-direct. If you get those pass rushers who can push him upfield and counter coming underneath, he gets off balance. He has his success when he can get his body on you. If you can get him in space and get him going one direction and come back you expose him.” … “(Denver’s) Von Miller had a bunch of one on one’s against Collins and maybe got him once. Really a solid guy. He’s a doggone good player.”


    Starter – Dak Prescott (6-2, 238, 4.78).

    Backup – Kellen Moore (6-0, 200, 4.86).

    Notes: Prescott ranks 18th in passer rating (90.1) after ranking third as a rookie (104.9). A fourth-round draft choice in 2016 from Mississippi State, he compiled a 23-10 record and NFL passer rating of 99.6. His record as a starter in Dallas is 15-6; he scored 25 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Moore, 28, joined the Cowboys in 2015 after three seasons carrying a clipboard in Detroit. In 104 career attempts his rating is 71.0.

    What scouts said: “The dangerous thing about Prescott is him getting out and running. He’s a decent passer. Nothing exceptional. Last year it seemed like he was standing in the pocket forever. Damn near anybody can hit people (receivers) like that.” … “Dak has obviously proved a lot of people wrong. He’s composed yet competitive. He doesn’t get rattled. He can threaten you when he gets out on the perimeter. He does a nice job on boots. He’s probably most dangerous when he has to improvise. He seems to look downfield when he improvises. If you pressure him and don’t get to him it’s almost like, ‘OK, well you guys came at me and didn’t get me, so now take this.’ He looks for that big play down the field. DBs must really plaster when he starts to scramble because he’s looking to make the big play down the field. He’s a lot better when he can get on the move.” … “Kellen Moore is the lefthander. Not a very good arm but a very smart guy. Probably excellent in the classroom, I would assume at this point, and can execute the offense. He can’t make all the throws but can go through the progression.”


    Starters – RB Ezekiel Elliott (5-11 ½, 228, 4.48); FB Keith Smith (5-11 ½, 240, 4.95).

    Key backup – RB Alfred Morris (5-10, 222, 4.67).

    Notes: Elliott carried nine times for a career-low 8 yards at Denver in Game 2. He’s playing on a preliminary injunction after the NFL, following a year-long investigation, found he committed physical force against a former girlfriend in three incidents. He denied it. Morris, a 1,000-yard rusher from 2012-’14 for Washington, had a 70-yard run Sunday. Darren McFadden has been inactive all four games.

    What scouts said: “Zeke is starting to come around. He’s getting in playing shape. The Denver game was a little bit of a shocker and an eye-opener, and a little bit of an embarrassment. Denver absolutely shut him down. He got nothing. He pouted, and people jumped on. He’s starting to get it going a little bit now. He’s been trying to get some of the distractions behind him and focus on playing.” … “Elliott has put on some weight. It’s maybe not as good weight as you would want.” … ”This is a good role for Alfred. Just play behind a young guy who can just pound it. Alfred can come in and still give you some quality reps. He can hit it pretty good. He’s got good enough toughness. He’s a quality backup running back.” … “Keith Smith is not your typical fullback. He’s got good straight-line speed so he can get up on a linebacker and make a block in space. Not one of those big bowling-ball type fullbacks. Little bit more finesse.”


    Coordinator – Rod Marinelli (fourth year).

    Key assistants – Matt Eberflus, passing game coordinator/linebackers; Joe Baker, secondary.

    Notes: Marinelli, 68, uses a 4-3 “over” defense with a one-gap style up front. When his four-man rushes aren’t getting home, he relies on stunts. His defenses almost always play hard. The Cowboys rank 18th in yards allowed (339.3), tied for 23rd in takeaways (three) and 26th in points (24.3).

    What scouts said: “Rod has liked to play a number of defensive linemen back to his Tampa Bay days (1996-’05). He was a good 4-3 front type guy who ran ‘Tampa 2’ in the back end. These guys don’t seem to run as much. They’re running some zone and a little bit of man. They’ll sprinkle in ‘Tampa 2’ in passing situations.”


    Starters – LE Demarcus Lawrence (6-3, 265, 4.72); NT Stephen Paea (6-1, 295, 5.15); 3-technique Maliek Collins (6-2, 308, 5.00); RE Tyrone Crawford (6-4, 290, 4.82).

