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Final Thoughts: New Challenges For The Defense


FRISCO, Texas – Another week, another opportunity to see how this Cowboys team is growing.

With the Seattle game in the rearview, it's time to flip the page forward. The Cowboys didn't look perfect in their home win against the Giants, but it's fair to say they've looked far better at AT&T Stadium than they have in their two road outings.

With that in mind, let's take a look at how the Cowboys might right the ship and get back on the winning track with the Detroit Lions coming into town.

·      I don't have a big concern for Cole Beasley's health in this game. Beasley is dealing with a sore ankle and has been limited during practice. If there is one receiver on the roster that could miss time and still play at a high level, it would be Beasley. I expect him to have a big game this week given the Lions defensively have gone back and forth with their nickel cornerbacks. For as good as they have been in pass coverage as a unit that appears to be an area of concern.

·      Defensively, the Cowboys lead the league in preventing plays of 20 or more yards. In their three games, they have only allowed four of those plays total (three passing, one rushing). Offensively, the Lions have had 12 total plays where they've managed 20 or more yards. Of those 12 plays, 11 have come on passes from Matthew Stafford. If there is a concern defensively it has to be whether there is pressure on Stafford and he's able to escape. His eye level down field and arm strength allow him to make throws which most quarterbacks in the league would never attempt. Staying with these Lions receivers and finishing the play will be a key here.

·      Jason Garrett was asked about the lack of snaps for Jourdan Lewis so far this season. Lewis has primarily been playing on special teams and waiting for the call if needed on defense. Garrett offered correctly that all of the cornerbacks have played well so far, so the staff didn't feel as if there was a reason to make a change. With that being said, the talented Lewis should see the field if the staff decides to play some dime defense at some point in time during the season.

·      Just my two cents, but in this matchup against the Lions, I would try and play with some pace if I were Scott Linehan. The Lions have a big defensive front, with big bodies. Get Dak Prescott in the flow of the offense to get some rhythm and let him try to wear those bodies out. Keeping the offense moving I believe will not allow the Lions to change their personnel to get their guys off the field to rest. With a mobile offensive line and a running back that's used to a high work load this would be a great opportunity to do just that.

·      I feel like this defense is better equipped to handle the loss of Sean Lee than at any time in his career. I had my questions when it came to the selection of Leighton Vander Esch at the time, but it now makes perfect sense. This front office had a plan and knew exactly what it was doing when it made the pick. As much as they attempt to protect Lee, history has shown there is no guarantee of maintaining his health throughout the season. The coaching staff could not be held hostage by the position and it needed to be addressed. Look for Vander Esch and Joe Thomas to rotate along with Jaylon Smith to cover the position.

·      One of the best things about having Caraun Reid in those final two weeks of training camp is that his learning curve for the defensive calls is small. Generally, when you bring a player off the street it takes time to get them acclimated to the system. There is new terminology and techniques to learn, but in this case Reid should already be up to speed and ready to contribute. I was told that Reid ran with the first unit on Wednesday while Antwaun Woods was limited and appears to be in excellent shape. Look for him to backup Woods at the nose tackle against the Lions.  

·      Opponents that have had success against the Lions running the ball have been able to do it on the edge. This plays right into the hands of the Dallas offense and their strength of pulling uncovered offensive linemen. The key will be if Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin and Rico Gathers can capture the edge in order to make this work. I would expect that we will see more angle or shield blocking by this group in order to get their linemen in space. Keep a close eye on how things go at the point of attack.

·      I know in my matchups this week I wrote of the possibility of Brice Butler getting back into the rotation. The more that the week as progressed, I now get the feeling that Butler will likely be inactive and I don't think it has anything to do with trimming the wide receiver group on game day. With that note, here are my weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Mike White, WR Brice Butler, LB Sean Lee, TE Dalton Schlutz, OG Xavier Su 'a-Filo, C Travis Frederick, DT Maliek Collins.