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 Post subject: From fake punts to a field goal fest , here are five things
PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:49 am 
I Been Around
I Been Around

Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2018 5:07 am
Posts: 91
The Jacksonville Jaguars are laced with great defensive players. Everywhere you look, they have playmakers. Six of their eleven starters made the Pro Bowl last season - Jalen Ramsey (CB), A.J. Bouye Color Rush Maliek Collins Jersey (CB), Calais Campbell (DE), Malik Jackson (DT), Yannick Ngakoue (DE), and Telvin Smith (LB). The Cowboys offense has a huge challenge this week.Fortunately for Dallas, the Jaguars offense isn’t very good and the way the Cowboys are playing defense means they have a shot. It’s going to come down to which defense lets up first, and that could be all it takes to come away with a win. The Cowboys will have to scratch and claw if they want to beat the cats and get back to .500 for the year. Here are five things to watch on Sunday.1. Who wins on early downs?Both the Cowboys and Jaguars will try to keep their quarterback in manageable third-down situations. This means the running game will be an essential part of the offense. Both teams are solid against the run. The absence of Sean Lee does not appear to be hindering the Cowboys run defense as they are ranked fifth in the league, giving up 3.4 yards per rushing attempt. Both Jaylon Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch have looked sharp going sideline to sideline chasing down ball carriers.The Jaguars are ranked 13th, allowing 4.0 yards per attempt. They have a couple strong linebackers themselves in Telvin Smith and Myles Jack.The team that more effectively stops the run is going to have an edge in this one. Here is how each defense has looked against the opposing team’s top running back in each game so far:There is one running back that has played against both teams and that is New York Giants Saquon Barkley. While Dallas did a better job shutting him down as a rusher, Barkley still was quite effective as a receiver. The Jaguars are without their star running back Leonard Fournette as he’s been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury all season. Instead, the Jags will throw out T.J. Yeldon. He’s been giving them roughly 50 yards a game this year, but he’s also toppled over 45 yards receiving in each of the last three games. The Cowboys should be able to stop Yeldon when he’s rushing, but they’ll also need to keep him contained as a receiving back as well so they can get off the field.For Jacksonville, they will be tasked with stopping the NFL’s leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott. With the Cowboys offense not exhibiting any threat of a passing attack, Elliott will be facing loaded boxes all game. The Houston Texans went all-in in stopping Zeke on Sunday night and it worked as he only mustered 54 yards on 20 carries. It was the second-lowest yards per attempt average of his career, with last year’s Denver debacle holding down the worst spot. The Jaguars have the no. 1 passing defense in the league, but their run defense isn’t as dominant. Even though the Jags will be ready for it, the Cowboys must find a way to get the ground game going.2. Which QB can take care of the ball the best?Both teams are going to try to keep things simple for their quarterback. A good running game will certainly help, but look for both teams to attack with some quick, short passes. It’s not what we want to see, but this is how these teams operate.Dak Prescott just isn’t throwing the ball down the field. He’s more comfortable with short to intermediate passes where he can get the ball out before any sign of pressure shows up. Prescott’s had four picks on the year Allen Hurns Jersey , but all of them have come off of deflections. That’s not to say he doesn’t make errant throws at times. He does. But he’s just not that reckless.Blake Bortles, on the other hand, can be absolutely dreadful at times. He has thrown seven picks on the year, including four last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.Bortles had five turnovers total and the Jags were routed by KC. The good news for him is that he’s doesn’t need to throw the ball 61 times like he did last week. There isn’t going to be a shootout in Texas. A clean, well-managed passing attack should be enough to get it done this week.The Cowboys defense got their first interception of the year last week against the Texans. There could be a duck floating around here and there if Bortles is off his game. If that happens, the defense must make sure they come away with the football.3. Watch out for a fake puntIn a game where points could be scarce, don’t be surprised if someone tries to steal a possession by means of a fake punt. The Cowboys have pulled this off in each of the last two seasons as punter Chris Jones has scampered off for big games against the Philadelphia Eagles (2016) and Oakland Raiders (2017). It was a risky move considering both times they were deep in their own territory. The offense had been struggling and the Cowboys saw an opportunity so they pounced.While the Cowboys are good with their fakes, the Jaguars take it to a whole new level. