Desperate times have fallen upon the Dallas Cowboys. They haven’t won a game since Week 5 and are currently in last place in the NFC East at 2-7. Fortunately, the entire division is a mess seeing as no team has more than three wins at moment.
The next challenge for the Cowboys will be the red-hot Minnesota Vikings would are on a three-game winning streak. Here are three key players for the Cowboys to keep an eye on as they try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss.
When the 2020 season began rookie Neville Gallimore was seen as a talented backup interior defensive lineman who would provide depth behind Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. Due to McCoy suffering a season-ending quadriceps injury and Poe not performing well, both have been released. Gallimore has taken full advantage of having an increased role.
He’s logged at least 22 snaps in four of the last five games. After a solid performance in his first career start in Week 7 against the Washington Football Team, he was even better against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gallimore finished as one of the best interior defensive linemen in Week 9 in terms of run defense grade, run stops, and run stop percentage.
Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook has been dominant racking up 465 yards in the last three games so Gallimore’s presence against the run will be paramount on Sunday.
Gallimore isn’t the only defensive lineman that’s been playing at a high level lately. Former All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence has turned back the clock over the last five games. He’s registered 23 tackles (six tackles for loss in the last three games), 10 pressures, six hurries, three sacks, four quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles. Last week, Lawrence’s recent surge in production got him selected as a midseason All-Pro by Pro Football Focus.
Lawrence is currently the third-highest graded edge rusher in the NFL according to PFF, trailing only T.J. Watt and Khalil Mack. Much like Gallimore, he’ll be an important factor in stopping Cook from running wild all over the Cowboy’s 31st ranked run defense as well as getting pressure on Kirk Cousins.
Ezekiel Elliott got off to a good start in 2020 averaging 92.5 yards per game in the first two weeks. However, that pace has taken a significant hit over the last seven games. Elliott only has one performance over 90 yards since and has rushed for under 50 yards three times over that span. He’s also fumbled five times already this season.
The Cowboys formula needs to be to get Elliott going early to control the time of possession and keep the aforementioned Cook on the sidelines. Of course, all of that will be dependent on the offensive line performing well, which has been a struggle in 2020, especially due to season-ending injuries to Tyron Smith and La’el Collins.
Elliott’s decline in production didn’t stop team owner Jerry Jones from calling him the team’s best player earlier this week. Regardless if that’s true or not, this Sunday is the perfect time for Elliott to remind the world that he’s still one of the league’s best at the running back position.
Will the Cowboys end their four-game losing streak in Minnesota? The eyes of the football world will be watching.