Despite an unusual start to the 2020 season, which has seen the Draft happen remotely, no pre-draft publicity, and all pre-season games cancelled, the NFL has nonetheless seen a flying start to the season.
The first game on September 10th, 2020 saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Houston Texans convincingly, and despite new COVID protocols being implemented, there have been some changes to scheduled games; the game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers has been postponed following an outbreak of Coronavirus, and with Cam Newton testing positive the Patriots-Chiefs game has been postponed. A number of changes were made to the season, including additional reserves allowed on the roster, daily COVID monitoring and regular testing, limits to press contact and all but 6 stadia being closed to the public to name but a few.
The changes to the pre-season seem to have had an impact on the performance of some teams, most notably the Dallas Cowboys. On paper, their most recent game, against the Cleveland Browns, was OK: Dak Prescott threw 502 yards and had four touchdowns, Amari Cooper had 132 yards and CeeDee Lamb caught two touchdowns, for a total score of 38 points. However, their defence allowed the Browns to score 49 points, which is reflective of their poor defence throughout the season so far.
The Cowboys have allowed in the most points per game of any team this season, at 36.5, and the third most yards, at 430.5. The Cowboys have a losing combination of an offence that does not score points in the first half, a defence that crumbles under pressure, a new and inexperienced defensive coordinator, and a mediocre coach that has not managed to utilise the full potential of a team filled with top quality players who have the potential to be stars of the NFL.
Back in August 2020, experts were convinced that the Cowboys were a shoo-in to make the playoffs and expected an explosive start to the season with a new offensive scheme and stout defence. Following the first four games of the season, many bookies and experts have written the Cowboys off for the 2020 season altogether. Whilst the defensive element of the Cowboys is leaving the team vulnerable, there is a glimmer of hope in the offence. Prescott was on track to break the record for single-season passing by 1,300 yards and averages over 50 pass attempts per game. However, the team needs to convert this sort of production into points, particularly in the first half of the game; in each of their first three games, the Cowboys were trailing by a substantial amount going into the second half. If they are able to capitalize on the talent in the team, the Cowboys certainly have the potential to turn things around, but before backing them, it might be worth checking out Online Betting Guide’s NFL picks, just to see if others have the same hunch as you.
But how can the Cowboys turn the season around? The main issue is a lack of cohesion between the players, and a clear path mapped out by the coaches. This may be a consequence of the lack of pre-season games and the opportunity to identify and refine playing style. However, with a few tweaks, there is no reason that the Cowboys cannot be back on top.
Simplify the Defence
Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan is used to running complex defensive strategies as seen in his time with the Atlanta Falcons. A simple approach is needed for a team that has not had the benefit of the pre-season games to test out different set-ups and plays.
Bring a Safety on board
As soon as Earl Thomas was released by the Baltimore Ravens fans and experts were clamouring for him to be snapped up by the Cowboys, but complacency has left this spot empty and the impact can be felt acutely in the Cowboys current performance. It will be a key defensive position to fill as soon as possible.
Reassign Nolan and bring in Edwards
Nolan running the defence is clearly not working, and if the Cowboys are to stand any chance of picking themselves up either his strategy needs to change (as mentioned above) or he needs to be reassigned. George Edwards has spent the last five years as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, and has clearly demonstrated his capability, as average points per game let in by the defence has ranged between 15.8 and 21.4, a far cry from the Cowboys current average of over 35.
The Cowboys have seen a number of injuries at the start of the season, including Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie, and have struggled to provide the support to the remaining players. However, a number of these players are due to return this month, which should provide welcome relief to the struggling team. Randy Gregory, a key defensive player, will be returning from suspension shortly. This is even more important as Prescott is out for the rest of the season with a fracture.
Despite a poor start to the season, the Cowboys have all the ingredients for a successful team; all that is needed is strong leadership, simplified gameplay, and a unified front, and there is no reason that the season shouldn’t end very differently for the Dallas Cowboys.