Week 2 Film Notes: All-22 Takeaways of Cowboys Defense


For the second straight week, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense carried the day. The addition of Kris Richard as secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator has paid huge dividends thus far. His voice has helped mold this young group of playmakers into a fearsome unit.

This defense isn’t elite yet, but they’re heading in the right direction. Here are my week two film notes from Dallas’s defensive performance against the New York Giants:

First Half

-Randy Gregory out with concussion. Xavier Woods out with hamstring. Datone Jones out with knee injury.

-Kavon Frazier once again gets the start at safety.

-Byron Jones and Chido Awuzie have been outstanding on the outside at CB. Good example was second play of Giants’ opening drive. Byron matched up on Odell Beckham, was patient out of his stance, got a good jam as he turned with the WR and stayed in phase on go-route. Pass incomplete.

-Dallas has made a noticeable increase in their blitz calls this year, often sending both nickel LBs. Marinelli’s scheme has been greatly influenced by new secondary coach Kris Richard.

-Giants made a concerted effort to get Saquon Barkley the ball in space. Targeted him on swing passes and flat routes throughout the first half.

-Jaylon Smith showcased his speed on a tackle for loss of a Barkley toss early second drive.

-Cowboys have been susceptible to trap/wham runs in the past, but LBs and DL reacted well to it on Sunday. Limited Jonathan Stewart to two yards on last play of first quarter.

-Taco sack to end third drive was from a LB cross dog blitz. Cowboys had six possible rushers vs Giants’ seven blockers. Giants got confused and Taco was left unblocked.

-Dallas left an A gap wide open on Eli Manning’s QB sneak on 4th-and-1.

-Antwaun Woods’s sack a product of LB Joe Thomas’s blitz out of a fire zone concept. FB Shane Smith lost sight of Thomas, who made Eli step up into Woods. Giants had a favorable matchup with Beckham vs Sean Lee, but pressure got to the QB.

-Frazier’s sack mid-second quarter was Eli’s third. Beat FB Shane Smith on a play-action TE wheel route that was open against Dallas’s fire zone.

-When the Cowboys weren’t blitzing, they played significant snaps of Cover 2 or Tampa 2 zone on 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long.

-Barkley’s longest run was 10 yards off of split zone. LG Will Hernandez, TE Rhett Ellison and RT Ereck Flowers made the key blocks to spring the RB loose.

-Leighton Vander Esch rotated in for Sean Lee during New York’s two-minute offense to end the half.

-All indications are Jaylon Smith is at or near full health. His lateral agility and speed jump off the screen.

-Next play, DeMarcus Lawrence sack for a nine-yard loss. Came from a stunt with a safety blitz from the edge on the same side.

-On the final drive of the half, Giants attempted a middle screen, which I detailed last week in my Guess the Gameplan article. Cowboys defended it well.

Second Half

-Despite Barkley’s otherworldly athleticism, the Cowboys’ defensive line was the star on Sunday night. They flashed repeatedly in the run and pass game.

-Evan Engram is, at best, hit or miss as a run blocker. Had a nice block on a run in the first half, then crumpled to the ground, almost untouched, on Lawrence’s TFL.

-Damien Wilson sack-fumble to end Giants’ first drive of the third quarter was another example of Marinelli/Richard sending two LBs on an interior blitz.

-Cody Latimer 37 yards was a go-route vs Chido Awuzie in Cover 3. Awuzie unable to get a jam off the line and Latimer created enough separation. Eli threw a near-perfect ball and Latimer made an excellent catch.

-Saquon Barkley made nearly every first man miss in this game. Such a dangerous player in space. Catch for 18 yards on flat route a great example.

-Jaylon Smith’s big hit on Eli Manning came on 3rd-and-11 late third quarter. Cowboys were in a red zone 2-high zone concept. Lawrence’s stunt pressure forced Eli from pocket, then Smith came down from the goal line and got a rare open shot on a scrambling QB.

-Tyrone Crawford sack at the start of the fourth quarter was a pirate stunt on 3rd-and-9. Cowboys were in a Man-Free Lurk coverage.

-Sean Lee left the game as a precaution with a tight hamstring some time in the fourth quarter. Vander Esch subbed in for him.

-Lee would return to the field for the second onside kick in place of Blake Jarwin, who failed to secure the ball on the previous onside kick.

-Dallas played a lot of Cover 3 on New York’s TD drive.

-Engram 18-yard TD was an over route from the inside slot position in a 3×2 empty set. Cowboys appeared to be in Cover 3 with the deep safety shaded to the trips side. Heath may have been responsible for carrying that over route but didn’t react to it. Easy TD.

-After the successful onside kick, Dallas played Tampa 2 zone on the Giants’ final drive.


An all-around good performance by the defense, particularly Marinelli’s rush men. The young talent on this squad is blooming quite nicely. They have a legitimate chance to be a top unit in 2018.

For a decade, the offense has been the hallmark of this team. Now, it’s the defense’s turn.


You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22