Now that we have emerged from the bye week rested (I don't know about you, but a Brandon Weeden-free weekend is a restful weekend in my household), it's time to prepare to face the New York Football Giants. Wait, that has a familiar ring to it...
Moore takes us back to Jason Garrett's first game as the Cowboys' head coach. Indeed the similarities are legion:
As confidence wanes and aspirations for the season are in jeopardy, as the Cowboys prepare to play the New York football Giants at 3:25 Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands, keep this in mind.
The situation isn't all that different from what the Cowboys faced with an interim coach nearly five years ago.
That victory, Moore reminds us was a "baby step" in the direction Garrett wanted his Cowboys to go. With that in mind, he concludes his piece with the following:
A win over the Giants on Sunday afternoon would be a baby step -- a potentially significant one -- to getting this team to where it wants to go. The Cowboys enter the game as underdogs, and rightfully so. That doesn't mean they can't win a game they're supposed to lose to the Giants.
It's happened before.
Of course, the team's success will depend largely on how the burning question emblazoned on the forefront of all Cowboys fans' minds - will the offense be competitive enough to allow them to win games? - is answered. It's a great question. I'll start with a wee point-counterpoint in that regard:
Eatman starts off the point-counterpoint by arguing that the new quarterback will lead to improved play on the offensive side of the ball:
I’m not trying to be naive in thinking Cassel will save the day, but he’s at least won games in this league and even made a Pro Bowl. You’re not asking for a lot here. He doesn’t have to be Tony Romo. Just be serviceable, limit the mistakes and take a few shots down the field when they are there....Do I think Cassel is better than Weeden? I certainly do and that’s why I think the Cowboys will improve this week.
Tiny Jim takes the opposing position, arguing that the QB switcheroo is unlikley to result in a significant performance uptick:
I think Cassel will be an improvement over Weeden, but will it be enough of an improvement to rejuvenate the offense? Without Tony Romo and potentially without Dez Bryant, will Christine Michael or La’el Collins noticeably improve the running game beyond what we’ve seen so far?...as we prepare to enter Week 7, I’m not sure there’s enough evidence for that optimism to lead to confidence.
The Broad One with a few scattered thoughts on the various roster comings and goings. Here, he weighs in on the question at the forefront of everybody's minds: just how will Cassel be different than Weeden?
Technique-wise, where Cassel will be noticeably different than Weeden is in his pocket awareness and mobility. Cassel knows how to slide and adjust in order to make throws when he feel pressure. Some of his best passes during his career have been those which he can move forward in the pocket and hit receivers on the move. Cassel doesn’t have the same arm strength as Weeden, but his athletic ability is clearly better and you will see that in this game.
How about other potential skill position additions?
Archer welcomes us to the Dez Watch, and reminds us that the Cowboys - as they do in almost everything - will adopt the long view:
The Cowboys cannot be pressured into playing Bryant before he is ready even with their three-game losing streak. They guaranteed Bryant $45 million with that contract in July with the big picture in mind. That means 2016-18 is more important than a Week 6 game against the Giants even if the small-picture view might say otherwise.
The Estimable Ryle with the straight poop: reports from insiders suggest that Christine Michael has been promoted to starting running back over Joseph Randle.
As many have already written, the offensive line is hardly blameless
Fredbeard speaks about the process, which involves minute adjustments and incremental gains:
"As a unit, we’re still working to improve on a lot of the little things," said center Travis Frederick, the team’s only offensive lineman without a sack or a penalty this season. "I think we’re good at a lot of things. There’s a lot of things that are going well for us and there are some things we need to continue to improve on. Coach Pollack continues to hound on those things in practice, and we really focus on them, and we’re really trying to get better. Some of those things you get better and it stresses another areas and then you work on that. Through the season you have to continue tweaking and moving things."
Is it any accident that he's the only O-lineman who was healthy throughout camp and is the only one without a sack or penalty? I'm thinking not...
As the headline suggests, Sabin wonders to what degree Dallas' offensive malaise is about its injured stars. After considering all the possibilities, his conjectures appear to be rather inconclusive:
It's hard to say. The consensus opinion is the offensive line has underperformed. Dallas' average gain per carry is ranked 15th in the NFL and FootballOutsiders.com, with its advanced metrics, says the Cowboys are in the bottom half in the NFL in pass protection. But is that because former offensive line coach Bill Callahan is no longer there, the running back-by-committee setup hasn't worked according to plan or because defenses are stacking the box with the threats of Bryant and Romo removed?
