Preview: Packers @ Cowboys

JS Online Dallas Cowboys Scouting Report

This one has fewer variables to me.  If Dallas runs over GB like it did in the previous match up, one the Cowboys handled easily at Lambeau Field, GB cannot win.  Dallas wants to run the ball, control clock, and keep #12 on the sidelines.  Off play action use Witten and Beasley (in Witten’s wake) to exploit GB’s LB and sustain long drives.  GB needs to force a shootout and do enough to slow Dallas on early downs to force Dak into obvious pass situations.  Offensively, even without Nelson, GB has to give #12 time and space to will the team to a victory.

Pro Football Focus ranked the Dallas Offensive Line as the #2 OL in Football

At their best, this unit is the best line in football, but left tackle Tyron Smith missed time due to injury, and on the other side, RT Doug Free has been a problem player for the team, surrendering eight sacks on the season and struggling with his run blocking. At left guard, the loss of La’el Collins actually upgraded the unit, with veteran Ronald Leary having a fine season in his place. Leary didn’t surrender a sack all season, and was PFF’s No. 21 ranked guard, earning a grade of 81.8. In the middle, C Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin were first-team PFF All-Pros this season, and the driving force of this line that catalyzed exceptional rookie campaigns from both RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Dak Prescott.

PFF put Green Bay’s OL as the #5 in the NFL on the strength of its pass protection

This has been the best pass-protecting offensive line in the game, and it isn’t particularly close to the next-best side in that regard. The terror that Aaron Rodgers instills in defenses when he escapes the pocket and makes game-defining passes helps in that regard a little, but he also holds the ball longer than every other QB in the league except Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor, so it likely evens out overall. LT David Bakhtiari surrendered just 20 total QB pressures, and is the league’s only left tackle to be charged for less pressure than the QB he is protecting (Rodgers has been at fault for 23). RT Bryan Bulaga would likely have been a PFF All-Pro had his run blocking been anything better than below-average, and while LG Lane Taylor has been able to do a reasonable job in replacing Josh Sitton as a pass blocker, his run blocking hasn’t been of the same quality.

Dallas Offensive Rankings (GB)

Obviously Zeke Elliott has had a phenomenal rookie season behind that great Dallas OL that has 3 1st rounders on it.  He has had 204 of his 322 rushing attempts on 1st down where he averaged a robust 5.5 Yard per Carry (and averaged 5.7 on 1st&10 situations).  In addition, 264 of his 322 rushing attempts come from single setback formations.  303 of his 322 rushing attempts come with no offensive motion.  Only 68 carries wide to the sidelines. Zeke’s usage is fairly consistent all game, although 56% of his carries came in the 1st or 4th quarter.  He has 32 receptions on the season, so catching 2 passes a game.

Pro Football Focus ranked Dallas as the #1 secondary in the NFL this season.

One of the biggest reasons for the Cowboys’ success this season has been the turnaround of the secondary. After having just one defensive back with an above-average coverage grade last season, all eight players with at least 100 snaps in 2016 earned average or above-average overall and coverage grades. Although they lack an elite-caliber player, this group has played consistently well as a unit. Byron Jones, Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, and J.J. Wilcox have all earned career-high overall and coverage grades this season, while rookie Anthony Brown has played well down the stretch in Claiborne’s absence.

PFF listed GB as the #19 secondary in the NFL and without strongish seasons from the S duo of Burnett and HHCD the ranking would certainly be lower.

The Packers may have been hampered by injuries more than any other secondary this season. No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields missed basically the entire season, and No. 2 and No. 3 corners Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall have been banged up for most of the year and struggled because of it. Ladarius Gunter has had struggles with certain receivers, but he’s preformed pretty well for a No. 4 cornerback that has been thrust into the starting lineup. The Packers’ safety pairing has performed very well, with both players finishing among the top-20 graded safeties for a second-straight year. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is one of only two defenders at any position in the entire league to play every defensive snap this year.

Dallas Defensive Rankings (GB)

Stop the run.  Get a lead.  Force Dallas to throw.  Let #12 make some magic.


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