Six games into the 2019 season, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Cowboys.
A stretch of three wins, then three losses had a lot of people questioning what this season would become for the Dallas Cowboys. A statement win against the Eagles has the team back on track and carries momentum into the bye week.
The Cowboys will be back in action in Week 9 against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football and expectations have risen again. With the coaching staff, one loss away from possibly being fired, what we saw against Philadelphia must continue throughout the final 10 games.
Here is what to expect from the Cowboys from this point forward…
A Dominant Defensive Line
Acquiring Michael Bennett form New England last week via trade, one of the best units on the Cowboys just got a little bit better. Bennett has 2.5 sacks on the year but has wanted out of New England all season. The Patriots traded for him back in March, giving the Philadelphia Eagles draft picks for him. What he adds to the defensive line could take the Cowboys to the next level.
His 65.5 career sacks will add to the already stacked defensive line, who somehow only ranks tied for 20th in sacks with 17. Bennett adds to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn on the edges, while Maliek Collins occupies the middle. The Cowboys now have three elite-level pass rushers, as the Bennett, Lawrence, and Quinn have combined for 26 sacks, 51 quarterback hurries, and 36 quarterback knockdowns last season.
If the pass rush becomes dominant, everything else about the defense becomes dominant. Not only would it help the secondary, but it would force teams to start running the ball more to limit edge rushers from affecting the game. As the Cowboys have allowed the ninth fewest rushing yards and less than 100 yards per game, that would work in their favor. Bennett’s acquisition could be Amari Cooper like.
More Dak Prescott
The difference between the four Cowboy wins and the three Cowboy losses comes down to one thing: How well did Dak Prescott play? In the four wins, Prescott is completing 75% of his passes with an average of 289.75 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, and one interception. In the three losses, he is completing 66% of his passes with an average of 310.66 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. While he may be throwing for more yards, his completion percentage drops significantly and he is not throwing touchdowns.
Ezekiel Elliot is an extremely valuable player for the team, but the days of feeding him 20+ times a game are over. Prescott needs to become the main focus of this offense and become the reliable big-play player, not Elliot. That does not mean he should not carry the ball a good amount every game as this offensive line is too good for that to happen. Where the Cowboys have the opportunity to make up for those lost carries is in the passing game, giving Elliot more open space to make a play.
Prescott and his receiving core will thrive if Kellen Moore continues to use play action. No matter what Elliot’s numbers say or how much he is getting used, defenses have to respect him and what he could possibly do to them. That half a second of the defense thinking it is a run changes everything for elite route runners like Amari Cooper and experienced veterans like Randall Cobb.
A Hiccup, Or Two
No matter how well the Cowboys are playing, when you have the schedule they have, a game or two where the team struggles and has a huge let down is inevitable. Of the nine games left on the Cowboys’ schedule, only two of those teams have a losing record. One of those teams, the Chicago Bears are currently sitting at 3-4, but still, have one of the best defenses in the league.
Going against some elite defenses like New England, Buffalo, and Chicago will test this Cowboy offense and what we can expect come playoff time. If they are able to play consistently well against these teams, it will show they have the ability to not only compete in the playoffs but have a chance at going further than the NFC Divisional round. However, playing well every single game is unrealistic and there will be another game or two where Prescott and company repeat what happened against Green Bay or the New York Jets.
Defensively, Tom Brady and the Patriots, plus Jared Goff and the Rams are obvious games to circle as tough ones. What will show us how elite the defense can be is the matchup against Minnesota and a late-season rematch with Philadelphia. The Vikings offer a top-five run game with Dalvin Cook, while Kirk Cousins always has the opportunity to have a big game. Playing well against the Eagles last week, it must be repeated on the road in Philadelphia to possibly win a division final.
We are going to learn a lot about how competitive the Cowboys could be in the playoffs, as they play some elite teams. The acquisition of Michael Bennett will bring this defense up another level, while the use of Dak Prescott has the opportunity to turn this season into one Cowboy fans have been dreaming of since the 1990s.