The 6-2 Dallas Cowboys get to use their bye week to rest up before the second half of the season starts next week. Fans, media, and others wrote them off after all that happened the first week of the season, and the team didn't listen to the noise.
They kept grinding out victories, which led them to the fifth seed entering the bye week.
As the team gets some well-needed rest with the week off, when they return to action in week 10, I have a few things I'll be keeping a close eye on that could help them keep pulling out victories in the second half of the season.
1. JALEN TOLBERT
The Cowboys' third-round pick has been an absolute no-show during the season's first eight weeks.
The Cowboys did not make a move at the trade deadline to add to the WR room, so Tolbert could find a role in the offense as he continues to grow throughout the rest of the year.
I will be the first to admit that I thought he would be one of the guys the offense leaned on both before and after Michael Gallup returned to action, but that role went to Noah Brown, who had a very impressive start to the year.
Tolbert made his first start in the win over the Bears Sunday but did not receive an official target.
“He's starting to make the routes come to life,” Cowboys wide receivers coach Robert Prince said. “He's doing a nice job of that in practice and now getting a chance to play.”
I hope the 2021 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year becomes a factor in the passing game in the second half of the season.
2. RUN DEFENSE
I can't stress this enough, the defense has been arguably the best in football, but their Achilles heel is defending the run. We saw the Bears shred them for over 200 yards on the ground Sunday, and the Cowboys have given up the seventh most rushing yards this season with 1,081.
The Cowboys have allowed at least 117 yards on the ground in six of their eight games.
Trading for Johnathan Hankins sure seems like it will help clog the middle and maybe slow it down there, but we saw Justin Fields shred them on the outside Sunday, and if this is not fixed in the second half, it could cause genuine concern come post-season time.
Can Dan Quinn find a solution and prepare it for the playoff push? He's the one person I trust to do it.
3. TONY POLLARD
We all saw the clinic Tony Pollard put on Sunday as the featured back, but let's pump the brakes on making him the starter after one week. Pollard is GREAT when fresh, so let's keep it that way.
Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard feed off one another; they both do their own thing very well. I would like to see Pollard a bit more when Zeke is active, but if they can figure out how to use them in a 60/40 split, the duo will finish the year as the best in football.
Zeke is exceptional in short yardage and blocking, and Pollard is the change of pace.
Thunder and lightning are such a good pair together.
Kellen Moore, I am looking at you! If he can make this work, we could continue to see the offensive output we saw on Sunday; I am excited to see their work in the second half.
The toughest stretch of the Cowboys' schedule is on the horizon; the three games in 11 days in November is no joke. We are about to learn how good this football team is, and if they can keep pace, that matchup on Christmas Eve against the Eagles may have a lot on the line.