With the way things have gone for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, there isn’t much for this team to hang their 10-gallon hats on this season. The defense has been incredibly up and down, and the offense has been inconsistent as well. Though they are just 3-8 they sit just a game back in the division and still have a lot to play for in 2020—namely pride.
Facing a Baltimore Ravens team that has been reeling lately, the Dallas Cowboys appear ripe for the picking. Baltimore has lost four of their last five games after starting 5-1. Having worked through an outbreak of COVID-19 within their ranks, the Ravens will be getting a host of players back into the lineup. The most important being their quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
It’s expected that Jackson will be activated from the COVID protocols in time for Tuesday’s game, but after not practicing much the last week and a half, who knows which Lamar Jackson will show up.
Jackson has had an up and down season as a passer for the Ravens, but he still thrives as a runner in Baltimore’s offense. With 103 carries for 575 yards, Lamar Jackson is the Ravens leading rusher and that’s an area where the Dallas Cowboys could have struggles on Tuesday if they aren’t able to contain Jackson.
His slippery and elusive running style works in both designed runs and quarterback scrambles. Jackson is averaging 5.3 yards per attempt on designed quarterback runs and 6.2 yards per attempt on scrambles. 66% of his rushing yardage and 70% of his rushing attempts have come on designed runs vs. quarterback scrambles. The Ravens offensive attack wants to utilize Jackson’s legs, and he’s very dangerous when he gets going.
It will be imperative for the Cowboys front seven to keep him contained to the pocket when he drops back to pass. If he gets outside the tackle box and into open space, Jackson will give the Cowboys fits throughout the game.
The front four will need to maintain gap integrity on their rushes not to allow Jackson to slither through the line of scrimmage. The edge defenders will need to stay disciplined on the read-option looks, not overcommitting to the running back, which would allow Jackson the time and space to sneak off to the area vacated by the edge player. The linebackers will have to keep him in mind when they drop back into coverage. If they aren’t conscientious of Jackson and are only focused on the receivers, Jackson is quick enough to find open running lanes and easily outrun Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee.
It will take a complete team effort to limit the damage inflicted by the 2019 NFL MVP.
Though it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Lamar Jackson this season, he’s still as dangerous a player as there is in the NFL. Mike Nolan and the Dallas Cowboys defense needs to develop an adequate game plan to slow him down on Tuesday if they have any hopes of winning this game.
This may be outside the box thinking, but it might be the Cowboys best option to spy him with Donovan Wilson instead of using a linebacker to keep track of Jackson. Wilson has proven to play fast and aggressive. He will put a hit on a player when given a chance and has shown that he can force fumbles as well. Wilson is at his best playing in the box anyway, so instead of having him responsible for a zone in coverage, make him responsible for preventing Lamar Jackson from getting loose.
The Cowboys defense has had some good moments this year, but for the most part it’s been a struggle to get stops and they’ve given up a lot of big plays. Lamar Jackson is a big play waiting every time he takes a snap. If the Cowboys are unable to limit Jackson’s rushing ability, it will be another long day for the Dallas Cowboys defense.