Without Ezekiel Elliott for the next six games, the ultimate unknown for the Dallas Cowboys is how they will adjust during his absence. It doesn't really matter if you personally believe they should go to more four receiver sets or if they will be fine with their current stable of running backs. There is one thing they absolutely can't do against the Kansas City Chiefs, abandon their run first mentality.
There is no denying that going from Ezekiel Elliott to Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden for that matter is a huge step down. But, I discovered something this week when studying the Kansas City Chiefs and I think it could actually benefit the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been pretty impressive this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Alex Smith could very well be the NFL MVP, Kareem Hunt is leading league in rushing, Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the game, and Tyreek Hill is arguably the most explosive player with the ball in his hands. But, the Chiefs are susceptible on the defensive side of the ball.
Shocked? So was I.
From the outside looking in, I thought the Kansas City Chiefs had a pretty good defense. But, looks can be deceiving. They're are currently ranked 30th in total defense, but I think it's the rushing defense the Dallas Cowboys can take advantage of the most.
The Kansas City Chiefs are currently ranked 29th in the league giving up 4.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. That should have the Cowboys coaching staff licking their chops for this matchup, even without Elliott in the lineup.
Everybody knows the Dallas Cowboys pride themselves in the offensive line they have put together. They are arguably the best in the NFL at what they do, and what they do best is block in the running game. That is why I think the Cowboys would be foolish to abandon their run first mentality.
You see, the Chiefs defensive lineman have a problem maintaining their gap discipline and as a result get washed out of plays. That leaves their linebackers to pick up the slack, but fortunately for the Cowboys Derrick Johnson and Reggie Ragland have been struggling this season.
The Dallas Cowboys absolutely have to take advantage of the Chiefs defense, especially in the running game. Whether it's Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, or Rod Smith. They have to continue to control the game clock in the running game and keep the Alex Smith led Chiefs offense off the field.
If the Cowboys can find success in the running game, I don't see any reason why they can't come away with a victory in front of their home crowd. But, if they abandon their run first mentality, it plays right into the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. That simply can't be allowed.
Will the Dallas Cowboys stick with their run first mentality?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys’ New-Look Offense “Challenging” Defense in Practices
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Tony Pollard One of Many Who Bring Speed to the Dallas Cowboys Offense
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Cowboys Have Another “Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey” Debate?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys OT Mitch Hyatt is an Undrafted Rookie to Watch
Player News1 week ago
Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices
Player News2 weeks ago
Cedrick Wilson: Cowboys WR Could Shine After a Year Off
Star Blog1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys Shouldn’t Add a Veteran Backup Quarterback