Heading into the new season, there wasn't much optimism from those in the know with the Cowboys. The offseason was as bad as it gets, trading away Amari Cooper to Cleveland and losing Cedric Wilson (Miami) and Randy Gregory (Denver).
But even worse, the critical areas needed for improvement were let be. Instead, the old “we trust our guys” was trotted out. That doesn't fly now.
The performance on Sunday night should not come as too much of a shock. Yes, scoring more than three points would have been guaranteed, but given the lack of weapons on the outside for Dak Prescott, moving the ball, primarily through the air, against a Todd Bowles-led defense was always going to be challenging.
CeeDee Lamb was held in check in his first game as the number one receiver. Dalton Schultz caught seven passes for 62 yards, and Noah Brown caught five for 68 yards. Rookie Jalen Tolbert wasn't even dressed for the game, which is a topic all to itself.
A bright spot on offense was Zeke Elliott. He seemed to have his burst back as he mustered 52 yards on ten carries. Given that Dallas fell behind, naturally, the game plan moved away from the run game.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott gained between 5 and 7 yards on eight of his 10 carries Sunday vs. Buccaneers. Last year, when limited by knee injury, he went 11 straight games (Weeks 6 to 17) without recording that many gains of 5 or more yards in same outing. Good sign for run game. pic.twitter.com/YlroD18lFP
Prescott was probably as bad as he could have been as several throws were off target and, in all likelihood, should have been picked off at least once more. Then came his finger injury, and a collective groan could be heard at AT&T Stadium. Further compounding the bad performance, he is expected to miss between four and eight weeks. Despite Jerry Jones seeming confident Dak can get back in four, we all know that eight is more likely.
So, where do the Cowboys go from here?
Sunday night couldn't have been worse, and now with Cooper Rush taking over, Dallas indeed has to lean heavily on the run game. Elliott looked like he had rediscovered his legs again, and Tony Pollard's zip was noticeable (just don't use him in pass protection).
That seemed the only part of the offense that showed it could test Tampa at all. It just wasn't used enough. It is time to give Tolbert a real chance, despite what he has shown, or hasn't shown, give him a chance to make plays. That goes for Kavontae Turpin too.
Coming up against the Bengals, Elliott and Pollard need to be why Dallas wins the game. That is easier said than done with a beat-up offensive line, but Tyler Smith had a good game at left tackle so there's that.
The defense is going to have to win games for the Cowboys this year. Led by Micah Parsons, they kept Tom Brady to just 19 points and will be tasked with doing the same against Joe Burrow.
MICAH PARSONS CAN'T BE STOPPED
After what we witnessed in Week 1, there is doom and gloom around the entire franchise. Many say the season is over after one game (a little optimism would be nice), so it could be about the little wins in 2022.
There has been no talk of an incoming quarterback to alleviate Prescott's absence, so we ride with Cooper Rush, who does have a career win to his name. While it is only Week 1, the inevitable doom and gloom has hit us earlier than in previous years.
Still, with 16 games to go, the only way is up for the Cowboys, right?