That's not clear either.
Toddzilla outlines all the changes the Cowboys have made during the bye week, and reminds us none of them matter unless the defense starts taking away the ball:
On defense, the Cowboys had nine takeaways in their first five games last year. This year they have three takeaways this season and none in the last three games.
Hence the hope that the more Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain play, the more the takeaways will reappear.
There are certainly signs for hope in that regard...
Against the Giants, the Cowboys' defensive line will be the closest to full strength that they've been since training camp:
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has been waiting for this. And as the Cowboys return to the field this week in preparation for the Giants, he’ll finally have a full repertoire of pass-rushers to send at Eli Manning this Sunday.
Greg Hardy, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey are all expected to play together for the first time this year.
Can you say NASCAR package?
Sully Bald Head with a piece on Matt Eberflus' cadre of interchangeable linebackers. He makes the point that such a high level of positional flexibility is rare:
Really, outside of rookie cornerback/safety Byron Jones, there’s not another player on the roster, other than the linebackers, who plays a different position. A few of the offensive linemen could move from, say, tackle to guard or vice versa if need be, but that hasn’t happened the last few seasons. Even at wide receiver, it’s not like Cole Beasley is going to move from the slot to the outside with Dez Bryant injured. The positions are pretty structured at the highest level, heck, even in college.
That's one of the reasons I believe the 3-2-6 alignment that was unveiled against New England has Matt Eberflus' fingerprints all over it. Speaking of which...
Here's the headline-generating money quote:
"When we did get a chance to go against that, when they were trying out their new packages, it was really fun to do because it was stuff that we had never seen before, especially from our defense but really throughout the league, a lot of movement, a lot of guys moving around, a lot of guys in different places and that definitely gave us a challenge."
In the midst of his examination of the Cowboys' special team woes, Archer makes a good point: the Cowboys have been going up against some pretty darned good kickers:
Before the return game gets too scrutinized, the Cowboys haven’t had many opportunities with just 10 kick returns and eight punt returns on the season. They have played against some of the better kickers and punters already.
Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots is tied for the NFL lead with 30 touchbacks. He had six against the Cowboys. Atlanta Falcons kickoff specialist Matt Bosher is tied for second with 26. He had five against the Cowboys. Josh Brown of the New York Giants has had six of his kick returns remain inside the 20, which is tied for third.
A post generated by a question I asked O.C.C. for our podcast this week, which was the percentage difference between 2-4 and 3-3 teams in terms of making the playoffs. When I wrote the question, I had no idea just how significant the answer would prove to be. To wit:
...In fact, the 30-point gap in historical playoff odds between 3-3 and 2-4 is the biggest such gap in playoff odds anywhere in the first six games. Nowhere in the first six games is there a bigger swing in historical playoff odds than between 3-3 and 2-4 records.
The author, whose name sounds like something the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk sniffed out, disobeys a cardinal Garrettism, jumping ahead to the following week's contest against the defending NFC Champs:
The Seahawks, who have had an impressive run over the last couple of seasons while appearing in back-to-back Super Bowls, appear to be more vulnerable now than they have been in quite some time. Seattle has gone 3-3 after six games the last two seasons – but now they’re 2-4 following an unlikely loss to quarterback Cam Newton and the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
As I tweeted this weekend, seeing how vulnerable the Eagles, Saints, Giants and Seahawks are this season makes me think a healthy Cowboys squad could have been 9-1 going into the Thanksgiving game against the Panthers.
NFL seasons. Built on the rubble of "what could have beens."
|Don’t forget to resister for our Blogging the Boys meet-up!
Oct 24-25, 2015
Cowboys-Giants in the beautiful Poconos
|Three awesome Cowboys-centric events!|
|Saturday, October 24
(8:00-10:00 PM): Dinner the night before the game
|Sunday, October 25
(9:00 AM - 1:00 PM): Pre-game brunch
|Sunday, October 25
(4:30-8:30 PM) Cowboys-Giants game, with free buffet
|Click Here to RSVP||Click here for more information on pricing, lodging, etc.|