The Dallas Cowboys victory over the New York Giants on Sunday was anti-climatic to say the least. A close victory didn’t restore much confidence in the team, but even more so, they lost their star quarterback Dak Prescott.
There were a lot more positive things that showed up on tape this week as the defense even made some impact plays. Let’s check out what we discovered after further review.
This young offensive line continues to impress
There are a lot of things to be worried about with this Cowboys team, but the offensive line is trying to get off that list. The depth the team has is performing beyond expectations. It’s just amazing how the young trio of Brandon Knight (23), Terence Steele (23), and Tyler Biadasz (22) have held up this season.
Knight continues to impress. He exhibits quickness to position himself for the block and does a great job squaring up his body. Knight can maneuver quickly from one block to another sealing the running lane. He also moves well enough to get into the second level to engage, showing nice leverage to hold the block long enough for the ball carrier to pass through.
Steele can be a little slow sometimes in pass protection, which is something that will surface from time to time as quicker edge defenders get around him, but he’s been very effective as a run blocker. He has a lot of strength and will overpower defenders at the point of attack. On this play, he secures his block and leaves just enough space for Tony Pollard to power through, allowing just enough yards to keep the chains moving.
And let’s give a shout out to the rookie center Tyler Biadasz. It was impressive to see him pop into the second level so quickly. He doesn’t posses the strength to take out his blocker, but he gets to his spot and engages, and that obstructs the linebacker enough to where they can’t get a clean shot at the running back. It’s these little things that make all the difference.
It’s a thing of beauty when it all comes together. On Ezekiel Elliott’s second touchdown run, the blocking was outstanding. Both Knight and Connor Williams slide to their right to take on blockers, Steele and Zack Martin secure the right side, and Biadasz sneaks through to the second level. When the linebacker takes the wrong angle and cheat inside, he’s gets washed out of the play and Zeke just blazes by. And let’s give a special shout out to Michael Gallup who just throws himself into two defensive backs taking them out of the play.
Third down struggles on defense
It was nice to see the Cowboys defense make stops on Sunday as they regularly had success on early downs. However, the team had trouble getting off the field when they repeatedly gave up third-down conversions. And the frustrating part about it was these conversions weren’t of the third and short variety. Again and again, the defense allowed first downs on 3rd-and-6 or longer.
Whether it was a lapse in coverage assignment, getting crossed out in a rub route, or allowing Daniel Jones just enough time to find a hole in the secondary, the Cowboys defense just had issues closing the deal.
Jaylon showed up
Last week, we were critical of Jaylon Smith as he was essentially a non-factor in the Browns game, so it’s only fair to point out just how great he was against the Giants. Smith did a fantastic job shadowing Dion Lewis and making sure he didn’t get loose as a receiver. The Cowboys linebacker lurked in the weeds and as soon as Lewis released from the backfield, Smith was hot on his tail in pursuit. Smith was so fast to close that his arrival completely shut down Lewis in the passing game.
Solid relief effort from Andy Dalton
The front office did a nice job securing the services of a reliable backup QB, but on Sunday it was time to put that to the test. And sure, there were a couple moments when fans got a little worried with Dalton under center, but it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable. He did a nice job in the pocket setting his feet and delivered strikes to his receivers. His throws were right on the money, including the deep pass to Michael Gallup that set up the game winning field goal.
What was even more satisfying was how well he threw the ball on the run. This is a trademark of Prescott, and something that is so easy to take for granted, but Dak makes so many great throws on the run. Prescott’s ability to escape is essential in keeping this offense moving, so his ability to make plays out of the pocket is extremely valuable. It’s a small sample, but Dalton had a couple nice throws while rolling to his right and that’s a positive sign.
Smack of Lamb
Not only did CeeDee Lamb have a career high in targets, catches, and receiving yards, but can we talk about how well he did hanging on the ball despite being fired upon by the Giants defense. Not once, but twice Lamb held on to the ball despite personal foul penalties where the Giants were called for a hit on a defenseless receiver.
Throwing Dak open
We also need to take a moment to appreciate that pass from Cedrick Wilson to Prescott. Giants linebacker Kyler Fackwell (who had the interception touchdown return for the Giants) actually sniffs out the play and is on Dak’s tail. When Wilson releases the ball, Dak’s at the ten-yard line, but by the time he catches it, he’s at the one. If Wilson underthrows the ball in the slightest, there’s a good chance Fackwell breaks up the pass.