Cowboys WK 13 Film Review: Standouts, notes, and observations

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Dak Prescott /

The Cowboys thumped the Redskins on Thursday night and kept slim playoffs hopes alive as they enter the month of December. What else stood out?

Once again there was more than meets the eye in this late season match-up between two teams fighting for survival. As we customarily do, we re-watched the film and highlighted the some standouts, made some notes, and shared some observations.

Here is the Cowboys’ Week 13 film review against the Washington Redskins:

  • It wasn’t surprising the Cowboys began the game focused on delivering Dak Prescott shorter third down situations. He’s been struggling to convert those in recent weeks, resulting in numerous three-and-outs, and subsequently exhausting his defense. With this in mind, the Cowboys went heavy in 21 and 31 personnel early and even called some read-options that they’d normally reserve for third downs.
  • The Cowboys are most successful operating out of 11 personnel so it will be interesting to see if they go back to that once Dak’s confidence builds.

  • The Cowboys’ first quarter third down situations fell like this: (third and…) Six, seven, seven, nine, five. It wasn’t until the fifth 3rd down situation (the final play of the 1st quarter) that Dallas converted and they did so with a Dak Prescott run up the middle. On that drive, which eventually became seven points, the Cowboys opted to avoid 3rd downs all together, converting on 2nd downs the rest of the way.
  • There are multiple reasons as to why the Cowboys are struggling to convert on offense. Opponents are not afraid to leave Dallas in single coverage because they know the Cowboys have issues taking advantage. Receivers haven’t achieved the separation you’d like and Dak hasn’t hit his passing windows in the way you’d like. The timing is off and the shots downfield are rare so secondaries are fine playing Cover 1 man and sending a blitz.

    As explained earlier in the week, the top objective of this season has changed from winning games, to getting Dak Prescott out of his funk. It’s not that winning isn’t important, it’s that the playoffs are a massive long-shot even with the win today. So the Cowboys must better prepare the team to win in 2018 if they want to salvage this last month. And the best way they an do that is by getting Dak Prescott back to being the Dak of old.

  • It has seemed like we waited an eternity to see Ryan Switzer break a kick/punt return for a TD. The rookie fourth rounder came to the team as the most dynamic kick returner in college football and struggled making his mark (in a positive way, that is- See also LA Rams game film). But his return for six on Thursday night was all about Switz. Blocking was average but the return was spectacular. If Switzer can build on this play, boost his confidence, and flash on a consistent basis, the Cowboys could win the field position battle even more than they do already.
  • Watching Dak Prescott take that big hit on the option pitch makes me wonder what the hell Scott Linehan is thinking. As I’ve said many times before, not all hits are created equal and sustaining Dak’s body is more about limiting the quality rather than the quantity. I love the read-option where Dak navigates the edge with a possible handoff to his HB because it rarely results in a big hit. A pitch on the edge almost always does. The Cowboys need to use Dak’s legs but they must do so in a responsible way.

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  • It was nice to see the Dallas pass rush get rolling again, even seeing rookie Taco Charlton notch a strip sack, but we have to keep in mind this is against what is very likely the most dysfunctional offensive line
  • A complaint I’ve had of Orlando Scandrick throughout his career is he appears to let up when met with resistance. When blitzing, if he’s met with a blocker he’ll just go through the motions. In coverage, it’s a coin flip as whether or not he’ll go full effort or just sit back and try to play it safe. On the Redskins scoring drive that ended the 1st half, Scandrick was lackadaisical in coverage, freeing Jamison Crowder to make a key catch on 3rd down. He proceeded to jog behind as his man racked up yards after the catch. He followed that play up with a 75% effort that resulted in a wide open TD.
  • You could say with a halftime score of 17-7 things were going well for both the offense and the defense but the reality is it was going poorly for each. The offense was sputtering, their leading rusher had only 38 yards and their leading receiver only having 24 yards. The defense was getting manhandled as well, giving up their traditional big plays. If not for Redskins untimely turnovers, this would have been a very one-sided affair in Washington’s direction.

  • I’ve been lobbying for more Kavon Frazier for a long time now. He hits like a truck and looks like a Barry Church clone carrying a bigger stick. He was my highest rated DB by a wide margin.
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    • Alfred Morris had a great game as well. He finds so many extra yards because of his patience and ability to read blocks. His slow running style makes his abilities easy to overlook but I cannot overstate how important he is to this offense in Ezekiel Elliott’s absence. If the Cowboys could convert 3rd downs at a better rate, he’d get more credit.
    • Prescott didn’t have a great game – neither on the stat sheet nor on the game film. But he appeared to regain some lost confidence and that could go a long way in his development. As the game moved on he found his timing and converted some third downs.
    • After starting the game poorly (low effort on a low ball), Dez Bryant finally broke out Thursday night. His effort to hunt down the ball has been lacking much of this season so hopefully the newly-found ambition is a sign of things to come.

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    Positive standouts: Kevon Frazier, David Irving, Demarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens, Alfred Morris, Dez Bryant, Ryan Switzer, Travis Frederick

    Negative standouts: Orlando Scandrick