Through four weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys have taken care of business. They sit at 3-1, capitalizing on a stretch of winnable games to start the season.
That's not to say the team hasn't impressed thus far. They can be considered one of the league's surprises through the first quarter of the season.
They continue to dominate up front offensively, boasting an elite rushing attack led by rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott.
Dak Prescott continues to improve on a weekly basis, and most importantly, remains turnover free.
The moment has never seemed too big for either first-year player. But now things get tougher.
Five of the next six games for Dallas are against tough opponents. Luckily for Dallas, a tilt with the league-worst Cleveland Browns is thrown in the mix. We will learn much more about what this team is made of in the coming weeks.
Here are some thoughts about the team as they face their toughest stretch of games on the year.
Surviving Key Injuries/Suspensions
When I look at how the Cowboys are built, it is clear who the most important players are on this team. Outside of the obvious importance on the quarterback position, it can be argued that Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith are the next up in terms of importance for this team's success.
With injuries to key slot coverage corner Orlando Scandrick and left guard La'el Collins, it was a rather impressive victory this past Sunday, considering. Not to mention missing their two best pass rushers as well.
The fact Dallas has survived these injuries and suspensions, all while looking pretty good in the process, says a lot about the team.
I get Prescott is the main difference from the play of last year's quarterbacks, but this team clearly has a different aura about it. The fact Dallas will get some of their key guys back in the coming weeks should provide a big boost as the schedule gets tougher.
Either way, their play with a depleted lineup last week was encouraging.
Pass Rush Must Improve
If Dallas wants to be for real and hang with some of the teams coming up on their schedule, the pass rush must improve now.
Getting DeMarcus Lawrence back next week will help the team, but this unit ranks towards the bottom of the league in sacks with six. This is the biggest question mark and scare for this team moving forward. Yes the team is 3-1, but the skill of opposing quarterback play on the schedule will rise in the coming weeks.
Facing off against some of the league's best quarterbacks in the coming weeks, some in their house, will be truly tough tests. Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger will shred Dallas if the pass rush does not improve.
When you look at some of the other upcoming match-ups too, Dallas has other good quarterbacks coming up that could perform well if not pressured by our front. Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and even Carson Wentz cannot be allowed to get comfortable in the pocket.
How Will Dallas Look If Forced Off-Script?
This one is an interesting one for me to analyze.
I love Dak Prescott. I appreciate and respect everything he has accomplished thus far this year. I get that he hasn't had to be the guy to carry the team, make the big plays down the field, and bring this team back out of huge deficits. So there is an unknown element there as to where he stands in that portion of his game.
But it will be intriguing to see how Dallas looks if their run game is taken away or if Prescott is forced to carry the team offensively. Yes, the team fell behind 14-0 on Sunday, but it was still early enough to stick with their game plan.
This will most likely present itself in the coming weeks against better teams and some potent offenses. Not saying Prescott can't do it, but this is the main thinking that goes into bringing a guy like Tony Romo back in for the front office.
You have to ask yourselves this...
If Dallas gets in a high-scoring game or falls behind, are they truly built to hang around in these types of games without Tony Romo at the helm?
Just some food for thought.
Do you think the Cowboys will continue to win games and surprise in the coming weeks -- weather the storm -- or fall victim to this tough stretch of games? Test number one starts this Sunday against Cincinnati.
Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense
The Dallas Cowboys are not only breathing in playoff contention, but they're now the favorites to crown themselves as the NFC East champions in 2018. It's pretty impressive how the tables can turn so quickly in the NFL. Dallas played very well against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday and we learned quite a bit from them as they bounced back to .500. Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday! Enjoy it as much as you did Brett Maher's game winning field goal a couple of days ago.
Cowboys Have a Championship Defense
Despite taking steps in the right direction, it's impossible to compare this offense to units like the Chiefs, Saints and Rams. However, it's the Cowboys' defense that could be labeled as a championship unit. Facing an offense with such a strong WR core, allowing only one touchdown on the road is impressive.
The Cowboys sacked Matt Ryan three times and were constantly causing pressures. Byron Jones was great once again, allowing only two catches in passes thrown in his direction. And of course, the kid who's been impressing us all, Leighton Vander Esch continued to play out of his mind. He should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner at this point.
The Cowboys' defense is one of the best in the NFL right now, and any offense will have a tough time facing them. It'll be intriguing to see if they can take the next step and stop a high-powered unit like the Saints in a few days.
Offensive Line Woes Are Gone
The offense has improved a lot the last couple of games. Although there is still a lot to work on, they're not struggling as they were in the first half of the season. The offensive line is a huge part of this. With Marc Colombo at OL coach, things have looked very different in Dallas.
Ezekiel Elliott: "I feel great. I feel fast. I feel physical. I feel very comfortable with the running schemes. We just got to keep rolling. That's what's important. We just got to keep rolling.
Ezekiel Elliott has been on a roll the past two weeks and his comments regarding how he feels about the running schemes shouldn't go unnoticed. The offensive line wasn't playing as well as they are right now earlier in the year. Dak Prescott is noticeably more comfortable in the pocket.
It's intriguing to know what will happen at left guard for the Cowboys. With Connor Williams injured, Xavier Su'a-Filo has done a good job filling in for him. Williams has the upside, but should Dallas mess up the mojo this OL has lately?
Dak Prescott: Clutch QB
Dak Prescott continues to be criticized by fans while he keeps proving us why it's not that easy to move on from him. The guy is far from the perfect passer, yet he's been clutch time and time again. This time he did so on the road on an impressive two minute drill.
With 1:46 on the clock, Prescott marched his team down to the Falcons' 24 yard line. He managed to give his team another game winning drive in consecutive weeks. The Cowboys' young quarterback needed a confidence boost and this is perfect for him. He needs to keep it up if the team is going to finish the season as the NFC East champions.
Since entering the NFL, Dak has 12 game winning drives. As frustrating as his play is at times, he will not be easy to replace if the Cowboys decide to move on from this guy down the road. Hopefully, they don't have to. I, for one, believe Dak can be way better with a proper coaching staff. But that's a discussion for another day.
Now, it's time to celebrate the Cowboys' victory and get ready for a short week as the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on Thursday.
Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?
Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.
Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire
In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.
But in reality, is there?
For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.
The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.
First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.
The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.
In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.
Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?
Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.
That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.
Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.
Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support
Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.
According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.
A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:
“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”
Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.
As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:
“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”
While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.
The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.
Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.
Star Blog7 days ago
Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?
Star Blog7 days ago
How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick
Player News2 weeks ago
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Next Day Rant: Dak Prescott Shows Big Flaws in Big Win
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Is Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones to be Trusted?
Player News6 days ago
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
Star Blog1 week ago
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time