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has a hat full of tricks and isn’t afraid to use them. Whether they run it, pass it, or even work in a jet sweep, the Jaguars will find creative ways to run a fake.And stealing a possession is not the only way their aggressive nature can help them in a game. Just the threat of a fake can make a big difference. After the Jags successfully executed a fake against the Colts last year, they also benefited by flipping the field later in the game as it set up the Jaguars ability to pin them deep.The Cowboys have benefited from this as well as Chris Jones threw a pass to Brice Butler in the game against the Atlanta Falcons last year. While Butler got called for offensive pass interference and the play was negated, Jones was able to pin the Falcons back at the two-yard line on the very next play.Whether it’s pinning a team inside the 10-yard line or something big like a fake that leads to points, this type of play could be the difference maker.4. Kickers duelWith both teams struggling on offense and playing well on defense, this game has all the making of a low-scoring affair. It could turn into a chess match where field position looms large in determining the winner. Usually, when the Cowboys field goal unit trots on the field, it’s a sign of defeat as another drive stalls out. Nobody likes seeing that happen. But for this game, field goals might be a reason to celebrate as every point counts. The Jaguars boast one of the best red zone defenses in the league, only giving up a touchdown 33% of the time (ranked second). At the same time, their offense is one of the worst in converting as they are only successful 38% of the time (ranked 30th).The Cowboys are in a similar boat. The defense is strong in the red zone, only giving up touchdowns 41% of the time (ranked seventh), whereas their offense is terrible, only finding the end zone on 41% of the time (ranked 29th).Both teams also have great kickers. The Cowboys new 29-year-old rookie kicker is 11 for 12 so far this season. The Jags kicker is a perfect 8 for 8 on the year. Both kickers have knocked down their lone attempt from 50+ yards.Last week was a field goal fest as seven of the nine scores of the game were field goals. With the Jaguars having a better defense and worse offense than the Texans, this one could end up very similar.5. Reuniting with an old friendEveryone knows that Barry Church is now a member of this elite Jacksonville defense. He’ll be ready to make plays against his former team. While Church get his licks in, the Cowboys will need to exploit another former teammate - Jaguars right tackle Jeremy Parnell.Parnell spent his first four seasons in Dallas after going undrafted in 2011. He only started two games over his first three seasons in the league. Injuries to the Cowboys offensive line allowed Parnell to make five starts during his final season with the team. It was good enough to land a five-year Authentic Deonte Thompson Jersey , $32 deal with the Jaguars.Bortles was sacked five times last week as Dee Ford (who now leads the league in pressures) had his way with Parnell. Watch him go around Parnell (78) like he wasn’t even there.Parnell will now draw his former teammate, DeMarcus Lawrence, who is having a good year. The Cowboys defensive end is tied for fourth with pressures and can make a run for the top spot if he can dominate Parnell like Ford did.What will you be watching for on Sunday? Jerry Jones called it “The Burning of Atlanta” but many of us just refer to it as “the day that broke Dak Prescott”. Last November, the 5-3 Dallas Cowboys walked into Atlanta a team that averaged 28 points per game and walked out a team that would average 16 points over the final eight games. It was an absolute disaster as the Cowboys fell to the Falcons 27-7 in their first of six games without Ezekiel Elliott.Perhaps the biggest absence was that of Tyron Smith because his replacement, Chaz Green, was charged with giving up six sacks. As a team, the Cowboys had allowed eight total sacks but the damage this game did to the quarterback’s psyche was even worse. Prescott would go on to be sacked 22 times in the final eight games versus only 10 in his first eight games. Dak’s touchdown to interception ratio feel from 16-4 previous to the game to 6-9 after. Prescott only reached 200+ yards passing in two of his final eight games. Heading into this year’s week four game versus the Lions, Prescott had gone nine of his last 11 games under 200 yards passing. Since that dreadful day, Prescott just hasn’t been the same quarterback that he was in his first 24 games, the disparity is inexplicable. At times, we’ve seen Prescott abandon clean pockets, hold the ball far too long, walk into sacks, lack anticipation in his throws, and the most cardinal sin has been turning the ball over. He has played clean games since Atlanta but the poised, unflappable, dynamic quarterback that made him a candidate to lead this franchise is seldom seen and never lasts. At some point, that clock strikes midnight and this offense reverts back to a drudging mess. Part of their offensive failures can be attributed