The Dallas Cowboys' 19-16 loss to the Houston Texans last night could be blamed on a lot of things. In a close battle like that, one play might've swung things. But today, our focus is on Jason Garrett's decision to punt in overtime and how it goes against the core philosophy of how this team has been built.
Since 2011, the Cowboys have spent three first-round picks, a second, and a third to build up their offensive line. They've shelled out big money to those first-round guys, plus La'el Collins, to make the line the strength of their offense and really the entire roster.
They spent another first-rounder, the fourth overall pick in 2016, to get a stud running back. And since then, Ezekiel Elliott has proven that he's as good with the ball in his hands as any RB in the league.
But last night, Jason Garrett didn't trust his most talented players to make the play.
In overtime, at 4th-and-1 from the Houston 42, the Cowboys head coach elected to punt rather than let Zeke try to convert the down. The Texans got the ball and the chance to win on a sudden-death field goal, and that's exactly what they did.
Garrett trusted that pinning Houston deep would allow his defense to make a stop and get him the ball back. But I'm not sure what made him think he had the 2000 Ravens or the '85 Bears out there.
Before overtime, Deshaun Watson had already thrown for 314 yards and run for 40 more. DeAndre Hopkins had run an all-night clinic on Dallas' best corner, Byron Jones. The Cowboys defense hadn't proven they could keep Houston out of scoring position.
Yes, the defense had come up big in redzone situations and goal-line stands. But the Texans were able to get up and down the field without too much issue. Of their 11 offensive series, only three had ended in punts. Six of them had the team in position to at least kick a field goal.
So no, I'm not sure what defense Jason thought he had. They'd played well and kept Dallas in the game, but they'd hardly dominated.
To be fair to Garrett, his own running game had come up short several times already. Elliott was held to just 54 yards on 20 carries, one of the worst outputs of his career.
And yes, Travis Frederick isn't out there to make that push up the middle. As solid as Joe Looney has been, he's not one of the elite blockers in football. I'm sure that factored into Jason's decision making.
But at the end of the night, when defenses get tired, that's when offensive talent has a tendency to shine. Hopkins, despite fatigue and some nagging injuries, made the big play to give his team the win.
Ezekiel Elliott deserved that same opportunity. He's the Cowboys highest draft pick since Russell Maryland.
And he only needed to get one yard.
This isn't hindsight criticism, either. Even before Houston started their game-winning drive, Garrett's decision was being decried on social media. The majority view was that Dallas should go for it.
Maybe you don't just hand it to Zeke and try to pound it. Maybe you do something creative with fullback Jamize Olawale, who's known for his offensive skills and yet never gets the ball.
Maybe you run a read-option and give Dak Prescott a chance to make the play. We hadn't seen that play all night, and neither had the Texans.
Or maybe you just let your QB, who's built like a linebacker, go for the yard himself on a sneak.
But creativity and aggression have become inconsistent in this Cowboys offense. That's not all on Garrett; Scott Linehan seems to change personalities from week to week, and not in a good way.
This identity crisis reaches back into the offseason, too.
Dallas decided to gamble on their receiving options after releasing Dez Bryant and losing Jason Witten. They added Allen Hurns and a third-round rookie, but they leaned heavily on current talent to step into those big shoes.
The Cowboys also trusted a rookie converting from tackle to guard, albeit a second-round pick, to keep the offensive line solvent. Connor Williams has been good but he's no mauler. His presence mattered in that game-changing decision, too.
Given their salary cap issues the last few years, the Cowboys have had to make tough roster choices. They've done a good job of building the defense backup, but now the offense is falling behind. Too much dead money from Tony Romo's contract has made it hard to do maintenance on both sides of the ball.
The season is far from over. You're 2-3 and nobody's running away with the NFC East right now.
But Jason Garrett and his team have to find some consistency. They have to lean on their strengths, both in critical moments and in overall game strategy.
If not, this identity crisis just might cost Garrett more than some games.
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
Zeke Holdout: Remember, Owners Agreed to Renegotiating Contracts
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
5 Dallas Cowboys Backups Who Have Earned More Playing Time
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Tony Pollard Continues to Impress in Training Camp
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
Michael Gallup Showing WR1 Talent in Amari Cooper’s Absence
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Looking Absolutely Stacked
Game Notes1 week ago
3 Studs and Duds From Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week 1 Matchup
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys DT Christian Covington is a Player to Keep an Eye On