The 2016 season finally arrived for the Cowboys, and it left us wearing a sad face as the Cowboys fell 20-19 to their NFC East rivals – The New York Giants.
Cowboys Nation was hoping to get off to a start that would signify a far different season than
the one we never speak of 2015, but to be totally fair if we want to re-create the successful 2014 season, we’re doing a great job as that team also started off 0-1.
So how exactly did this team lose the first game of the season? Here are my 10 takeaways from the Cowboys season-opening loss to the New York Giants.
Ezekiel Elliott Can Be Stopped
20 carries, 51 yards, and 1 touchdown. That’s not exactly 4th Overall Pick worthy, is it?
I’m not trying to indict Zeke Elliott here, but we need to be honest with ourselves. When the Cowboys drafted the star running back the thought was “Who’s going to be able to stop this Offensive Line and Zeke?!”.
You know what the answer is? The New York Giants. Olivier Vernon did a lot to live up to the gigantic contract the Giants gave him this offseason as he and his teammates seemed to be all-in on limiting Elliott on Sunday. If that was indeed their plan then they executed it pretty perfectly while proving that this elite ground game that the Cowboys possess has a kryptonite.
Dak Prescott Is For Real
The Cowboys didn’t seem to ask a whole lot from Dak Prescott, which might have actually been the problem if you really think about it.
Dak did as he was told, and he looked really great in doing so. His stat line isn’t one that’s going to win you a fantasy football game, but Dak showed an incredible amount of poise and leadership in his first NFL game against a division rival. The hype surrounding him won’t come anywhere near the levels that followed his preseason performances, but this one was arguably better.
Jason Witten Is Timeless
It’s a tale as old as time (shout out to Beauty and the Beast) that rookie quarterbacks tend to lean on their tight ends. As true as this may be… if your tight end happens to be a future Hall of Famer then you’re likely to lean on him even more, right?
Dak Prescott’s leading receiver on Sunday was indeed Mr. Witten who hauled in 9 passes for 66 yards. Witten seems to just be a chain-sniffing machine as he continually produces first down after first down. So much has been made about what life may be like without Tony Romo, but this franchise is seriously going to miss Witten when he’s done with the game.
Cole Beasley Isn’t Perfect
There are certainly fan-favorites when it comes to Cowboys Nation and their beloved ‘Boys, and it’s safe to say that Cole Beasley is among them.
Cole’s stock, both among fans and on a national level, has really risen over the last few seasons as he’s become one of the best slot receivers in the game, but boy did he have a case of the dropsies on Sunday. Beasley will likely wish that he had a few passes back as there were some big plays to be made if he could’ve just held on. It was shocking to see him not be flawless.
Dez Bryant Is Not Dez Bryant
How long has it been since you’ve seen Dez Bryant dominate a game? Seriously. Think about it.
My answer is the 2014 season finale in Washington. #88 has been a shell of himself ever since and was particularly disappointing in Sunday’s loss. People will say that he should’ve seen more targets, which is true, but only cashing in on 1/5 for eight yards is an unacceptable stat line for any legitimate wide receiver let alone one of Dez Bryant’s caliber.
While Tony Romo is out the Cowboys are really going to need their Stars to rise up. Dez’s inability to against the Giants was without a doubt a big reason for the loss, regardless of how the Coaching Staff did or did not use him.
The Orlando Scandrick Hype Was Silly In Hindsight
Honestly how foolish was it that people thought a cornerback who is approaching the age of 30, is coming off of an ACL AND MCL tear, and hasn’t played since the end of the 2014 season was just going to come in and be dominant?
It’s no surprise that Orlando Scandrick struggled on Sunday. Struggled might even be generous all things considered. Scandrick looked pretty bad, so bad that Brandon Carr was the best Dallas Cowboys cornerback in the game. Think about that.
Call it whatever you want. Say it was rust. Say that Orlando isn’t fully healed. Whatever the case may be… Orlando Scandrick is far from dominant and that was reflected in Sunday’s loss.
This Team Misses Rolando McClain
The Cowboys have absolutely no presence when it comes to the middle of the defense. He may be a purple drank dranker (what?), but Rolando McClain was really good at establishing some of that presence when he was on the field for America’s Team.
Dallas simply doesn’t have the personnel to fulfill this role adequately. It’s a glaring weakness that existed all offseason and was fully exploited against the Giants. Good thing the Cowboys spent their 2nd Round Draft Pick on someone who plays that position though, right? Nevermind that he might not ever play football again! Hooray! *sadface*.
Pass Rush? What’s That?
In the most shocking event around the NFL World on Sunday (I’m counting a 2-point conversion by the Raiders to go for the win instead of a safe extra point tie in regulation), the Dallas Cowboys had not one but two sacks! Whoa crazy crazy!
The box score may make it seem like the Cowboys know what they’re doing when it comes to getting after the quarterback, but that could not be farther from the truth. This team’s achilles heel is, and has been for a long time, rushing the passer. Eli Manning was afforded too much time and it showed with his ability to find receivers in the middle of the field (shout out to Rolando McClain/Jaylon Smith).
Scott Linehan Might Not Be An Offensive Genius
I don’t want to overreact and say that Scott Linehan is a bad coach, because he’s not, but he did a horrible job of trying to win a football game against the New York Giants.
Linehan and Co. insisted, almost arrogantly, on running Ezekiel Elliott up the middle despite having success with him outside and success with Alfred Morris both in and outside. It was as if the Cowboys were trying to prove a point and flex their muscle that this is their style of football and they were going to prove it. It failed miserably as the Cowboys only scored one touchdown in four full quarters.
Dan Bailey Is Amazing
This isn’t necessarily breaking news, but holy guacamole do I love Dan Bailey.
I legitimately believe that we as the loyal members of Cowboys Nation do not appreciate Bailey’s greatness enough. Do you know how many NFL teams/fandoms would do anything to have the peace of mind that he provides? Terrance Williams is taking an enormous amount of heat for going out of bounds because we’re all certain that Dan was going to make a potential 60-yarder. He’s incredible!
If you want your takeaway to be featured here at Inside The Star, just tweet at me and I’ll include the best ones! Shout out to Branden Griffin for this week’s addition.
Branden has a great point if we’re being honest. The positives taken away from the Cowboys Defense (i.e. the Brandon Carr interception) were gifts from Eli, not the result of anything they did of their own talent. It truly did feel like we escaped something drastic each and every time the Cowboys forced a punt. This is going to be such a fun season!