    Key backups – DT-DE David Irving (6-7 ½, 290, 4.84); DE Benson Mayowa (6-3, 265, 4.76); DE Taco Charlton (6-5 ½, 270, 4.83); DE Damontre Moore (6-4 ½, 260, 4.95); NT Brian Price (6-2 ½, 318, 5.17).

    Notes: Lawrence, a second-round pick in 2014, leads the league in sacks (7 ½). He had 11 in his first 35 games. Irving returns this week after serving a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. In 19 snaps last October against the Packers he tied the team’s record with three forced fumbles. This is Paea’s fourth team. He started for the Bears from 2012-’14. Charlton, the 28th pick in April, has played 35.7%. The Cowboys claimed Price off waivers from the Packers on Sept. 3. Active for all four games, he has six tackles and two pressures in 81 snaps.

    What scouts said: “Demarcus has good size and a nice get-off. He’s got speed to pressure the tackle coming off the edge. He can consistently put pressure on you. The guy’s been a productive pass rusher.” … “Tyrone Crawford shows inconsistent get-off. He’s a base end more so than a pass rusher. He’s bigger but doesn’t bring that sprinter’s mentality off the edge.” … “Mayowa was in Seattle and Oakland. He’s best rushing the passer. He’s kind of a cross between a linebacker and an end. He’s quick and he’s fast. Pretty good athlete.” … “Taco Charlton’s impact will come later on or even next year. Dallas does a good job bringing those guys along. Taco is more of a base end. He’s tall. Not great balance right now. Good rotation guy.” … “Damontre Moore has been around. One of those knucklehead guys. The lights have never come on for him. At best he can show flashes of rushing the passer.” … “Paea is undersized, short. Has strength. He never really showed up when he was at Cleveland (last year). For him, it’s his motor. He’d keep coming and coming and coming. Not necessarily a stout run stopper but plays with a lot of effort.” … “Rod has always liked the 3-technique type guy, the Warren Sapp type. He’s always had that type of disruptive player. That’s what he was looking for with Collins. He can give you pretty good effort, man. He chases plays down from the back side 20, 25 yards down the field. He’s got pretty good strength to defend the run and plays hard as a pass rusher.” … “David Irving can really, really run. He’s 6-7 and runs like a 6-foot linebacker. Physically, he has all the attributes you’re looking for to fit a 4-3. He has a pretty good knack for finding the ball. I’ve got to think they’ll find ways to rotate him in. He’ll be better off than if he had to play every down.” … “Irving hasn’t been able to practice. He hasn’t played football for the last month. To come back and be totally in sync is pretty tough to do.”


    Starters – SLB Damien Wilson (6-0, 245, 4.78); MLB Jaylon Smith (6-2, 245, 4.50); WLB Sean Lee (6-2, 245, 4.66).

    Key backups – WLB Justin Durant (6-1, 230, 4.52); SLB Kyle Wilber (6-4, 245, 4.71).

    Notes: Lee sat out the Rams game with a hamstring injury and remains iffy this week. Anthony Hitchens, a three-year starter, fractured the tibial plateau in his right leg Aug. 26 and probably isn’t quite ready to return. Smith sat out all of his rookie season after suffering a devastating knee injury with nerve damage (drop foot) in a January 2016 bowl game.

    What scouts said: “Sean Lee is their best linebacker. Good student of the game. Makes plays everywhere. Helps their defense get set. He kind of makes that defense go. It should be centered around him.” … “They want linebackers that can run. That’s what ‘Hitch’ (Hitchens) can do.” … “You liked Jaylon’s instincts and ability to fill gaps. He’s not quite there in terms of coverage. When you’re able to isolate a back or a tight end on him he gets exposed a little bit. He doesn’t quite have that burst to close in coverage but he’s still pretty instinctive as far as playing the run game. I’ve never seen anybody totally recover from that type of nerve injury. I’m sure there’s still a little bit of drop foot left in the rehab. He was a dominant player at Notre Dame.” … “Durant still runs pretty well. He’s got a pretty good feel for anticipating. He can still close on the ball.” … “Wilson’s another one of those guys that can run, and he’s a hitter. He shows up on special teams a lot because of his ability to run and hit.”


