These days, putting together the top news stories about the Cowboys is just a lot of fun. Enjoy!
Everyone is starting to take notice of what the Cowboys have in Dak Prescott, but the question remains: Why is he doing so well? Here is one explanation.
His head coach, Jason Garrett, told me in a quiet moment on Sunday afternoon: "This young man is a really good student. It's all natural. You tell him something one day and he has it down the next day. And some of that is because the night in between, he has studied the heck out of it and figures it out. There is not a whole lot of repeating with him. It really goes back to how he handles his business.
"It's to the credit of the player. You get quarterbacks who think too much and struggle and you get quarterbacks who aren't detailed enough and struggle. He's got the right blend. And what we are asking him to do is play the way we want to play, with this offensive line controlling things. It's the perfect blend."
This is one article you really need to follow the link and read. The synergy with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott is major.
The Cowboys' strong running game has made life easy on the rest of the team: Dallas ranks second in the NFL in time of possession, and the defense is facing just 9.6 drives per game, the fewest in the NFL. That makes life simple for the rookie quarterback, too. Dak Prescott has attempted just 34 passes while trailing in the second half of games this year, and none when trailing by more than four points.
It helps things when the defense can't predict what the play will be from the formation/personnel group.
So how is Dallas, beyond its stellar offensive line, helping Elliott eat up so many yards? Well, against Cincinnati, personnel groupings and formation strength didn't exactly help tip whether Elliott was due for a carry. Of his 15 carries, seven came in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two receivers), and seven came in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers), according to Next Gen Stats. On his touchdown runs, one was a run up the middle in a formation with a strength to the left. The other was a 60-yard scamper off the right guard, coming out of a balanced formation.
The Cowboys rank 11th in points, eighth in yards, and second in first downs per game. A lot of the credit should go to the players executing their responsibilities, but some has to go to Linehan for calling the correct plays. It was expected that Dallas had to score a ton of points to win games because of their porous defense and so far they have succeeded despite the injuries to key players.
In his weekly Decoding Marinelli post, Bob Sturm points out the value of a lead to the defense. This is why the fast starts with Prescott are so big.
But, there is correlation between that game situation for a defense. Across the NFL, when a defense is ahead by 4+ points, the interception rate shoots up off the graph and the sack rate compounds over and over again. In other words, defenses that are ahead do more of the fun things we all want to see.
Lately, teams like the Denver Broncos have been riding a dominant defense to success. The Cowboys have taken a different approach, and it is working so far.
The Cowboys' lack of resources and attention paid the defense coming to the season was a huge concern for many, and in certain ways still is. There's certainly no harm in, or reason why a team can't have both a strong offense and defense, but in the early part of 2016, the Cowboys haven't needed a stout defense. The offense has been that good. And even though the pass rush has been almost non-existent, the defense as a whole has flashed at times, proving it can at least be competent-so much so, that if it can be even league average, Dallas has enough firepower to be true NFC contenders this season.
For Tony Romo, being ready to play is about a lot more than just having the fracture in his back healed.
"Oftentimes you say, ‘OK, the injury is healed,' but there's a lot of other things that take place in getting a guy ready to play football in the NFL," coach Jason Garrett said. "In his case, it's conditioning, just like it was for DeMarcus Lawrence and other guys who haven't played and then it's working his core to get himself strong. That's been a big part of his regimen the last few years after the back surgery, so he has to be able to get back and do that on a consistent basis."
So many really want a big furor over the Tony Romo versus Dak Prescott situation. But everyone on the team or in the organization keeps telling us it just doesn't exist.
"Nobody's worried about that stuff,'' Dez Bryant told me on Wednesday when I asked him about what many fans and media think is or should be a "Tony Romo vs. Dak Prescott'' angle. "You can't control what's going on outside of this building. Everybody wants to say crazy stuff. But you're not hearing that from coach (Jason) Garrett or from Mr. (Jerry) Jones or from people in this building. (Therefore) it doesn't matter.''
But the "good quarterback controversy" is not going to go away anytime soon in Dallas. Brian Billick offers this reasoning for why Tony Romo should get the starting job back when he is ready.
The Cowboys could stick with Prescott and probably win the NFC East. But to get beyond that -- to outduel the Vikings or Seahawks in the playoffs -- they need to be something more than a strong running team with an above-average defense. They'll need the explosiveness that Romo, when healthy (and when possessing a full complement of weapons), gives them.
The health of NFL teams tends to decline as the season progresses, but Dallas seems to be bucking that trend.
As a whole, it seems like the Cowboys are returning to good health after a rash of injuries in the past few weeks. Lance Dunbar, Orlando Scandrick, Chaz Green and David Irving sat out of Wednesday's practice with various injuries. Tony Romo also sat out, as has been the case all season.
David Moore notes that there are plenty of other players besides the dynamic rookie duo that are making major contributions this season.
Zack Martin has been dominant once again in the offensive line. Ronald Leary has been outstanding since taking over for La'el Collins at left guard. Don't know that you can say Cole Beasley has been overlooked, but he's been impressive.
On the defensive side of the ball Terrell McClain has been a stalwart at tackle. He's been the team's best player in the defensive line. Linebacker Sean Lee and safety Byron Jones haven't come up with any turnovers, but they have been all over the field and are playing at a high level.
When even the players you love to hate on like Terrance Williams are stepping up, you know the season is going well.
He's on pace to finish with 755 yards this regular season, the second most in his career and without having a single target in Week 2. He's also averaging 14.8 yards per catch and that's without having the deep threat QB of Tony Romo behind center. While rookie Dak Prescott is masterful with underneath throws, Williams is primarily a vertical threat but has adapted to Prescott successfully.
The Cowboys have not been doing the greatest job with their later round picks, but in recent years, they have been lights out on day one of the draft.
The Cowboys are receiving major contributions from their last six first-round picks: Tyron Smith (2011), Morris Claiborne (2012), Travis Frederick (2013), Zack Martin (2014), Byron Jones (2015) and Ezekiel Elliott (2016).
The general consensus is that the secondary is the best part of the Cowboys' defense this year. And there are good reasons.
Through the first five weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys have faced some of the NFL's better wide receivers -- Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins, Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. Quibble with the quarterback play of Washington and Chicago, but the Cowboys did not allow more than five catches or more than 70 yards to those aforementioned receivers. Jeremy Kerley of the San Francisco 49ers has had the biggest day for a receiver against the Cowboys, with six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
The game this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers is seen as the biggest challenge of the season to date, but the Cowboys may be catching them when Aaron Rodgers makes them vulnerable.
The Cowboys might not recognize Rodgers as the same quarterback who beat them by three touchdowns last season. On that day, Rodgers was his usual efficient self. He completed 63 percent of his passes, threw a pair of touchdowns without an interception and posted a 99.5 passer rating. This Rodgers is coming off a game in which he barely completed 50 percent of his passes (23-of-45), threw two interceptions and finished with a 65.0 rating in Sunday's win over the Giants. Rodgers ranks last among qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage this season (56.1 percent).