It’s safe to say 2020 has gotten off to a horrendous start for the Dallas Cowboys. On top of holding a 1-3 record, the team just received news yesterday that All-Pro left tackle, Tyron Smith, will miss the remainder of the season with a neck injury.
Dallas is in desperate need of something to get them going in the right direction. Luckily for them, they get to matchup with an 0-4 division rival, the New York Giants, this Sunday. The Cowboys and Giants rivalry has really not been much of a contest in recent memory. The Cowboys have won six straight games against the Giants, and are 11-3 against the G-Men since 2013.
This has an excellent chance to be a get-right game for the Cowboys, but with what we’ve seen out of their defense so far, there’s a real chance this could be a close game.
Before the Cowboys and Giants square off on Sunday, we’re debuting a new weekly segment. We’ll detail one thing we know, one we think we know, and one thing we are about to find out. (This idea is based off a segment by host Derek Eagleton on the fantastic podcast, Cowboys Break. Give it a listen and show them some love here)
I know Dak Prescott should have a field day against the Giants defense
Through the first four weeks of the season, Dak Prescott is making history. Prescott leads the NFL with 1,690 passing yards, 364 more than second place Josh Allen. He’s on pace to break Peyton Manning’s single-season passing yards record of 5,477.
Last Sunday, Prescott became one of the three quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 500 passing yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort. Now obviously passing yards don’t mean everything, but the signal-caller has done much more than put up big-time stats.
Pro Football Focus has Prescott ranked as the eighth-highest rated quarterback in football, just .1 behind Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. He has a 102.6 passer rating and 76.1 QBR. By far the highest grades since his rookie year in 2016. He also has a 68.2% completion percentage, more than three percentage points higher than his 2019 mark.
This week, Prescott faces a Giants defense that will have no answers for he, or the Dallas’ weapons. Outside of cornerback James Bradberry, the Giants secondary has been very poor. Cornerbacks Julian Love, Logan Ryan, and Corey Ballentine all have PFF defensive grades on the season below 60. Opposing quarterbacks have a 154 passer rating when targeting Ballentine.
The Giants don’t have close to enough firepower on defense to slow down Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. If Dallas gets to line up Lamb and Gallup against Ryan/Love/Ballentine, they have to love their chances.
Dak Prescott has been playing like one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, despite having an inconsistent offensive line and struggling running game. This week, he should continue his early season tear against this Giants’ defense.
I don’t know if the Cowboys secondary can stop giving up big plays
Granted there have been injuries, but the Dallas secondary has been awful to start this season. PFF has Dallas ranked as the third-worst coverage team in all of football, and the individual player grades are just as poor. Jourdan Lewis has a defensive grade of 53, Daryl Worley has a grade of 57, and Darian Thompson and Trevon Diggs have a dreadful grade of 45.
Opposing quarterbacks have feasted when attacking the Dallas defensive backs. When targeting Lewis/Worley/Diggs, quarterbacks have an average passer rating of 123.6.
#DallasCowboys Daryl Worley gets punked at the line of scrimmage...#CLEvsDAL— Kevin Gray Jr. (@KevinGraySports) October 4, 2020
Watch Odell Beckham stare him down, stutter step get to the inside and Worley is slow off the line...why is Worley matched up one-on-one with Beckham anyway? #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/qDTOtB5b8C
The biggest problem the Cowboys are facing is how many big plays they are giving up. The defense has given up six yards per play, and has given up a touchdown of greater than 42 yards in each of the past three games.
Despite their poor performance overall as an offense, the Giants have gotten some decent play out of their receivers/tight ends. Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, and Damion Ratley all have all have receptions of over 30 yards this season. Slayton is averaging 15.7 yards per reception. Slayton, Engram, Golden Tate, and Ratley aren’t an awful group, but they are no contest to what the Cowboys have faced in the first four weeks.
Last week we saw Odell Beckham Jr. run by Daryl Worley and Jarvis Landry get by Jourdan Lewis far too many times. We shouldn’t see that again this week, but can you really trust the Cowboys secondary at this point? Anthony Brown coming back will certainly help, but it doesn’t matter who’s throwing the football if guys continue to run wide open. This week is a great chance for the Dallas secondary to finally show up in a big way, it’s up to them to do so.
We’re about to find out if the Cowboys pass rush can turn things around
There have been tons of disappointing things coming from the 1-3 start, but the lack of a pass rush may top the list. Besides Aldon Smith, the Cowboys virtually have gotten no pass rush from anyone else on the team.
Everson Griffen has one sack, DeMarcus Lawrence has failed to record a tackle for loss or a single sack this season, and Trysten Hill, Dontari Poe, and Antwaun Woods have not provided a consistent push in the middle.
This week, if they can’t get a consistent pass rush against this Giants offensive line, it will be hard not to consider them one of the worst units in football. PFF ranks the New York O-line as the third-worst pass blocking line in the entire NFL with a 48.9 pass rush grade. Rookie tackle Andrew Thomas has struggled, allowing three sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. As a team, New York has allowed 60 QB hurries and 14 sacks.
Andrew Thomas did not have an easy day pic.twitter.com/1Y0eO63kA2— Nicholas McGee (@nicholasmcgee24) October 1, 2020
Daniel Jones has shown if you put him under consistent pressure, he’ll turn the football over. There are no excuses for the Dallas pass rush this week. They have two former All-Pros on their side going against an offensive line that is clearly one of the worst in the NFL. I think the defensive line is much better than they have played, but if they can’t put up a solid effort this week, there will be big cause for concern.