to play-calling and his supporting cast but it doesn’t absolve Prescott of his crimes. There is hope on the horizon for Dak Prescott if they can make a successful second-half push.Last year’s loss to Atlanta ended up being detrimental to the Cowboys playoff hopes and this year’s rematch will be no different. Both teams are 4-5 and desperately need to stack wins together in order to keep pace in the NFC. The Falcons will duke it out with the Panthers for a wildcard berth but the Cowboys have one path, win the NFC East. There are reasons to believe that Dak Prescott can exorcise his demons. Though the Cowboys just picked up their first win after dropping their previous two, Prescott is actually slowly getting better since the bye week. Prescott has seen his completion percentage rise from 63% in the first seven games to almost 70% in the past two. The last game he passed for under 200 yards was in the 40-7 thumping of the Jaguars. Over the first five games, Dak’s passer rating was 83.2 but he’s averaging 101.5 over his last four games, the problem is that the Cowboys are only 2-2 in those games. Prescott has only thrown one interception in the last four games after throwing four in the first five games. There is clearly a correlation in Prescott’s improvement and the arrival of Amari Cooper to this Cowboys offense. Even in their first outing, a 14-point loss to Tennessee, Cooper’s impact was noticeable. As the season continues, the addition of Amari Cooper will allow the Cowboys to make a better evaluation of Dak Prescott. Cooper’s presence is not the only evidence that this team may be quickly improving as Prescott’s protection has improved Youth Chidobe Awuzie Jersey , too. This line has struggled without Travis Frederick, especially in efforts to block thereally good defensive tackles they have faced. Well, being able to hold one of the best in check is a huge step forward. Fletcher Cox was held to just three tackles and zero sacks; that’s huge because Cox can destroy any offense’s plan. Give credit to Marc Colombo for getting this line to play much better on a short week and protect the quarterback. Tyron Smith looked like his old self again but they also plugged in Xavier Su’a-Filo at left guard. When was the last time this team shuffled the line and it ended up paying off in a positive way? Of course, this quarterback still has a lot of work to do, he needs to consistently step up in the pocket and fire the ball. Dak must also limit the fumbles as he has had six in four weeks and he was lucky to get half of them back. He also needs to continue to improve his reads, pocket awareness, and delivery. Prescott isn’t the natural passer that some wish he would be and he’s got to work even harder to improve on that. You hear guys like Bryan Broaddus praise him as someone who will always give relentless effort to be better.It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still have moments of sloppiness in the pocket but this win over the Eagles was encouraging. Earlier in the first-half, Prescott missed multiple open receivers, held the ball, and stepped into pressure. By late in the second quarter, Prescott was in rhythm with his receivers, picking up 79 yards between five different receivers, and ultimately stretched the ball across the goal line to take 13-3 lead. This game with the Falcons won’t be easy though they have their own struggles. The Falcons were in a Super Bowl hangover last season and they walloped the Cowboys. These current Falcons have managed to score over 30 points in four their five home games. For Dak Prescott, his last visit to ‘Hotlanta’ was a painful one though you can argue it was due to variables outside his control. Now is the time for Prescott to expunge that nightmare from his memory. The Falcons are even worse than the Eagles in the secondary, 30th in pass defense. They are also 21st in run defense. Where Atlanta can beat you is with their own offense that is full of weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal. Dak doesn’t need to concern himself with out-passing Ryan, it’s not likely to happen. Heck, Carson Wentz passed for 360 yards, almost 100 yards more than Prescott, but it feels empty when you end up taking the ‘L’. This Falcons game is huge for Dak Prescott’s confidence but one thing he’s never been short on is mental toughness. Keep in mind, after last year’s excruciating loss to Atlanta the Cowboys lost their next two games. They were outscored 92 to 22 in those three losses, averaging just over seven points per game. It wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs but Dak Prescott and the Cowboys won four of their last five games, outscoring opponents 21 to 12 on average. The Cowboys are going to have their hands full with a Falcons team scoring 88% in red zone at home. It’s going to take more improvement from this quarterback to make a late-season push possible. It starts with Prescott returning to Atlanta, almost a year removed from his last visit, and hopefully it ends with a much needed exorcism. Burn some sage or whatever is necessary in preparation for this opponent and then expel this haunting spirit for good.

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