The 2020 season wasn’t supposed to be this way for the Dallas Cowboys. Once looked at as NFC East favorites to begin the season, the Cowboys have had a plethora of injuries on both sides of the ball that they’ve had to deal with, and it’s led to a dismal 4-9 record.
The fortunate thing for the Cowboys is that they’re two games out of first place with three left to play, meaning there’s still a chance. There’s no room for error going forward if they want to make the postseason, and here are three key players to watch for the Cowboys as they take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15.
Much like the 2019 season, many will say DeMarcus Lawrence has had a down season if you focus solely on sacks. However, he’s been one of the highest graded edge rushers all season long with names such as T.J. Watt and Khalil Mack. Also, he has produced 45 tackles (nine tackles for loss), three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
Lawrence registered all of his 4.5 sacks from Week 5 through Week 12 after not recording one in the first month of the season. He hasn’t taken the quarterback to the ground in the last two games so he could be due for a big performance this week.
When the Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft it went without saying that Michael Gallup’s opportunities to make plays wouldn’t be as easy as it was in the past. He’s been the third option in 2020, but he’s also made key catches late in the fourth quarter to set up their only two home wins of the season.
Gallup’s only 100-yard performance of the season came in a Week 3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which is his only game over the century mark since Week 14 of 2019. It will be difficult against the 49ers fifth-ranked pass defense but Gallup is capable of exploding at any moment, and that could be this week.
Many in the football world have tried to throw dirt on the grave of Ezekiel Elliott in 2020. He’s struggled with fumble issues and has only produced one game over 100 yards. However, the Cowboys offensive line has resembled a horror movie with Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin all missing significant time, and undrafted free agents getting major snaps.
Even with all the different offensive line combinations this season Elliott is still ninth in the NFL in rushing and is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard season in five years. He’ll have to grind it out seeing as he’s dealing with a calf injury, but if any running back is capable of pulling off a big performance, even against a top 10 rush defense like the 49ers, it’s Elliott.
These three players will need to perform at a high-level Sunday. Will it result in a win if they do? We shall see.