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3 Things that Have to Get Better for the Dallas Cowboys

John Williams

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Cowboys DT's Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods Primed for Monster Seasons

This week against the New York Jets provides an opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to get right and regain a foothold in the NFC East if they can pull out the win on the road. At 3-2 and riding a two-game losing streak, the Cowboys aren't as highly thought of as they were two week ago and need to bounceback with a win to stay atop the NFC East and win a game that they should win.

As important as a week six game can be though, getting a few things right for the rest of the season is just as important. The Cowboys won't contend for the division or make a deep run in the playoffs unless they're able to fix some glaring issues in all three phases.

1. Consistency on Run Defense

If there's a glaring issue with the Dallas Cowboys right now, it's on the defensive side of the ball and their inability to stop the run consistently. On Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, they were gashed by Aaron Jones and the offensive line. The defensive tackles had a hard time holding their gaps and the linebackers struggled to pick up the slack from the interior defensive line.

The Dallas Cowboys sitting at 3-2 need to be better this week against Le'Veon Bell and the New York Jets. They can't afford to allow the Jets to get going on the ground and let things get easier for a returning Sam Darnold at quarterback.

Even beyond week six, opposing offenses are going to test the Cowboys run defense with the success that the Colts, Rams, and more recently the Packers have had on the ground. With the pass rushers they have, the Cowboys defensive front has to get better at getting the opposition in longer downs and distances in order to unleash DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn.

Dak Prescott a Bright Spot in Cowboys Loss to the Packers

Oct 6, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2. Rectify Slow Starts

Even with huge numbers on the offensive side of the football, the Dallas Cowboys have struggled in the first quarter of games. Through five games in 2019, the Dallas Cowboys are averaging four points per game in the first quarter. In the second quarter they're averaging just 5.6 points per game. So in the first half of games, they're averaging just 9.6 points per game.

The third quarter is by far their best quarter of the game where they're averaging 10.4 points per game and 6.2 points per game in the fourth quarter for a combined 16.6 points per game in the second half.

From the second quarter on, the Cowboys are averaging 22.2 points per game.

On the Cowboys opening drive Sunday, it appeared like they were going to overcome their first quarter slow starts, but hurt themselves on several drives with turnovers, penalties, and a sack that took them out of field goal range.


Like we saw on Sunday against the Packers, the offense can't depend on the defense to carry them through their slow starts. In order to stay in first place in the divisional race and with a big NFC East matchup looming with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys have to get over their first-quarter woes.

The games are only going to get more difficult as the season goes along and the Cowboys can't afford to average a little more than a field goal a game in the first quarter.

Chris Jones, Brett Maher, L.P. Ladouceur

Dallas Cowboys Punter Chris Jones and Kicker Brett Maher

3. Special Teams Needs to Contribute

Brett Maher's 57.1% field goal percentage is the third-worst in the NFL through the first five weeks of the season. That is not good. The only two kickers with a worse percentage play for the Tennessee Titans and the Miami Dolphins.

There is a growing fear that Brett Maher's inaccuracy could end up costing them a game later in the season and it certainly didn't help the Cowboys on Sunday against the Packers. In a 10 point loss, the Cowboys missed out six points with Maher's misses. Though it's understandable when kickers miss from beyond 50 (Maher's 0 for 2), for a kicker that has as much leg as Maher has, you'd think he'd be better. In 2018, he was when he was 5 of 6 from beyond the 50-yard mark. One of his misses on Sunday was from within 40 yards and those are kicks you just have to make.

In the punting game, Chris Jones isn't the same punter we've grown accustomed to over the last several years. It doesn't seem like he's getting as much on the football and hasn't been able to flip the field. His 42.5 yards per punt is the worst of his career and it feels like at least once a game he has a punt that makes you scratch your head.

While the kicking game has gotten all the headlines, the return game isn't doing much to help the Dallas Cowboys either. At 6.1 yards per punt return, the Cowboys punt return unit ranks 21st in the NFL. On kick returns, the Cowboys are 31st in the NFL at 16.8 yards per return. Tavon Austin on punt returns and Tony Pollard on kick returns need to find a way to make a play happen for this team. It's not reasonable to expect your offense to drive 80 or more yards for a score every time they take the field and the return units need to carry their weight.

