Week one finally arrived and it arrived with a whimper as the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Carolina Panthers 16-8. It was a game that was highlighted by offensive inefficiency and that's being kind.
The Dallas offense struggled. It's as simple as that. From the play calling, to the quarterback, to the offensive line, to the receiving targets, and even your All-Pro running back. Everyone on the offensive side of the ball bears some amount of responsibility for the lack of effectiveness.
In thinking about the week one loss where the team scored only eight points, I began to think about how little we saw a couple of players who were being highly touted in the preseason: Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup.
Both players were acquired during the NFL Draft this offseason. Michael Gallup with the 81st overall pick and Tavon Austin in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for a sixth round pick.
Under Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett, it's not surprising that Michael Gallup's usage was pretty low in the opener. I analyzed the draft picks from Jason Garrett's tenure with the team and found that aside from the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott, rookies generally aren't slated to start for the Dallas Cowboys unless there is an injury. Like when Dak Prescott opened the season as the starter in 2016.
Aside from Lance Lenoir, Michael Gallup was probably the most consistent and productive wide receiver in training camp. Practice report after practice report talked about Gallup making plays.
Tavon Austin came with a ton of fanfare. He was viewed as a weapon you could use in many ways. Think of a lesser version of Tyreek Hill.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise when you look at the snap counts from Sunday's game that Michael Gallup and Tavon Austin saw fewer snaps than journeyman Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson. Michael Gallup's.
Here's what Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones had to say about Tavon Austin less than two weeks ago.
What we didn't know is [Tavon Austin] could play outside WR. In our makeup this year, to get those defenses to back off the line of scrimmage so that Zeke can have some room to operate, in order to get them off, we're going to do it with speed."
Here are the wide receiver snap counts.
- Cole Beasley - 43
- Allen Hurns - 38
- Deonte Thompson - 30
- Michael Gallup - 29
- Terrance Williams - 19
- Tavon Austin - 10
Tavon Austin's 10 offensive snaps were the third fewest on the team on Sunday. Only Rod Smith and Jamize Olawale had fewer snaps than Austin. Gallup's 29 snaps were fourth among wide receivers.
We expect Cole Beasley to be on the field a lot since he's the best wide receiver on the team. Allen Hurns is going to get his opportunities since the team made him a free agent signing this Spring.
The questions lie with the rest of the group. The only rationale I can see for playing Thompson more than Gallup is that you think he gives you a speed element that the rookie doesn't give. With Dak Prescott's seeming unwillingness to go deep, Thompson's best ability is limited. Gallup is a better wide receiver, and he needs to play more.
Michael Gallup may still have a learning curve to go through as an NFL wide receiver, but he had a lot of success at Colorado State. He's a good all-around wide receiver who can help the Dallas Cowboys if he is able to get more opportunities.
Tavon Austin isn't the best wide receiver in the NFL, but his speed and ability to make people miss with the ball in his hands offers a dimension that the Dallas Cowboys don't have. It's criminal that they didn't try to get him the ball. They ran the jet sweep that we've seen them run in the past with pretty good success with Lucky Whitehead, but they couldn't get it blocked on Sunday. That they didn't give Austin any other opportunities is the shocking part. Aside from Elliott, he's the most dynamic player they have on the team with the ball in his hands. If you're going to throw a bubble screen, perhaps you should throw it to the guy who can make people miss.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive staff is being called uncreative this week and for good reason. They have a tremendous weapon in Tavon Austin and they only attempted to got him the ball one time. He wasn't targeted. Some of that is on Dak Prescott for not hitting him when he was open, but you need to design more runs for Austin even if you give him the ball out of the backfield.
The Dallas Cowboys need to figure out a way to get Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup on the field more and find ways to get them the football. Next Cole Beasley, they're your best bets to move the ball down the field.
Other Notable Snap Counts
- Taco Charlton tied for the team lead with Antwuan Woods with 49 snaps a piece or 73% of the defensive snaps. Interestingly, that was one more snap than starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. Pro Football Reference credited Taco with two pressures, a stop (or a play that ended in a loss for the offense), a pass defensed, and three total tackles.
- Jaylon Smith led the linebackers in snaps with 62 snaps on defense.
- Geoff Swaim appears to be the lead dog at tight end after week one. He had more than doubled Blake Jarwin's 22.
- In his first start at center since 2015, Joe Looney played well. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn't allow a sack, hit, pressure, or hurry on any of the Dallas Cowboys 44 pass block snaps. Not too shabby.
Could OC Kellen Moore Be More “Vanilla” Against Dolphins This Week?
The Cowboys are sort of in a no-win situation this Sunday.
If they come out and dominate the openly tanking Miami Dolphins, they'll have done exactly what they should do. But, if they lose to this putrid roster or lose one of their key players to injury, then this week three game would be considered a disaster.
So how should the Cowboys approach the Miami Dolphins?
Something tells me that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore may look more "basic" than usual this week. Heralded for his creativity over the first two games, Moore may not want to show too much against the lowly Dolphins. Especially if the Cowboys can simply impose their will, a la the 2016 offensive gameplan.
Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard should expect a lot of inside and outside zone opportunities this week, with each having a chance to have their best individual performances of the season. Tight end Blake Jarwin and wide receiver Devin Smith could see a lot of opportunities through the air as well, as the Cowboys may want to avoid putting Amari Cooper in situations which could cause injury.
Kellen Moore may want to come out firing with Dak Prescott and this dynamic passing game at first to get a quick lead, and then look to shorten the game as much as possible with his running game.
Honestly, as much as Cowboys Nation may not like it, I wouldn't be shocked if Miami covered this lofty 23 point spread. Dallas could look to get up a couple touchdowns, then proceed to sit on the ball and just look to get out of the stadium alive. Especially considering that the schedule gets much more difficult in the weeks following this Miami game.
With key NFC matchups against the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles looming large, health is the most important factor this week against the Dolphins.
Well, health and winning, of course.
#DALvsMIA: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Dallas and Miami could not be in more different modes heading into this week's game.
At 2-0 the Cowboys are looking to take the next step and earn themselves a Super Bowl ring. At a historically bad 0-2, the Dolphins are looking to go 0-16 and get a shot at drafting the top quarterback in next year's draft.
Vegas has this game at a ridiculous 21 point spread, which should rightfully scare gamblers away. But, both the Ravens and Patriots have beaten the brakes off Miami already this year, and Dallas seems primed to do so as well.
Cowboys -21. O/U 47.5 Points
The Cowboys are off to their best start since 2015, and they certainly expect their next 14 games to go much better than they did during that 2015 season. Dallas' offense is as dynamic as any in the league through two weeks, and quarterback Dak Prescott is playing like a legit MVP candidate.
Defensively, the Cowboys have been a bit disappointing thus far, but they have to be feeling like Sunday is the perfect opportunity for a "get right game." Defensive end Robert Quinn returns from suspension to take on his former team, and DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be getting his legs under him after missing all of training camp.
Prescott's favorite target during the opening victories, Michael Gallup, is set to miss this game with an injury, but I don't expect it to matter much against the Dolphins.
Where to even begin with the Miami Dolphins.
After trading for former first round pick Josh Rosen this offseason, the Dolphins decided to start journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Then they traded their own former first round left tackle Laremy Tunsil for a slew of high draft picks. Then, most recently, they traded another former first rounder in Minkah Fitzpatrick for even more picks.
Miami is doing everything they can do to hoard draft picks, ensuring they'll have their pick of the top quarterbacks over the next two draft classes. In the end, this tanking strategy could very well work for the Dolphins, but in 2019 they are going to look really bad.
They've been dominated and embarrassed both weeks thus far, and most expect that embarrassment to continue Sunday against the Cowboys. Operation Fish Tank is in full effect.
- The Dolphins are 0-5 against the spread their last 5 games.
- The score total has gone over in 4 of Miami's last 6 games.
- The Cowboys are 6-0 outright their last 6 home games.
- The score total has gone over in each of the Cowboys' last 5 games.
If it were to happen, this would be one of the worst losses I could ever remember in Cowboys history. Luckily, I highly doubt the Cowboys don't take care of business on Sunday.
Miami is downright trying to lose football games, and it's hard to imagine this group coming into Dallas and beating such a talented bunch. I'll take the Cowboys big, but I don't have the guts to bet any team -21 in the NFL.
Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need
It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.
Let's dive into this week's takeaways!
We Need Robert Quinn Back
The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.
Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.
Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need
Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.
Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.
Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen
The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.
Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It
Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).
All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.
He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.
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