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Five Things The Cowboys Can Do To Soften The Blow

The Cowboys are 2-0 but it came with a heavy price tag as both the starting quarterback and best wide receiver are out for the near future. With both guys on the mend, it's next man up. What can Dallas do in the interim?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With Tony Romo being placed on short-term injured reserve and Dez Bryant healing his broken foot until at least after the bye week. The Cowboys have the cards stacked against them over possiblly the most difficult part of their schedule. The good news is that the NFC East is looking like a division that can be won with a late surge. Also, the fact that both Romo and Bryant will be back in the lineup with time for a stretch run is a good thing, too.  All of this poses the question, what can the Cowboys do in order to soften the blow and keep the ship upright?

5. Run The Football

The Cowboys have attempted to establish the run over the first two weeks but haven't had too much luck ranking 20th in the league is rushing yards per game (94.5). All of the coaches and front office staff have made declarations that this is a run-first team and it certainly should still be one after two weeks. Dallas has done their job in trying to get these running backs involved more but they simply need to be better. Joseph Randle has got the early nod as the lead back, Darren McFadden has been behind him and Lance Dunbar remains a passing game threat. The hope is that Christine Michael can get up to speed and help them punish the defense more. If these backs can get some rhythm going, which they are more than capable of, Brandon Weeden should feel more comfort in his ability to deliver in the passing game.

4. Exploit The Mismatches

Without Dez Bryant in the fold, Gavin Escobar and Cole Beasley will have to carry more of the load. Terrance Williams hasn't earned double coverage by any means but he's the most talented receiver on the field at this point. Teams will pay extra attention to him in the deep passing game, especially considering Weeden's arm strength. In this case, exploiting those mismatches you get with Jason Witten, Escobar, Beasley, and even Lance Dunbar becomes super important. Each of those guys have stellar hands and can really do some damage to a defense, Weeden must get the ball in the hands of these targets and let them make him better. If the defense is trying to cover a tight end with a linebacker, make them pay for it. If you got Williams underneath on a slant, you know what he's capable of, get the ball out quick and let them make plays.

3. Special Teams & Field Position

Though many of us had some serious doubts in the offseason, the guys playing special teams right now are making an impact. In Sunday's rout over the Eagles, Chris Jones was absolutely superb in that game. His six punts had an average 50.3 yards, a 43 yard net and most importantly limited Darren Sproles to two returns for 20 yards. If the Cowboys can continue to limit opposing offenses field position, the defense will have the cushion needed to make plays. However, the Cowboys need a spark in their return game, too. With Romo, you can get the ball inside the twenty and make due but for Weeden it would be nice if they could find a way to give him a shorter field. When you consider that the kicker is practically automatic, if the Cowboys continue to play well on special teams, that should help keep them afloat.

2. Protect Brandon Weeden, Protect The Football

The offensive line must play well for the Cowboys to have offensive success in the wake of these injuries. Brandon Weeden is not a mobile quarterback and he also needs more time to find his targets. If they can keep him on his feet and clear from defenders, he should have enough of a grasp of this offense to put points on the board. Weeden also needs to do his part mentally and protect the football. No mishandling snaps and throwing errant passes. Brandon Weeden must not revert to the quarterback we all saw against Arizona last season. If he has protection, he'll have confidence. He's got a very strong arm but he needs to be able to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball. The line will have to carry the load for the offense over the next eight weeks which is something they are more than accustomed to doing.

1. Continue Playing Lights Out Defense

The Dallas Cowboys currently rank third in stopping the run and ninth in pass defense. They also rank fourth in opposing quarterback passer rating with a 68.1. With that said, they only have two sacks thus far. Reinforcements are certainly on the way with Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain, and Randy Gregory coming back soon. They've done a good job by getting pressure up the middle and the linebackers have soared in these games. Sean Lee was certainly missed and he showed every bit of his value against the Eagles. The secondary has covered well in the last two games too. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both are growing more confident by the day and Tyler Patmon is just scrappy as ever. Playing extremely focused and opportunistic defense will keep the Cowboys in any game. They have to continue their efforts in getting takeaways and getting off the field in three downs. If the defense can continue to set up the offense in good position, then the train will stay on track awaiting the return of their offensive firepower. Rod Marinelli will do his best to make sure that his defense is not the reason for losses any longer. The way they've played in only two weeks of football has to inspire you that they can continue to trend upward.

If Dallas can do all of the above, they will be in position to win any game. They have a two game cushion as we speak, if they can rattle off a few more wins in the interim, then expect for Romo and Dez to do the rest once they return. The Cowboys are certainly not giving up on winning now, as fans, we shouldn't either.


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