By Ari Fragen
Assessing the Cowboys
Thru week 7
Following last week’s tough road loss in Washington, the Cowboys have dropped to 3-4. Those four losses? All on the road. It’s weird how inefficient the offense is on the road versus at home. There are problems all over the place. The run game has struggled recently and the passing game has been wildly inconsistent.
The defense has been outstanding, better than anyone expected. The decision to move Byron Jones from safety to corner is the best decision this team has made in quite some time. Jones, according to Pro Football Focus, has the highest cornerback grade in the NFL. Rookie Leighton Vander Esch and Sophomore Jaylon Smith have been great at linebacker, and Demarcus Lawrence once again is proving his worth to the Cowboys.
So, let’s assess the wild season that is the Dallas Cowboys:
- Give the offense a break. While they have struggled on the road, the ‘Boys have gone up against some of the league’s top defenses. The Cowboys faced the 13th ranked defense week one, the sixth-ranked defense week three, the ninth-ranked defense week five, and the fifth-ranked defense in last week’s loss to the Redskins. Dallas has averaged a mere 13.5 points per game thus far, good for third worst in the NFL. So it’s not like the Cowboys are struggling to score against mediocre or bad defenses. They’ve faced three of the top nine defenses in the league, which is no easy task.
- Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott seem to have struggled the most away from home. Prescott has scored only four of his 10 total touchdowns and thrown all four of his interceptions on the road, although he can blame those on tipped balls off his receivers. Prescott has been sacked 17 times on the road – looking at you, offensive line. Zeke had success his first two road games but has been stonewalled since. In weeks one and three, Zeke managed 224 total yards and one TD, but weeks five and seven totaled just 126 yards. He is currently the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind Todd Gurley of the Rams. Only one TD from Zeke and four from Dak make for just five scores on the road which will not win games.
- How about a positive: the Dallas defense. Raise your hand if you saw the Cowboys boasting the league’s second-ranked defense through week 7. That’s what I thought: nobody. Byron Jones is tearing it up against some of the NFL’s best receivers, allowing zero touchdowns to anyone he has matched up against. The front office realized that the Cowboys needed another run-stuffing linebacker after last season’s struggles playing without defensive cornerstone Sean Lee. So Jerry Jones went out and drafted Leighton Vander Esch with the 17th overall pick, and wow, what a move that was. LVE ranks sixth in the league in tackles as a rookie and looks like Sean Lee 2.0.
- What is going on with this coaching staff? Are there changes to be made or are people overreacting? Both. The moment that stands out the most is the Texans’ game a few weeks back. The Cowboys were sitting at 2-2 with a chance to steal a defensive win in Houston on Sunday Night Football. Fourth and one at the Texans’ 42-yard line with under two minutes remaining, and Jason Garrett sends out Chris Jones to punt. Why?! The Cowboys have invested more money than any other team on their offensive line and have arguably the NFL’s best running back in Elliott, and were a perfect 2-for-2 on fourth down that night. If you don’t get the first, you don’t get it, but with the stakes so high you’ve got to try. The Cowboys went on to lose by a field goal and drop to 2-3 in a game where the defense couldn’t have done anything more. Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett need to figure out this offense if they want any shot at the playoffs.
*All stats courtesy of NFL.com