    Starters – LC Anthony Brown (5-11, 196, 4.34); RC Orlando Scandrick (5-10, 196, 4.34); SS Jeff Heath (6-1, 212, 4.49); FS Byron Jones (6-0 ½, 205, 4.42).

    Key backups – CB Jourdan Lewis (5-10, 195, 4.49); CB Chidobe Awuzie (6-0, 202, 4.46); SS Kavon Frazier (6-0, 220, 4.56); FS Xavier Woods (5-11, 202, 4.53).

    Notes: Former Eagle CB Nolan Carroll, who started the first two games, remains in concussion protocol and won’t play. Scandrick moves inside in nickel and Lewis, a third-round pick in April, replaces him at right corner. Three starters – LC Morris Claiborne, RC Brandon Carr and SS Barry Church – departed as unrestricted free agents in March. Frazier has been playing one series each half at safety. Awuzie, a rookie cornerback drafted in the second round, has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

    What scouts said: “Brown is pretty good when he sees things in front of him. Where he struggles is when he has to turn and run because he struggles to locate the ball. But he is aggressive when things are in front of him. He’s going to be a pretty good player with play time. When he’s got his back to the ball he’s either got to play the receiver’s hands or turn, adjust and find the ball. He always seems to miscalculate there.” … “I think Scandrick has made his best plays when he was in the slot. Problem is, he always gets nicked. He’s got good toughness, he’s a good athlete, he plays hard. I always thought he was a tough guy.” … “Jourdan Lewis us a competitive little guy. He plays hard. Almost seems like he would eventually become the slot because he seems better suited inside than outside.” … “Byron Jones was the combine phenom. He makes some plays as an athlete but there’s something missing instinctively. He flashes. I’ve seen him take some shots at people. I think he’s one of those guys that picks his moments to play the physical role.” … “Heath is a smart guy. He’s not a great athlete but he’s got good enough movement. You talk about guys that will take shots at people? Sometimes he’ll take shots and he may hurt himself. He’ll eventually figure out his limitations. I’m not sure he does that right now. He thinks he can make all the plays.” … “Frazier’s a guy who has pretty good toughness. He runs pretty well.”


    Coordinator – Rich Bisaccia (fifth year).

    Personnel – K Dan Bailey (6-0, 195); P Chris Jones (6-0, 205); LS Louis-Philippe Ladouceur (6-5, 256); KR-PR Ryan Switzer.

    Notes: Bailey is the NFL all-time leader in field-goal accuracy (177-197, .899). Jones, a five-year regular, ranks 20th in net punting average (40.8). Swjtzer, a rookie drafted in the fourth round, on Sunday fumbled away a punt and returned several kickoffs from deep in the end zone. At North Carolina, he returned six punts for touchdowns in four years.

    What scouts said: “Bailey’s automatic inside the 40. I don’t know how consistent he is 50-plus. He’s very smooth and confident inside the 40 and his kickoffs are all minus-5.” … “Chris Jones’ distance has been hot and cold but he gets pretty good hang time. He’s got some good rolls. You get the left-footed deal and pretty good hang time.” … “Even to a fault sometimes Switzer has a lot of guts. He’ll bring the ball out from deep. I think he’s a better kickoff returner than he is punt returner. As a punt returner he’s always reluctant to call for a fair catch. He’s got good quickness and nice acceleration. I don’t think he has blazing long speed but he can make you miss. Pretty good hands. He’s done some knucklehead things because he’s out to prove he’s got big balls. He’s taken some chances with the ball so he’ll end up fumbling or have a mishap.”

    The post Scouting the Cowboys: Linebacker Lee could be the difference appeared first on Bob McGinn Football.

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  2. Backthepack4ever

    Backthepack4ever Member

    +233 / 0
    Lee is a nice ilber but I'm more worried about Lawrence. A guy that can get after the qb can change the game more then a mlber

    Slow zeke down as much as possible and build a lead and we roll. Dallas overachieved last year, esp on d. They didn't get stronger on either side imo.

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