Connect with us

Star Blog

Defense Wins Championships, Prescott Not to Blame

Bryson Treece

Published

on

Don't Blame

The Dallas Cowboys have already seen their share of struggles in this still young 2017 season, and that increasingly means blaming QB Dak Prescott for any shortcomings. An errant pass here and a high throw there are seen as more than just a receiver not being on the same page as his QB and Dak throwing under pressure. It’s seen as losing the game, on a few passes.

The truth is, the issue is so much bigger than just Dak Prescott.

Even though NFL football lines have the Cowboys favored by 2.5, that’s low for the home team. The reality is that many analysts and fans alike have the Green Bay Packers beating the Dallas Cowboys this week. Some don’t even have the ‘Boys close.

Dak Prescott may be the QB, and the defacto leader of this team, but I think we need to tap the breaks a little before stringing him up for a few bad passes. Prescott was never a super accurate passer, though he has the accuracy for most any throw asked of him, because his game is bigger than just the pass.

It includes read options that he is gifted enough to turn into a fresh set of downs, without throwing the ball.

Last week, against the Los Angeles Rams, Prescott led the way to 30 points and did so with only a slightly below average completion percentage. He also had three touchdowns, one interception, and was sacked twice for a total loss of one yard.

You have to consider the conditions the QB faced during the game, and in that game he was under pressure with tight coverage on his receivers. A lot of quarterbacks would have a 55.6% completion rate under those conditions. But like I said, it’s far bigger than just Dak.

The defense gave up 35 points to the Rams. You’re gonna be hard-pressed to win games when your defense is consistently allowing opposing teams to score more than 20 points a game.

Currently, through four games, the Cowboys defense has given up an average of 24.25 points per game. Maybe you’ve heard this before, or not, but there’s a reason that they say “defense wins championships”.

To demonstrate, let’s look at the seasons of the last four Super Bowl winners and their defense’s average points per game during the regular season:

  • 2016 Patriots defense – 15.6 points per game
  • 2015 Broncos defense – 18.5 points per game
  • 2014 Patriots defense – 19.5 points per game
  • 2013 Seahawks defense – 14.4 points per game

And you’ll find similar results to that no matter how far back you go.

The fact of life in the NFL is that you’re not likely to win as much if your defense can’t hold opposing teams to under 20 points consistently.

Prescott is certainly no Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he doesn’t have to be either. Not with this team, because the Cowboys currently average 23.5 points per game on offense.

Care to see the offensive scoring totals for the same teams/seasons above?

  • 2016 Patriots offense – 26.9 points per game
  • 2015 Broncos offense – 22.1 points per game
  • 2014 Patriots offense – 29.2 points per game
  • 2013 Seahawks offense – 26.0 points per game

Nothing outlandish there, just more points than their opposition. And that’s all it takes.

If the defense is giving up more than 20 points per game, the offense has to score more, on average, to win out. Three touchdowns a game should be enough in this league, but our defense is simply not up to the challenge.

The bottom line is this, don’t put the failure to stop teams from scoring on Dak’s shoulders. All he can do is lead scoring drives.

He cannot go out and defend passes or sack the other team’s QB. He’s young, and still learning so much about this game and this team and his own abilities, so don’t make matters worse by deafening Frisco, TX with moans and decries about a new quarterback.

Instead, look at the defense. They’re the ones keeping us at .500 right now. Back the QB.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

Advertisement
10 Comments
  • Donny King

    doesn’t really help the defense when the offense doesn’t play 4 quarters, look past the giants, when did the offense as a whole play a complete game, the defense needs the offense for 4 quarters the offense needs the defense for 4 quarters creating turnover which isn’t happening, the Dallas defense had 7 chances to pick off Carson Palmer

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      That’s the beauty of the score, doesn’t matter when it comes, as long as it does. 23 points a game is fine when the defense does its job.

      • Donny King

        how can the defense do it’s job when the offense can’t sustain a drive with x amount of 3 and outs, that’s my point, look I get that not every drive is going to result in a TD or field goal, but take some time off the clock so the defense can rest

  • Saul molina

    I disagree with that article saying ease off of dak look I’m a huge dak fan I was yelling at anyone who would listen draft dak but he has not played that great this year but that’s only a small part offensive line needs to play better scandrick looks washed up brown looks bad heath is a back up Jourdan lewis is our best corner Xavier woods needs to be opposite Byron Jones and someone needs to help out Lawrence

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Dak has played as well as he did last year, was my point. He’s not playing particularly bad, not for him, he’s doing what he always has done. But as you mention, the offensive line and defense are not playing at the high level they were last year. Basically, you can’t put a team’s record entirely on one guy when there are problems on both sides of the ball. Thanks for reading.

      • Saul molina

        If they don’t get better on defense they won’t be shit I don’t care what anyone says point fucking blank

        • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

          Which is exactly what the article says… Glad we agree on something! Yesterday just showed it again, the defense must step up.

  • Stephen L. Holley

    “Still say it should have been “T.J. Watt” at middle linebacker with Sean Lee on one side and Jaylon Smith on the other!!!! ” Talk about stopping the run with “MANSTER II” in the middle!!!! Crash blitz T.J. on passing downs with three down linemen and five DB’s!!!!!! Taco has done nothing and T.J. is tearing it up!!!!!

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Yeah, idk wth is/was going on with Taco. I trust the Cowboys to know what they’re doing, like taking Jaylon last year, but Taco just doesn’t seem to be anything more than a pad filler at this point.

  • Saul molina

    No way has he played as good as last year he has missed a lot of throws

Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

Published

on

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

Published

on

Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott.

It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”.

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”.

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”?

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Months Later, it Seems Jaguars S Barry Church was Right

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Months Later, Jaguars Safety Barry Church Wa E

About five months ago, before the 2017 NFL season had even begun, former Cowboys safety Barry Church made comments which made Cowboys Nation scratch their heads. Now a Jacksonville Jaguar, Church said his current team was more talented than his former, the Dallas Cowboys.

At the time, many fans and writers alike laughed off his comments and chalked it up to typical preseason hype. Most people thought Church was crazy for suggesting a 13-3 team had less talent than the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team led by Blake Bortles.

Well, five months later, it’s become clear Barry Church was right.

Brian Chojnacki on Twitter

Jaguars safety Barry Church says he feels this Jags team has more talent than his #Cowboys squad last season. Dallas went 13-3. https://t.co/EcbxfUGsvy

This weekend the Jaguars went on the road to Pittsburgh, and came away with a wire-to-wire victory in January. The Jaguars were the more physical team from start to finish, and dominated from the opening kick off.

On the road.

Against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now the Jaguars are preparing to do something the Cowboys haven’t done in two decades: play in a conference championship game.

The Jaguars and Cowboys will be linked for the next decade or so due to decisions each made during the 2016 NFL Draft. And while it appeared the Cowboys pushed all the right buttons in 2016, it now looks as if the Jaguars are preparing to compete for AFC supremacy for years to come.

With their talented secondary, dominant defense, and physical rushing attack, the Jaguars have built their team in the mold of past champions.

The Cowboys have attempted to do some of the same, but it certainly looks as if Barry Church was correct in his preseason assessment of the two rosters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Advertisement
Advertisement
Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending