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Cowboys news: The Cowboys offense is the narrative, and the narrative ain’t good

And the ongoing Randy Gregory saga

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

What we learned from Sunday's Week 1 games - Staff, NFL.com
The folks at NFL.com came to the same conclusions most of us did regarding the Cowboys' offensive performance Sunday.

Cowboys fans entering the season worried about the offense sans Dez Bryant and Jason Witten were likely pulling their hair out in the first half. Elliott was held to 2.5 yards per carry on seven totes through two quarters. Self-inflicted wounds constantly put the Cowboys in negative situations, including several holding calls. Rookie guard Connor Williams was pushed back into Prescott's lap multiple times, and the o-line sorely missed Travis Frederick. Fittingly, the game ended when Mario Addison destroyed his blocker and pulled down Prescott for a sack fumble. With Zeke slowed for all but a few drives (69 yards on 15 attempts, one TD), the lack of playmaking receivers stymied the Cowboys. Prescott had few open targets, when he had time to throw, and missed too many passes when receivers were available. The QB was off-target all game, tossing balls in the dirt, short-arming throws, and never got into a rhythm. Get ready for another week of consternation in Dallas.

The Winners and Losers From NFL Week 1 - Rodger Sherman, The Ringer
Brett Maher's first attempt at shedding the "guy who isn't Dan Bailey" label didn't go so well.

The Cowboys made one of the more surprising cuts of the NFL preseason when they decided to release kicker Dan Bailey, the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history. They cut him in favor of Brett Maher, who graduated from Nebraska in 2013 and has failed to make a roster in each of the five seasons since. He did play in the CFL, making last year’s CFL East All-Star team … as a punter. Last year, he tried to make the Browns but got cut in favor of Zane Gonzalez, who was 29th in the league in accuracy.

Maher made his NFL debut Sunday. He got to attempt one field goal. He missed it. Bailey had declined in recent years, and Maher’s field goal was a 47-yarder, which isn’t exactly a chip shot.

But Maher’s Cowboys career will be an attempt not to be thought of as The Guy Who Isn’t Dan Bailey. He’s also missing on that attempt.

Charting Prescott’s accuracy, Linehan 1st-half pass-play calls - K.D. Drummond, CowboysWire
Our friend K.D. charted the team’s first half passing game and provides his conclusions.

Prior to the first sack, Prescott completed 5 of 6 throws. After, only two of 6 throws where were the ball was intended. We spoke in the offseason about how Prescott was seeing ghosts after the Atlanta Falcons game and it appeared to be the case in the season opener, at least through the first half. As soon as left tackle Tyron Smith had to hold in order to keep Prescott clean, his accuracy started to take a nose dive.

The Cowboys actually went 5-wide with Elliott off the field and felt that Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim were better options than Tavon Austin and another of their six wide receivers. This happened on their most manageable third-down situation of the half, 3rd and 7.

Rookie Michael Gallup only had two first-half targets, but both were successful plays. One drew a defensive holding call, the other was a nine-yard completion.

No Excuses From Prescott, Sputtering Offense - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

Phillips also breaks down the performance of the offense in the team’s debut.

The offense punted on all five possessions in the first half and went 0-of-5 on third down. Due to a combination of penalties, sacks and minus plays, Prescott faced third-and-26, third-and-12, third-and-10, third-and-11, third-and-7.

Not exactly ideal down and distance. Carolina took a 10-0 halftime lead and never trailed in the game, even though Dallas made things interesting in the fourth quarter by making it a one-score game with an Elliott touchdown and a Prescott two-point conversion.

"Anytime you're in third and long, you can look across the league -- the statistics show that it is hard to convert,” receiver Allen Hurns said. “The main thing for us is we've got to get into third and manageable."

Said Elliott: "We put our defense in a bad situation. We got them on the field too long. We couldn't get first downs. We couldn’t keep our drives going."

Scout’s Notebook: The Good, Bad & Ugly In Carolina - Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
The Broad One gives us his scout's eyes notes on Sunday's loss.

I said this in out post game show: I am looking forward to studying the tape and figuring out if Dak Prescott was holding the ball because his receivers were not separating -- or was Prescott just not seeing the field as well as he needed to? There were some throws that he just flat missed, where guys were open but he just couldn’t get it to them. I was also surprised that Scott Linehan didn’t take a shot down the field against rookie Donte Jackson, who has a history of not playing double moves well. If you remember, Jackson drew an interference call later in the game for being too aggressive. Maybe Prescott didn’t have an enough time, but there should have been a shot or two.

