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Five things we’re thinking about the Dallas Cowboys

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What’s on the noggin as it pertains to the Dallas Cowboys?

The Cowboys have a huge matchup this week with one of the better NFL teams in the Kansas City Chiefs. What are some things we’re thinking about the Dallas Cowboys this week?

5. Could Cowboys have two Pro Bowl pass rushers?

One of the most shocking revelations this season has been the performance of the Cowboys’ defensive line. Dallas has 25 sacks on the year, ranking them fifth in sacks this season. They haven’t reached the Top-10 since 2011, which was also the last season two pass rushers made the Pro Bowl for the Cowboys. Dallas has a good chance to have that happen again this season with Demarcus Lawrence and David Irving.

Tank Lawrence has had at least a sack in all seven games this season and currently sits atop the NFL with 10.5 sacks on the year. David Irving has played three games this year but has five sacks already. It’s unlikely to happen but if Irving stays on that pace, he’ll catch Lawrence in no time at all. Speaking of pace, here is the pace for three of the Cowboys’ starting linemen:

Who knows how the rest of the season will shake out but we could very well have a new season sack record holder. Exciting days are ahead for this pass rush, just hope that the sack fever snags Taco Charlton soon enough.

4. Sean Lee makes everything better

It’s really insane to think about how much better this defense is with Sean Lee on the field. Anthony Hitchens has been very good too, but Lee is the defense’s quarterback. In fact, you could argue that he’s the most valuable player behind Dak Prescott:

In the last two games, the Cowboys are suddenly doing a better job of stopping the run, making it tougher on offenses to score, and getting takeaways in bunches. They will have an extremely daunting task this week against the Chiefs but you feel a lot better with 50 in there. He was extremely important to the Cowboys’ in their win over the Redskins, just ask Niles Paul:

The Chiefs rank near the top in all offensive production and it will be extremely important to tackle in this game. Sean Lee being out there is the same trickle-effect that the offense gets from Ezekiel Elliott. He just makes everything fall in line.

3. The Cowboys need a lot more from their wide receivers

The Cowboys’ passing offense is averaging less than 220 passing yards per game, which is 17th in the NFL. This offense is predicated on running the football and play-action but you can’t help but notice that the receivers have left more to be desired. Our very own O.C.C. penned an article about this:

“Passing Yards per Attempt (Y/A) is significantly down versus the last two playoff seasons. Through seven games in 2014, the Romo-enabled passing game had a 8.4 Y/A, two years later, rookie Dak Prescott led the Cowboys to 8.0 Y/A through seven games, but this year, the Cowboys are only averaging 6.9 Y/A, which ranks them T-18th in the league.”

It’s not like they’ve been absolutely putrid as they do have 14 passing touchdowns which is sixth in the league. They have a serious problem though in finding the big plays.

“Last year the Cowboys wide receivers had 25 such plays over the first seven games, this year they are down to 16. That drop in big plays is a big chunk of the difference between 6.7 and 8.7 yards per target.”

O.C.C. shows the significant drops in production from some important Cowboys’ players:

Cole Beasley's catch rate (rec/tgts) dropped from 80% over the first seven games last year to just 58% this year. And if that isn't bad enough, his yards per target dropped by nearly 50% to just 4.5 yards.

Terrance Williams has almost exactly the same number of targets and receptions as he did last year, but his yards per target also dropped significantly.

Dez Bryant meanwhile has seen an increase in targets and receptions, but a decrease in production, as his yards per target drop from 7.1 to 5.7.

In order for this team to improve on the big play, they may need to start by getting Brice Butler involved who ranks first in the NFL in the yards/target ratio. The guys above need to find ways to get separation and more importantly get open on deeper routes or Dak Prescott will be forced to keep it short and safe.

2. Thoughts on marquee matchup with the Chiefs?

Michael Sisemore- For starters, the Chiefs’ defense has not been really good at any one thing. The Cowboys have been the hottest offense over the last month. Dallas will have to stick to their way of winning football. That means a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott and controlling the clock. They want to limit the Chiefs’ offense the best way they can and that’s by not allowing them to take the field all that much.

Michael Strawn- I'll share this... I have a feeling Sunday's game is going to be a classic. High-scoring, late-afternoon, national televisions with big plays, comebacks, drama... everything Dallas is known to deliver a few times a year. Similar to the Pittsburgh game last year... a game that captures everyone's attention. Both teams have top-shelf offenses and neither team has a very good defense. I think the winner is going to have to score 38 points. Have no clue who that will be.

The Chiefs one weakness on offense is pass protection; they been vulnerable at times. Their running game also hasn't been as good as it was the first month.

Tom Ryle- My feeling is if the “Dallas Tank Corps” can get to Alex Smith, the Cowboys will win. And if the running game isn't taking pressure off the passing game, it could be a bunch of sacks. At least I hope so.

1. Associated Press says Cowboys’ offensive line is still the very best in the NFL

We’ve been through the various rankings that claim another team is vaulting the Cowboys’ offensive line but AP says Dallas is still the cream of the crop.

“Their offensive line led by former first-round picks and 2016 All-Pros Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick was voted the top line in the NFL by an Associated Press panel in balloting released Friday. Dallas received the most first-place votes with four from the 11-person panel, and 94 of a possible 110 points in voting done by Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton and 10 AP football writers.”

If you don’t want to take their word for it, you can hear it straight from the longtime Chiefs’ linebacker, Derrick Johnson: