It’s been a brutal season for this team in terms of injuries, but there are some areas that improving.
Vander Esch is arguably Dallas’ best defender, and his ability to remain on the field will be imperative if the Cowboys league-worst defense has any hopes of turning things around this season.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch is slated to return Monday vs. Cardinals. His first action since fracturing collarbone on Sept. 13 in first quarter of first game. LVE likely to be eased into action, source said. Could work mostly in passing situations, non-base personnel.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 17, 2020
A handful of other important Dallas defenders were full participants in practice, including DeMarcus Lawrence (knee), Trevon Diggs (knee), Tyrone Crawford (ankle), Dorance Armstrong (knee), and Everson Griffen, who missed Wednesday’s practice for something non-injury related. Tight end Blake Bell (knee) was the lone offensive player listed on the Cowboys’ injury report, but he was a full practice participant as well.
Jimmy Johnson says Andy Dalton will be ‘perfect fit’ in Dallas: 20 Cowboys notes - Jon Machota, The Athletic
Weekly game name notes heading into the matchup.
19. Cardinals game plan.
Eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson gave a pretty good breakdown of how the Cardinals plan to defend the Cowboys. “Stop the run,” the Cardinals defensive back said on his All Things Covered podcast this week. “We definitely got to stop the run and force, not saying he can’t do it, but we have to force Andy Dalton to beat us. We feel if you take the ball out of Ezekiel Elliott’s hands, there’s more opportunities for bad things to happen when the ball is in the air versus the ball getting carried. Andy Dalton is a very, very serviceable backup, quality backup. I saw a crazy stat, Andy has like 31,000 passing yards. Technically, he’s not a backup. He could be a starter in this league. He was a starter in this league. He’s got starter numbers. To have a starter as your backup, that’s huge.”
Cowboys’ special teams woes may be impacting the scoreboard more than you think - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys special teams has been especially atrocious this season. John Fassel offers up some explanations.
Through five games, the Cowboys have struggled in the kickoff return game. Their average starting position following an opposing kickoff is their own 23.4-yard line. That ranks fourth-worst in the NFL. Pollard dropped a Week 3 return against the Seattle Seahawks to give Dallas a starting field position of its own 1-yard line. A safety followed. In Week 4, Pollard misread a kickoff and fielded it late, forcing Dallas to open at its own 12-yard line.
Last Sunday, the Cowboys fielded two kickoffs in play. Off those, they started at their own 21- and 19-yard line.
“After we got those two, we kind of drew up something different on the sideline, and then we didn’t get another kick again,” Fassel said. “But good for me to be prepared for all types of different kicks: left kick, right kick, short kick, medium squibs. There’s a lot of possibilities to prepare for, and as I continue to evolve here with the guys and get to know them, we continue to schematically grow.
“So, that’s part of just five games into it, working on some of those very unique situations, kicks that we all got to have answers for. I’ll continue to provide them for the team. It’s taken a little while. It seems like we’ve hit with a lot of different stuff early, and hopefully, it will pay dividends in the next couple of months.”
The writing staff over at the Mothership tells us what’s in their gut for tomorrow’s game.
David Helman: You’re not crazy if you think the Cowboys can win this game. Even without Dak Prescott, this team is still plenty talented and still employs a plenty capable quarterback. I just can’t quite convince myself that it’s good enough. Not when you consider how much the Dallas defense has struggled this season, and not when you think about the problems that Kyler Murray might pose. It’s scary enough that Murray will be throwing to DeAndre Hopkins. But the former Allen High School quarterback obviously possesses a freaky athleticism all his own. The Cowboys have struggled with discipline and communication all season, and that’s problematic against a quarterback who is averaging 260 passing yards and another 60 rushing yards per game. I think Andy Dalton is going to play well — like, 300 yards and three touchdowns. I just think Murray is going to play better, and that’s the difference in a 31-27 Cardinals win.
