Well, we got to see what this Dallas Cowboys offense would look like without starting quarterback Dak Prescott leading them, needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. Not all of the blame should be laid at the feet of back up Andy Dalton either, it was also the play of the patchwork offensive line and running backs that sank this team. The Cowboys struggles up front against the Arizona Cardinals minus their best pass rusher led to this rout.
With that said, let’s grade the Cowboys game this week.
The overall play of this football team was hard to watch on both sides of the football. From the offensive lines failure to give Dalton time in the pocket, to finding open receivers, to running back Ezekiel Elliott fumbling twice on back-to-back drives. On the defensive side of the football allowing the Cardinals to score 38 points with the quarterback only completing nine passes the entire game. Both sides of the football were outplayed after the first two possessions for each team.
Injuries aside, this is not a good football team and this game also showed how much the Cowboys actually need Dak Prescott. Jerry’s going to be backing up a truck full of money to his house this offseason.
The coaching at this point isn’t helping with the players executing on the field. The defense under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is constantly getting caught out of position allowing teams to beat this team every week with deep passes. Nolan’s failure to simplify the defense is just making things harder, especially with an offense that seems to want to give the opposing team the ball each week.
On the offensive side of the ball, Kellen Moore is dealing with the loss of a starting quarterback, both starting tackles, and starting tight end. Then you have your starting running back who can’t stop fumbling. Moore tried to make things easy for Dalton but until they figure out the offensive line nothing is going to work for them.
Lastly, you have a special teams unit that is just unable to flip the field in the Cowboys favor in any game so far this season. Yet they still have failed to make a change at kick returned.
As much as there is an impulse to cut Andy Dalton a break in this game, you can’t just for the simple fact that he knew this was a make shift offensive line and he still held on to the football in a collapsing pocket instead of getting rid of the ball. Maybe it’s in-game rust that he needs to shake off, at least that’s the hope. But if this was a sign of things to come - 266 yards passing, one touchdown, and two interceptions - then expect a high draft pick next season for the Cowboys.
Running Backs: F
This game really is on Ezekiel Elliott who once again put the ball on the ground giving the opposing team great field position. He’s now the focal point of this offense and players are looking to him to lead this offense with Prescott lost for the season. Elliott can’t keep making these mistake and must put this team on his back and carry the load if the Cowboys want to have any success this season.
Wide Receivers: C
Talk about night and day for an offensive group that has been torching defenses all season. There can only be one reason for this drop off and that’s the play of the offensive line and the quarterback. It’s also hard for receivers to get open when you have safeties and cornerbacks holding you and nothing is called. But you can’t overlook the glaring fact of Michael Gallup dropping a would be touchdown at a crucial moment in the game.
Tight Ends: B
One of two bright spots in the game was the fact that Dalton Schultz continued to be a factor in the football game and is becoming a nice weapon for the Cowboys. If he can keep this up the Cowboys could have two very good tight ends that can threaten defenses. The only aspect of his game he needs to continue working on now is his blocking in the running game.
Offensive Line: F
This is a next-man-up league, and with all of the injuries to this offensive line these backups should know what they are in for and be working to get better. That didn’t seem to be the case here, like when you see an offensive tackle not even get out of his stance when the ball is snapped allowing a defender to have a clean shot and almost get a safety. This team is going nowhere until this offensive line can get some type of continuity.
Also, let’s hope that Zack Martin doesn’t miss anytime or things are going to a lot worse for this offense.
Defensive Line: D
They started off strong shutting down the Cardinals on their first two drives but when your offense keeps giving the opposing team the football, it’s going to wear a defense down physically and mentally. Once that happened and the defensive line continued to see quarterback Kyler Murray easily running past them, they seemingly lost the will to play. The only way this Cowboys defense will have any success is if someone can light a fire under this defensive line and get them playing with heart and effort again.
The return of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was a good thing for the Cowboys as he saw his first action since his injury in week one. But that’s all you can really say about this linebacking corps after that. Once again, another offense was able to run all over the Cowboys and once again we saw linebackers unable to get off blocks and make plays.
Also, how bad to the Cowboys look for giving Jaylon Smith that contract now?
There were two bright spots for the Cowboys in this game, Schultz and the play of Trevon Diggs when covering DeAndre Hopkins. Until the pick play that sprung Hopkins, Diggs kept him in check all game. Now, as for the rest of the secondary, they gave up big plays in a passing game with only nine completions. They weren’t the cause for most of the imcompletions either, it was more Murray being inaccurate than the play of the secondary outside of Diggs.
This was an all around loss by the entire football team. From the coaching staff down to the players. They are really going to have to do some soul searching these next few days and weeks to figure out if they are going to try to right the ship or tank if they believe the season is lost.