There isn’t much need for wholesale changes for the Dallas Cowboys who have played reasonably well throughout the 2019 season. Some of their issues are correctable and some of them require getting different personnel on the field at different times. Much of who plays on this team is based on some preconceived notions based on things they’ve done in the past or their size. The Dallas Cowboys need to take advantage of the depth they have and deploy players that can help them better in certain situations.
Here are four players who need more playing time.
Blake Jarwin, Tight End
So much for future Hall of Famer Jason Witten playing just 25 snaps a game in his return from retirement. At least that was the story they tried to sell us when he came back. Unfortunately for Blake Jarwin, he hasn’t been able to get on the field because of Witten’s presence.
How the Dallas Cowboys have decided not to use him has been one of the more confusing things that have gone on in the first five games of the season. At the end of the New Orleans Saints game, when the Dallas Cowboys needed to get down the field in a hurry, it was Jason Witten that was on the field. Similarly, when the Dallas Cowboys were attempting to come back from 31-3, Jarwin only played 22 snaps (31%).
Blake Jarwin has an ability to get down the field and specifically up the seem and is able to make plays in the passing game for the Dallas Cowboys. Jason Witten’s playing well, but he’s averaging four yards per reception less than Jarwin.
Witten will stay the starter but in two-minute drills and other obvious passing situations, the Cowboys need to get Jarwin on the field more. With Randall Cobb potentially sitting out this week with a back injury, the Cowboys may have to deploy more 12 personnel, which could get Jarwin more playing time.
Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback
It remains a mystery why Jourdan Lewis can’t get on the field. He’s averaging just 16.8 snaps a game in 2019 (24.78%). The Dallas secondary has played fairly well, but Lewis is one of their better cover players and has a difficult time getting playing time.
Per Pro Football Focus, on Lewis’ 60 coverage snaps, he’s allowed two receptions on four targets for 14 yards and just a 58.3 passer rating against. His passer rating allowed is the 13th best in the NFL and the lowest allowed on the Dallas Cowboys.
He’s a playmaker and could help the Dallas Cowboys start creating more turnovers with his aggressive style in coverage.
Tony Pollard, Running Back
In Kellen Moore’s first NFL Draft as an NFL offensive coordinator, Tony Pollard was the first skill position player that the Cowboys selected on his watch. When Pollard was selected, the Cowboys talked about him as an Alvin Kamara-like type of player. For the Dallas Cowboys to take advantage of Pollard’s skill set, Moore and the Cowboys coaching staff has to get him on the field.
They’ve shown a couple of formations with Pollard and starting Running Back Ezekiel Elliott on the field at the same time. Pollard is getting some snaps, but they’re still not using him enough. On offense, Pollard’s only played 13.6 snaps a game this season. In particular, his playing time has really dropped off over the last couple of weeks.
Against the New Orleans Saints Pollard played just two offensive snaps per Pro Football Reference and against the Green Bay Packers, he played only five offensive snaps. For a player with Pollard’s ability to only get two snaps in a game where the Cowboys struggled to score points against the Saints and five in a game they were trying to come back in, is pretty ridiculous.
I know that Jason Garrett is generally reluctant to rely upon rookies, but Pollard can really help this team as a running back and as a receiver. Like Jarwin, if Cobb sits out, it may mean more playing time for Tony Pollard this week as the Cowboys look to get back in the winning swing of things.
Christian Covington, Defensive Tackle
One of the issues that stood out from last week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers was that the interior defensive line was getting bullied around by the Packers. Their inability to get penetration or hold their ground at the point of attack contributed to the linebackers and defensive backs getting caught at the second level by the offensive line.
One way to potentially fix their issues in the middle is to play Christian Covington more at 3-technique defensive tackle in place of starter Maliek Collins. At least early in the game and in running situations. Maliek Collins has been one of the better pass-rushing interior defensive linemen in the NFL as he ranks ninth in the NFL in total pressures per Pro Football Focus. As a run defender, however, he’s getting pushed around in the middle and struggling to make plays.
With Antwaun Woods coming back from an injury and likely to play this week against the New York Jets, they could really solidify their run defense by playing Covington alongside Woods on the interior and saving Collins for pass-rushing situations.
Per Pro Football Focus, Covington has been the Dallas Cowboys best run defender along the offensive line. Covington also has the highest run-stop percentage of any Cowboys defensive lineman at 9.5%. Meaning that he makes the stop on one out of every 10 running plays for the Dallas Cowboys. No player is close to Covington in run-stop percentage in 2019. For comparison, Maliek Collins is the only other defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys to have played on 70 or more run snaps for the Cowboys and his run-stop percentage is just 1.4%.
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In the next two weeks, the Dallas Cowboys have a great opportunity to re-establish themselves as contenders in the NFC. A win this week against the New York Jets gets them to 4-2 and if they can pull out a win against the Philadelphia Eagles in week seven, they’ll be at 5-2 and in the lead in the NFC East. They got to get more creative with their personnel deployment and not necessarily rely upon their preconceived notions of what they think this team is.