After only five weeks of football, the Dallas Cowboys have lost as many games as they did in 2016. Sitting at 2-3, Cowboys Nation should be concerned about what's ahead. This team will head into their bye week with a lot of things to work on.
However, it's too early to press that panic button. With 11 games left, Jason Garrett and company will have the opportunity to forget this slow start and get back on the playoffs.
Today, we discuss what we learned from the Dallas Cowboys' third loss of the season. Here is this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday.
Terrance Williams Isn't Helping This Offense, Will Butler See The Field More?
Personally, I liked the idea of having Terrance Williams for four more years when he re-signed with the team. I really thought it was a nice decision. Besides, the contract was pretty friendly.
But right now, I wouldn't be surprised if Dallas gives Butler more snaps after Williams' bad plays. Versus the Rams, Williams dropped a 2-point conversion that would've tied the game. Last week, he caused a pick-six all because he tried to catch the football with his body.
And that's the biggest issue with Terrance Williams. For some reason, he can't use his hands to catch the ball. This is the NFL. If you're a WR in this league, you better know how to use your hands.
I can't help wondering if the Cowboys will give Brice Butler more snaps to give him an opportunity to impress. He's had more than a few big plays this season and it sure would be interesting to see something like this develop.
David Irving Is Back At Sacking Quarterbacks
The Cowboys got one of their best pass rushers back last Sunday, as David Irving returned from his four game suspension. With DeMarcus Lawrence playing the way he's been playing at LDE, Irving took the field as a DT.
I love this. This defense is far from good and they need to keep Irving and Lawrence on the field at the same time.
David Irving sacks Aaron Rodgers in his season debut for the #DallasCowboys https://t.co/dg7JCojyuV
David Irving had two sacks and three QB hits on his season debut. With 95 playing next to D-Law, the pass rush will get better down the road. It won't be an elite pass rush, but it will be decent. And at this point, decent will be a big improvement for this defense.
Jourdan Lewis Has Been This Team's Best Cornerback
The Cowboys defense as a whole is not good. But the secondary is very promising. There are three rookie defensive backs who are actually looking to become starters pretty soon. And out of every cornerback on the team, third-round rookie Jourdan Lewis might be having the best season so far.
The game-winner TD by Rodgers was against Lewis, but still. He had seven tackles, five of which were solo. Three passes defended. These numbers are huge for a rookie who missed part of the offseason practices and all of the preseason.
The Cowboys found a starter on the third round of the NFL Draft, and I'm convinced we will see more and more from him soon.
Jaylon Smith Is Hurting This Defense
The hype around Smith has been very high. Cowboys Nation was incredibly excited to see the product from Notre Dame, and the long wait to see him just made the excitement higher.
Jaylon is healthy enough to play now. However, it doesn't look like he is 100%. Not even close. To be honest, I don't think Smith would've received as much playing time had Anthony Hitchens been healthy to open the season.
Pre-injury Jaylon Smith stops AR short of a first down. https://t.co/NJmDiXRhpw
With a healthy Sean Lee, Hitchens would've probably started over Jaylon against the Packers.
Jaylon Smith will end up being a great player for this defense. But he is not a starter right now. This defense will be better with Hitchens and Lee at LB.
Cowboys Offense Is Working Again
Now, the Cowboys may have lost last week, but there are good news!
Obviously, the weakness for this team remains the defense. That's something we know. The Cowboys scored 30 points against the Rams and 31 against the Packers. And they still lost the game.
However, take the LA Rams game for instance. Dak Prescott completed 9 out of 21 passes in the second half and the offense scored six points. They were being outplayed after halftime.
However, even though they lost, the Cowboys offense got it going. Dak Prescott ended his days with 25 completions for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, that's just passing. He also ran for 37 yards and another TD.
Ezekiel Elliott was grinding yards in the fourth quarter, leaving the game with 116 rushing yards. Beasley caught two touchdowns. Dez Bryant had himself a nice day. Jason Witten caught eight passes. Everyone on offense had a day... except 83.
This team still has a chance to turn it around. And even though the Cowboys lost in heartbreaking fashion, the season isn't over. 10 wins might get you to the playoffs in the NFC. The Eagles have a rough couple of weeks up ahead. It wouldn't take much to see Dallas back at the top of the division.
It's way too early to call it a season. Go Cowboys.
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.
The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.
Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.
While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.
Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.
The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.
Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.
Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
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