Base camp for the Arizona Cardinals takes a look at the top storylines for the game.
Ezekiel Elliott, Difference-Maker
Without Prescott and with one of the best running backs in the league in Elliott, the Cowboys looking to lean on their star makes some sense. Elliott has 364 yards and five touchdowns this season, averaging 4.1 yards a carry, totals that are a little low given how much the Cowboys have played from behind. But even with Dalton’s experience – and talented wideouts — the Cowboys may just turn to their bellcow. It’s what Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph expects. The Cards have to be prepared for Dalton to wing it (he led the Bengals on a nice comeback in Cincinnati last year against the Cards before the Cards pulled it out) but Elliott does seem like priority No. 1.
Some picks for tomorrow’s game.
KD Drummond (0-5): Cardinals 42, Cowboys 35 Let the streak continue!
The Cardinals present one of the worst-case scenarios for the Cowboys this week in that Kyler Murray’s arm and pocket presence has caught up with his amazing scrambling and designed-run abilities. He is a whole problem for a defense that doesn’t get pressure, when it does get pressure is normally one-sided and can’t stop the run up the middle. Yikes. The Cowboys’ offense will need to start focusing on quick-hitting, yards-after-catch passing plays and lean on Elliott. The defense will have to hope LVE makes it through the game and can patrol the middle while Jaylon spies Murray. Tough ask.
Monday Night Football: Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys Prediction and Preview - Eric Sorenson, Athlon Sports
Three things to watch and a final score prediction.
This primetime matchup should be a great game to wrap up the sixth week of the season on Monday night. Both teams snapped two-game losing streaks last week but the Cowboys are somehow at the top of their division with a 2-3 record. It also doesn’t help when you consider that their two wins have come against two winless teams. And now they have to move on without Dak Prescott, their fearless leader. That’s not a good recipe for a successful season, even if it is in this screwball of a year known as 2020. Kyler Murray and his crazy legs will pull this one out in crunch time.
Prediction: Cardinals 24, Cowboys 20
More predictions and game previews.
Why Arizona Cardinals Will Win
Dallas won a football game again, but its defense is still totally miserable. It’s last in the NFL in points allowed, and it’s 0-3 when allowing more than 380 yards. The Arizona offense had a few problems when games got into a grind, but it has hit the 377-yard mark in four of the five games and is 3-0 when going over 400 yards. The Arizona Cardinals will come up with more than 400 yards.
Why Dallas Cowboys Will Win
With the loss of Dak Prescott, nothing is supposed to stop with the offense, but there will be adjustments. Expect the team to do what it should’ve been doing all along and running Ezekiel Elliott more. The Cowboys are 20th in the NFL in rushing attempts, and that’s about to change against an Arizona run defense that’s okay, but can be hit for well over 100 yards per game so far.
Arizona 37, Dallas 31
Here are five bold predictions for tomorrow.
1. Andy Dalton throws for 300 yards
One thing people are forgetting when counting the Cowboys out is that Andy Dalton is not a scrub. Before signing with Dallas, Dalton was linked to teams such as the New England Patriots as the potential starter. Of course, New England went in a different direction as they signed Cam Newton but the general consensus was that if he had gone to the Pats, they would have been able to remain contenders in the AFC. With Dalton going to the Cowboys, the narrative changed — as it often does.
Now, the belief is that he’s subpar and the offense will struggle without him. That’s completely false as Dalton is a two-time Pro Bowler who has twice topped the 4,000-yard mark passing. He also once threw 33 passes in a season and for his career has 31,705 yards with a 204-to-118 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s also a winner in his career with a record of 70-61-2 and while Week 5’s win goes on Dak Prescott’s record (further proof the QB win stat is flawed) he was integral to Dallas winning over New York.
With all that being said, the former TCU star should have no problem going into AT&T Stadium on Monday Night Football and playing well. He might not be the same athlete Dak Prescott is but he can get the ball out and put it in the hands of the Cowboys talented playmakers.
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