Jason Garrett always talks about winning in all three phases of the game and the Cowboys special teams unit hasn't been very special. The Cowboys offense and defense have had their moments in games and have carried the team at different points of the season thus far, but the special teams unit hasn't really done much to help this team win. Time for that to change.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have 11 games left on their schedule and have to take care of business this week against the New York Jets. They can't afford a slip up on the road against a team that they absolutely should beat. The Cowboys are a good team, but they have to figure these things out if they want to stay in contention as we inch closer to November and December.


Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Cowboys 2019 Playoff Scenarios: Week 11 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott Needs to Channel His Inner Forrest Gump 1

With all NFL teams now having just six or seven games left in their 2019 schedules, this seems a fine time to start looking at the potential playoff seeding. The Dallas Cowboys are barely hanging on to a winning record and control of the NFC East right now, adding plenty of intrigue to the happenings around the conference and likely through the end of the regular season.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
  2. Green Bay Packers (8-2)
  3. New Orleans Saints (7-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (7-3)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Los Angeles Rams (5-4)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-4)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Cowboys currently hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles. They play again Week 16 in Philadelphia.
  • The Rams (3-3) are ahead of the Eagles (3-4) and Panthers (2-4) based on a superior record against NFC opponents.
  • The Eagles are ahead of the Panthers based on a superior record against NFC opponents.

This weekly feature will focus on teams with winning records or those who are clear contenders in division or wild card races. So while a team like the Chicago Bears may be 4-5 and still capable of going on a run, we won't worry about them until they start to rise in the standings.

Here are this week's games involving the current NFC playoff contenders. The Packers and Seahawks are on bye.

Dallas Cowboys @ Detroit Lions

The Cowboys badly need this win for all sorts of reasons. Creating some distance with the Eagles, picking up a win against an NFC opponent, and just general morale boosting after an ugly loss to Minnesota; this is a must-win game on many levels.

Detroit isn't a contender in their own right and that may actually serve Dallas will this week. Matthew Stafford missed last week's game with a back injury and was held out of practice yesterday. If the Lions don't believe they can be a factor in the 2019 postseason, they may get extra conservative with their franchise QB and sit him again against the Cowboys.

New England Patriots @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' remaining schedule is more favorable than the Cowboys so this is a critical game for Philly to lose. Really, there is no scenario the rest of the way where an Eagles win could help Dallas.


Obviously, winning the NFC East is the best road for Dallas to take into the playoffs as it provides home field advantage in the first round. And realistically, given their overall record and head-to-head losses to the Packers, Saints, and Vikings already this year, the Cowboys would have hard time getting a Wild Card spot. They just need to take the division and then hope to get hot in January, and every Eagles loss helps toward that goal.

Denver Broncos @ Minnesota Vikings

Still in striking distance of Green Bay in the NFC North and two wins ahead of the Wild Card outsiders, Minnesota has a solid playoff position right now. They just need to keep handling their business throughout the season, which certainly included a home win against the lowly Broncos, to control their destiny and make the tournament.

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Saints just suffered a shocking loss to Atlanta and fell out of one of the top two spots in the NFC playoffs. They are about to hit Tampa like a hurricane, and the 3-6 Bucs may not be able to put up much of a fight. New Orleans should pick up another win here and pull even again with Green Bay.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

The Falcons, despite being mostly out of the race, just upset the Saints and could be looking for another stunner over Carolina. The Panthers have remarkably hung on to their season despite losing Cam Newton,; can Kyle Allen keep them afloat to the point of claiming a Wild Card spot?

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are going to be angry after their first loss of the year, making this a predictable one-sided affair against one of the league's worst teams. Crazy things can happen in division rivalry games, but this is setting up to be a major blowout as the 49ers keep building their lead over the conference.

Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams

The Rams' 5-4 record this year may be an even bigger surprise/disappointment than the Cowboys'. They get a great chance to pick up a win, and another critical NFC victory, this week as they host the Bears.

While Chicago is still mathematically alive they feel like dead men walking. They have one of the worst QB situations in football and it won't get any better this year. However, their strong defense gives them the ability to play a spoiler any given week. Tacking another loss to the Rams here could help Dallas in any potential Wild Card scenario.