This wasn’t one of Sean Lee’s best games and I guarantee when he sat down in his seat on the flight home after studying the tape, he’d be the first to admit it. Lee is to the Cowboys what Kuechly is to the Panthers -- two players that are big-time run/hit linebackers. You notice them play after play, and in this game what you noticed was Kuechly making more tackles. Lee wasn’t his normal self when it came to reading the scheme and finishing the plays. It appeared that he was fooled a couple of different snaps with the ball handling from Cam Newton and he didn’t make those open field, wrap-up tackles that we’ve all grown accustomed to. The silver lining here is that even though Lee didn’t play his best, his teammates did and you can’t always say that.

Spagnola: Bad Wherever You Watched It From - Mickey Spagnola, DallasCowboys.com

Sunday was the first Cowboys’ game Spagnola failed to attend in person since 1989. Nevertheless, he provides his thoughts.

The Cowboys acted as if they hadn’t played a real football game in three weeks.

Come to think of it, they hadn’t, and it showed, as it seemingly did for many a team in the NFL this opening weekend. I mean, I thought that Philly-Atlanta opener was putrid football. Then I watched all that Giants-Jaguars game. Awful.

But this one, my gosh, took the cake. Did not expect such offensive ineptitude. Just 232 yards of total offense. Zeke, just 69 yards rushing. Dak sacked six times. Just two third-down conversions, the first with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Now look, I’ll concede this Panthers defense is pretty darn good, especially their front seven. And we knew not having Frederick out there could have catastrophic ramifications, not that Joe Looney couldn’t do an average job backing up, but just not having him there to help out Williams.

But a lot of this misery was self-inflicted.

Who would have thought Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith would have two penalties called on him the first two series, a block in the back and an iffy hold, both costing the Cowboys 10 yards. Then there were the sacks in the third and fourth series. So if you add up those losses, the Cowboys were facing a third-and-26, a second-and-17, a second-and-17 and a third-and-11 over the first four series of the game.

Hard to climb out of those holes.

Offense picks up where it left off in 2017 – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Sturm gives his usual deep dive into Sunday's disappointing loss and doesn't like what he finds.

Right now, the Cowboys look like they are running a sub-standard scheme with a sub-standard QB, sub-standard targets downfield, and possibly an offensive line that is closer to average than anyone thought possible. At the same time, we have been through one week — and the list of teams that put together big days in Carolina recently is pretty short.

Everyone needs to keep their composure and not jump off a cliff after a game which would have been a tough battle to win regardless. The Cowboys did fight their tails off and competed at a much higher level than that Denver debacle from last season. I know that is a low bar, but the point is that the knee-jerking after Week 1 in this league is off the charts. Getting through 6% of the schedule means 94% remains.

That said, I have this belief that the Cowboys made a major mistake by failing to look at the offensive revivals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, then examining their own stale way of moving the ball with disappointment. How this team’s architects managed to outlast so many of the players is a real question I cannot offer answers for.

This coaching staff should be on thin ice. Being compared to Marvin Lewis is not a compliment. And what we saw yesterday allowed Dez Bryant to sit back and tweet with delight as he felt vindicated. Unfortunately, Mr. Bryant has very little substance to his case other than “he wasn’t the only problem,” which nobody ever suggested in the first place. He was part of a stale, predictable offense in a league where some schemes can make average QBs look very good.

Brian Baldinger breaks down the gamefilm from the Cowboys’ offensive performance, with a focus on Dak Prescott. His conclusion, “what a terrible performance”.

The Cowboys don’t know what’s going on with Randy Gregory. Here’s why. – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic

The mystery around Randy Gregory rolls on.

One source said the Cowboys offered to help Gregory like they have with other players who endured substance- or behavior-related problems, but were rejected by his representatives.

Steve Weinberg, Gregory’s agent, told The Athletic nobody from the organization has approached him with any concerns about Gregory.

Yet, there are whispers Gregory might get suspended by the league regarding a failed drug test in training camp. Weinberg told The Athletic he couldn’t confirm or deny anything about a failed drug test and a Cowboys source also said they didn’t know anything about it.

That source said the league would normally give the Cowboys a heads-up regarding a failed test at least a day before it would be announced. Another source said Gregory’s team should inform the Cowboys if something is wrong.

And it’s not happening.

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