With the bye week upon us, the Dallas Cowboys are getting their respite from gameplay with a 3-4 record and sit a game and a half back of the Washington Redskins in the NFC East. The Redskins took the lead in the division with a 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The season hasn't gone like many of us thought it could with the team alternating wins and losses through seven games. They've not won a road game this season, which is shocking given that the team has generally been better on the road than at home in the Jason Garrett era.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't out of it; yet. They have nine more games to make something happen in 2018 and with no team really taking control of the NFC East, there's still a shot that they can win the division and make the playoffs.
All is not lost.
For the Dallas Cowboys to get back to their winning ways though, they're going to need several players to play better in the next nine games than they did in the first seven. Here are three.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
After his rookie season in the NFL, there were high hopes and expectations that Chidobe Awuzie's play, aggressiveness, and swagger would make him a good to great corner moving forward. Most thought Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard would take what Awuzie showed in his first season and help him take a step forward in 2018.
It's been Byron Jones, on the other side of the field however, who's been the standout.
Meanwhile, Awuzie's become the target of opposing passing games and he's not given them much reason not to focus on him. Among players who've played at least 162 coverage snaps this season, Chidobe Awuzie has allowed the ninth highest passer rating in the NFL (128.7), per Pro Football Focus.
Awuzie's been in the right spot a lot, but he's not been able to make plays on the football even though he's been providing some nice coverage. He's allowing a reception every 6.6 snaps according to Pro Football Focus. That's the second worst rate in the NFL. Compare that to Byron Jones who's allowing a reception every 19.6 coverage snaps and Anthony Brown who's allowing a reception every 17.4 snaps.
He has the attitude, athleticism, and ability to be a really good cover corner in the NFL, but he has to start making some plays on the football. He has to show the play-making he showed in college and in his rookie season.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has been really good in the first half of the season, but if they can get an improved effort from Awuzie in the second half, they'll be at an elite level for the last nine games.
Connor Williams, Guard
Yes, Connor Williams is a rookie. Yes, he's playing a new position. Yes, he's got to be better. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has allowed 15 total pressures — 11 hurries, two quarterback hits, two sacks — and has been called for three holding penalties. Those numbers are among the 15 worse numbers for guards in the NFL per Pro Football Focus.
He has had some struggles against some really good interior players, but the expectations for Williams are sky-high. He was supposed to be the missing piece to a team that got up and down offensive line play in 2017.
The first seven games do not write the career for a rookie player and he's had some good moments so far in 2018, especially in the run game. However, for Dak Prescott and the offense to take a step forward over the final nine games, Williams is going to have to be better against interior pressure.
Dak Prescott, Quarterback
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” The opening line from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities fully encapsulates the first seven games of the season for Quarterback Dak Prescott.
He's been good in his city and not so good in the away cities. Dak Prescott's home and away splits through seven games are staggering.
Dak's been good at home this season going 50 for 79 for 598 yards passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions. At home he's averaging 7.57 yards per attempt, has a 107.5 quarterback rating, and has only been sacked six times. On the road Dak's completed 78 passes on 127 attempts (61.42% completion percentage) for 819 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Prescott's averaging 6.45 yards per attempt, has a quarterback rating of 74.9, and has been sacked 17 times.
There are many reasons why Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys haven't been as good on the road as they've been at home. Probably, the biggest reason is who they've played on the road. They've played some good defenses on in the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, and Washington Redskins. All four of those teams rank in the top 10 in the NFL in scoring defense.
In their final nine games, they play four games against teams that are in the top 10 in scoring defense. They have the Tennessee Titans in week nine in Arlington, two games against the Philadelphia Eagles, and a rematch with the Washington Redskins at home. There other five opponents, the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank in the bottom ten in scoring defense. The Falcons, Giants, and Colts games are on the road.
Whether it's the quality of team they've played on the road or the difficulty in communicating in hostile atmospheres, there's a huge disparity in his home and road performance. Dak Prescott is going to have to win some games on the road if the Dallas Cowboys have hopes of making the playoffs in 2018..
He's good enough to lead them to victories, but he has to be better when playing away from AT&T Stadium.
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With the Dallas Cowboys needing to go 6-3 over the final nine games to have a winning season for the third year in a row, and more importantly have hopes of making the playoffs, they'll need to get better performances from these three Cowboys.
Who else, in your opinion, needs to step up for the Dallas Cowboys the rest of the way?