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Lions’ Pass Catchers Will Provide Big Test for Cowboys’ Defense

John Williams

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Lions Pass Catchers Will Provide Big Test for Cowboys' Defense

The Dallas Cowboys week 11 opponent is reeling a bit after a 2-0-1 start with wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles, the Detroit Lions have lost five of their last six and now sit in last place in the NFC North at 2-5-1. It's been a weird season for the Lions and now may play the Dallas Cowboys this week without Matthew Stafford who's been playing some of the best football of his career in 2019.

Though Stafford may not be available, the Lions have a plethora of targets for backup quarterback Jeff Driskell to throw to.

Wide Receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Tight End T.J. Hockenson, and Running Back J.D. McKissic provide Detroit with a bounty of players who will challenge the Cowboys secondary in the passing game.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Game Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece
No. Player Pos G Tgt
Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Ctch% Y/Tgt
19 Kenny Golladay WR 9 71 38 697 18.3 8 66 4.2 77.4 53.5% 9.8
11 Marvin Jones WR 9 63 47 612 13.0 6 47 5.2 68.0 74.6% 9.7
80 Danny Amendola wr 8 52 35 405 11.6 1 47 4.4 50.6 67.3% 7.8
88 T.J. Hockenson TE 9 44 25 343 13.7 2 39 2.8 38.1 56.8% 7.8
41 J.D. McKissic rb 9 24 19 134 7.1 1 26 2.1 14.9 79.2% 5.6
Team Total 9 327 214 2768 12.9 20 66 23.8 307.6 65.4%
Opp Total 9 205 2452 12.0 19 22.8 272.4
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/14/2019.

Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are one of the more underrated receiving tandems in the NFL. The Lions are just one of four teams that have two players with at least 600 receiving yards on the season.

Receiving Table
Rk Player Tm Age Pos G GS Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds
Y/R TD R/G Y/G Fmb
2 Mike Evans TAM 26 WR 9 9 89 54 60.7% 924 17.1 7 6.0 102.7 0
4 Chris Godwin TAM 23 WR 9 9 84 60 71.4% 840 14.0 6 6.7 93.3 0
7 Julio Jones ATL 30 WR 9 9 83 53 63.9% 791 14.9 4 5.9 87.9 1
11 Kenny Golladay DET 26 WR 9 9 71 38 53.5% 697 18.3 8 4.2 77.4 1
18 Jarvis Landry CLE 27 WR 9 9 77 45 58.4% 652 14.5 2 5.0 72.4 0
19 Odell Beckham CLE 27 WR 9 9 79 44 55.7% 632 14.4 1 4.9 70.2 1
21 Marvin Jones DET 29 WR 9 8 63 47 74.6% 612 13.0 6 5.2 68.0 0
22 Austin Hooper ATL 25 TE 9 8 67 56 83.6% 608 10.9 6 6.2 67.6 0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/14/2019.

Golladay and Jones have been excellent this season. Both have made big plays in the passing game and if you along with Hockenson, Amendola, and McKissic, the Lions have a deep group of pass catchers that could give the Cowboys fits this Sunday.

The Cowboys defense has been up and down this season in both the run and pass game. They've been hit for big plays on both sides of the field and by a variety of positional players through the first nine games of the season. The linebackers have struggled with play-action and in the screen game. Chidobe Awuzie has had difficulty finding the ball and giving up big plays. Byron Jones, who is generally one of the better cover corners in the NFL, but had difficulty with Stefon Diggs last week.


The fact that the Lions have so many good players to throw to means they can avoid throwing to Byron Jones' side of the field and target Awuzie, the Cowboys' biggest weakness in pass defense. The Lions will be able to mix and match their receiver alignments to put the Cowboys in difficult positions with their scheme. From front to back, everyone will have to stay disciplined in their man and zone coverages to not get beat for any big plays.

The Cowboys may want to scheme some extra help to Chidobe Awuize's side of the field as he's struggled to find the ball in 50-50 situations, where Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones excel. The other key will be for Jourdan Lewis, who will likely end up in coverage against Amendola most of the time. He and the linebackers will need to tackle Amendola and McKissic better than they did Dalvin Cook in the open field as Driskell will likely be forced to dump it off quickly to avoid being affected by the pass rush.

11 of Driskel's 27 completions against the Chicago Bears were at or behind the line of scrimmage and 48% of his passing yardage came after the catch. For comparison, in week 10 against the Cowboys, Kirk Cousins completed eight of his 23 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage and an insane 65% of his yards came after the catch.

