The story of last year’s Cowboys team was Dak Prescott leading an explosive offense that ultimately failed to win consistently, and so far it’s been a similar tune in 2020. However, Prescott believes this year’s offense is even better, and the numbers certainly back it up.
Through three weeks, the Cowboys offense has been a divebombing juggernaut, with Prescott dissecting poor pass defenses. Dallas is the only team with three players in the top 20 in the NFL in receiving yards in 2020: Amari Cooper: 267 rec yards (8th in NFL); Michael Gallup: 246 rec yards (13th in NFL); CeeDee Lamb: 230 rec yards (T-16th in NFL).
Prescott’s 1,188 pass yards this season leads the NFL. He is the first player since at least 1950 with 1,000-plus passing yards, 5-plus pass TDs and 3-plus rush TDs through his team’s first three games.
After missing the first three weeks of practice with a neck injury, All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith took a promising step toward returning on Thursday when he was upgraded to “limited” participation in practice on Thursday.
McCarthy was asked about the difference between the “limited” and “did not participate” categories on the team’s practice reports, and he confessed he wasn’t sure of the difference. He did clarify, though, that despite the “did not participate” designation, Smith did follow through with their game plan for his workload.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s limited or where the threshold is for that,” McCarthy said. “I just know based on the plan with trainers and coaches, the plan yesterday was for him to go through the individual segment of practice and we accomplished that.”
If he’s able to work through practice without problems, Smith’s availability is obviously a big deal for a beleaguered Cowboys offensive line. Smith has missed the last two games with these stinger problems, and La’el Collins has been on injured reserve since the start of the season. The loss of both starting tackles has led to a lot of mixing and matching, compounded by the inexperience of replacements Brandon Knight and Terence Steele.
If Tyron Smith can play vs. Browns, Cowboys have another decision to make on offensive line - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys have had to make do with two backup offensive tackles as their starters with both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins out, and while it’s not been perfect, Brandon Knight and Terence Steele have been solid enough to spark debate about which one should play at right tackle if/when Smith returns.
After Brandon Knight filled in admirably for Smith, the team could flip him to right tackle in favor of undrafted rookie Terence Steele. The latter missed much of last week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks with an illness, and like for Steele, right tackle is Knight’s natural position.
“That’s a good question,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday morning before practice. “We’ll take the week to figure that out, but you know, I think both those guys have hit the mark as far as getting it done with their opportunities. I think we all have to be realistic and practical. We’ve got Tyron coming back off his situation.
“We’ll see how he practices. With that, last week we worked two combinations mainly. This week, we’ll probably work three.”
DeMarcus Lawrence was hobbled in the game against the Falcons but played against the Seahawks. On Thursday, he missed practice again, although coaches insisted there’s no worry about his status for Sunday.
“The main thing we found out (before making a financial) commitment on him, is that heart inside him,’’ Jones said. “You’re talking about a guy that will give you everything he’s got, and he’ll give it all day long.’’
Lawrence’s knee issue, however, isn’t allowing him to “give it’’ on assorted Wednesdays and Thursdays, including during practices here at The Star in Frisco this week. The knee problem hasn’t been severe enough to prevent him from contributing on Sundays, however, and it appears that is the plan again this week with the 2-1 Cleveland Browns coming to town.
“I don’t think he’s in jeopardy,’’ Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. “I anticipate him to kind of go through the week like he did last week.’’
And indeed, the standout defensive end, who was tagged twice by Dallas before last year signing a $20-million-per-year contract, is listed as a DNP on the Thursday practice injury report. (Tyron Smith was upgraded to “limited’’ as he deals with a neck problem, and Trevon Diggs was downgraded to the same status with a sore shoulder.)
Pete Prisco’s NFL Week 4 odds, picks: Cowboys rout Browns, Chiefs roll past Patriots, 49ers edge Eagles - Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
The Cowboys have looked anything but contenders through three weeks, so there’s a lot of uncertainty of how they’ll fare against the 2-1 Browns this week. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports seems to be expecting a big day from Dallas, despite his reservations.
The Cowboys are back home, but they better hope their defense shows up. It’s been awful. The Browns can run the ball, which could be a problem. Even so, look for Dak Prescott to get the Cowboys another home victory.
Pick: Cowboys 35, Browns 23
Cowboys defense expecting Browns to lean heavily on physical rushing attack - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
Baker Mayfield may be the most identifiable face on the Browns offense, but the former first overall draft pick certainly isn’t the straw that stirs the drink for Cleveland. That would be running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and Dallas expects them to continue to lean heavily on their running game heading into Sunday’s battle.
Dallas should have its most physical game on defense to date. Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt form a strong duo, having combined for 90 carries, 496 yards and five touchdowns in three games.
“Physical, dominant, hard-nosed,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said on Thursday. “They don’t care who they’re playing. They’re going to run the ball, and that’s their mentality. So, going into this game we know what we’re up against and we’re looking forward to grinding.”
The Cowboys made some wholesale changes on defense, abandoning their simplistic scheme for a more complex, multiple look. However, the defense is still getting burned left and right, a point of much frustration for many fans who hoped for a step in the right direction this year.
The organization also made some notable offseason additions to their defense. The team signed two former Pro Bowl defensive ends in Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith. They also used their second-round draft pick to nab a promising cornerback out of Alabama, Trevon Diggs.
Despite all of these changes, the team has still struggled to force turnovers. Through the first three games of the season, the team has only forced two turnovers. Although the defense has certainly had its hands full with its opponents thus far the inability to take away the football remains one of the team’s most intractable problems.
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