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Scout's Eye: Getting Dez Involved, Fixing The Run Defense & Concerning Trends

FRISCO, Texas -- It feels like it's been forever since we've done this.

At long last, a Cowboys game is rapidly approaching. It has been a long, long wait for this team to actually play another game -- especially with the way the last one ended, not to mention all the talking points that have followed it.

So now, as we turn our attention back to the grind of the season, it's time to focus in on what ails the Cowboys and how they can fix it in Week 7. Here's what I'm looking for in this matchup against San Francisco.

  • This will be the first time this season that both Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens will start a game together. This means that Jaylon Smith will be the primary backup to Hitchens after making starts the previous five games. Having Lee and Hitchens back should help the Cowboys' run defense as well as limiting the number of snaps Smith has to play. I believe you will see a better result from him not having to play 60 to 70 snaps.
  • I got the indication talking to some people that Tyron Smith got through the practices without any issues with his back and should be ready to go Sunday. Just a note, while Smith was out of the lineup, Chaz Green and Byron Bell split snaps at his spot. This time last season when the Cowboys faced the 49ers, Green made the start for Smith and did not play poorly.
  • Scott Linehan has made a real effort to try and create more space for Dez Bryant in these games. Linehan has used him in different alignments and even some motion to free him up. With the bye week now in the past, I expect we will see more creative ways to get Bryant the ball. Rashard Robinson is a good cornerback and I don't believe Linehan wants Bryant to have to fight him for a bunch of 50-50 balls. The receivers played a big part in their victory last season against the 49ers -- and that was without Bryant. Even with Robinson in coverage, I expect Bryant to play a major role in the game plan. 
  • I would not be surprised to see more from Rod Smith in the coming weeks. The primary backup should once again be Alfred Morris, but I am getting the feeling that the coaches like what they've seen from Smith. Look for him to be on the field not only on some third down packages but in normal down and distance situations. Speaking of Smith, keep an eye on Keith Smith, as well. The Cowboys had some success running the ball with Smith on the field against the Packers. I think "21" personnel will likely replace some of those snaps of "12" personnel. 
  • Pressure has not been the problem for the Cowboys defensively. When it comes to pressure, Rod Marinelli has done it a couple of different ways. His three and four-man lines have been effective, but when he has blitzed, opposing quarterbacks have a rating of 66.39 -- which is good enough for sixth-best in the league. Marinelli would love to be able to choke the 49ers' running game and force rookie C.J. Beathard to have to make a bunch of throws facing pressure. Marinelli is a big fan of pressure from his secondary, but this might be one of those opportunities for him to dial up some of those pressure packages against a quarterback that hasn't seen much of that. 
  • I've gone back and forth on the Saturday call up for the open roster spot that the club currently has. I was leaning toward Richard Ash, but as we've progressed through the week, Lewis Neal appears to be the choice. Here's something else to think about: they might play light this week being that whomever they sign would be inactive. With that being said, I have heard nothing but good things about Neal and how he's preformed on the scout team playing guys like Aaron Donald and Mike Daniels. There were snaps during those training camp practices where he was a handful for Zack Martin, so that in itself gives me some hope that if given the chance on the active roster, he could do some good things.
  • Killer stats of the week: the Cowboys defensively have allowed opponents to convert 3rd-and 10 or more yards, 27 percent of the time. Offensively, they've yet to score points on their first possession of the second half. That currently puts them 30th in the NFL. 
  • My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Cooper Rush, RB Darren McFadden, CB Chidobe Awuzie, LB Justin Durant, LB Justin March-Lillard, DT Lewis Neal, DE Benson Mayowa.
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