The Lions record hasn't been able to run the ball very effectively this year, even before Kerryon Johnson. They rank 20th in the NFL in total rushing, but fifth in the NFL in passing, so the Cowboys will have to be more disciplined in coverage and have to team tackle to get off the field.

It's a huge game for the Dallas Cowboys if they want to improve their chances of making the playoffs. They don't have the luxury of dropping a game like this to a team they should absolutely beat. In a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East and with only seven games left of the season, pretty much every game from here on out is a must-win game.


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Defensive Inconsistencies Hurting Cowboys Playoff Chances

Matthew Lenix

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Defensive Inconsistencies Hurting Cowboys Playoff Chances

The Dallas Cowboys have had an up and down season, to say the least. One minute they look like one of the best teams in the NFL, and the next, they look as if they just started playing football a week ago.

A lot of that can be attributed to the inconsistent play of their defense. The numbers say they have one of the best units of it's kind in the league. They rank 14th vs the run, sixth vs the pass, and seventh overall while only allowing 18.9 points per game. The problem is, their performance from game to game hasn't always matched these numbers.

In Week 5 when the Green Bay Packers came to town they had the difficult task of dealing with their biggest nemesis the last half-decade in Aaron Rodgers. His primary target Davante Adams was out because of a toe issue. The Cowboys were only allowing 14 points per game at the time, however, this game would see the scoreboard light up with regularity for the Packers.

Another Aaron would be the star of this game, Running Back Aaron Jones that is. He picked up nine of the Packers 24 first downs by himself on the ground and in the passing game. This helped the Packers control the clock for almost 37 minutes which kept the Cowboys playing a game of catch up.

He finished with 182 all-purpose yards and scored four rushing touchdowns, a record for a Cowboys opponent. What made this particular game a head-scratcher was the fact that the Packers were without their number one receiver and Rodgers failed to throw a single touchdown pass, and the Packers still scored 34 points. Not an ideal outing for the Cowboys defense.

In Week 6 the Cowboys visited Metlife Stadium to take on the New York Jets. At the time, they were 0-4 and arguably the worst team in the NFL. Also, Quarterback Sam Darnold was making his return after being out five weeks due to mononucleosis. All signs pointed to a dominant performance by the Cowboys defense. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.

If Darnold had any effects of his illness he didn't show it. He surgically dissected the Cowboys defense all game long to the tune of 338 yards (career-high) and two touchdowns. The Jets jumped out to a 21-3 lead and never looked back, holding on to win 24-22.


The most mind-blowing thing in this game was the fact that Running Back Le'Veon Bell was held to only 50 yards rushing. Even with the Jets being pretty much one dimensional all game they still managed to move the ball up and down the field. Inexcusable performance by a defense as talented as the Cowboys vs one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

Last Sunday's matchup vs the Minnesota Vikings presented a big challenge for the Cowboys defense. Not only did they have to deal with league-leading rusher Dalvin Cook but also Stefon Diggs who came into the game eighth in receiving yards.

Tight End Kyle Rudolph, who only had two touchdowns all year prior to this game, reached the end zone on back to back drives putting the Vikings up 14-0 entering the second quarter.

The star of this game, however, was the aforementioned Cook. The Cowboys had no answer for him as he gashed them continuously in the screen game as well as on the ground. Cook finished with 183 all-purpose yards (97 rushing, 86 receiving) and a touchdown on 33 touches. Yes, Cook is dynamic and the Vikings offense is formidable but the lack of discipline on assignments and poor tackling wasn't exactly a pleasant sight to see by this defense at home.

This is not to say that the Cowboys haven't had good performances defensively this season. In Week 4 they held the New Orleans Saints, albeit without Drew Brees, to just 12 points in a tough two-point loss. Three weeks ago, they held the Philadelphia Eagles to 283 yards of offense and forced four turnovers in a blowout 37-10 victory. Their second trip to Metlife Stadium was dominant as they registered five sacks and forced three turnovers in a 37-18 beat down of the New York Giants.

The inconsistency of this unit has been frustrating and downright confusing at times. There's too much talent on this defense to be so up and down. If this doesn't change, and quickly, this defense could be the reason the Cowboys find themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.


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