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The good, the bad, and the ugly from Andy Dalton’s debut as Cowboys QB

And the All-22 says... Shame!

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Andy Dalton era in Dallas is one game in, and the fanbase has seemingly had enough. After an absolutely embarrassing offensive performance from Dalton and the Cowboys offense, we turn to the All-22 to see if things were as bad as they seemed they were in the Cowboys 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.

It wasn’t all bad from Andy Dalton, as his supporting cast let him down in multiple instances, but on a snap-to-snap basis Dalton just wasn’t good enough to keep the game competitive for 60 minutes. That is something the Cowboys haven’t had to deal with from the quarterback position since 2015.

Let’s dive in.

The Good

Dalton did come through with some big throws on Monday Night, but they were few and far between. This was one of his best plays of the night where he delivers a dart to Michael Gallup on third down with a pocket collapsing around him. If the Cowboys want any hope of winning the NFC East and getting into the playoffs, they will need Dalton to make these tough, confident throws from inside the pocket to move the chains. The offensive line is extremely banged up so Dalton has to know he won’t have a ton of time and will need to stand in the pocket and take some hits in order to move the football down the field. He does a nice job of that here.

Another nice third down play from Dalton, but unfortunately his supporting cast lets him down. Dalton does a really nice job here on third and goal from the 16-yard line of finding Michael Gallup for a what should have been touchdown, but Gallup is unable to haul it in, and a what should have been touchdown drive ends up with a field goal instead. Dalton does a really nice job of stepping up in the pocket here to give himself a clean platform to throw from, something he didn’t do a consistently good enough job at throughout his week six performance. Ball placement here was good by leading Gallup away from the defenders in coverage. Gallup has to haul this in, and he’ll be the first one to tell you that.

The Bad

Unfortunately for Andy Dalton and the Dallas Cowboys, there was a lot more bad and ugly, than there was good from the Cowboys new starting quarterback. Let’s dive in and see what Dalton will need to improve on in order to save the Cowboys season.

The Cowboys offensive line is in bad shape, and it should be when you’re playing your ninth, tenth, and eleventh offensive lineman with Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Cam Erving, Zack Martin, and Joe Looney missing time due to injury. While the Cardinals are able to generate pressure here with only rushing three, Dalton has to be better inside the pocket of helping his depleted offensive line out. Dalton had a bad tendency of stopping his feet inside the pocket on Monday Night, which would allow the Cardinals pass rushers to rush up the arch and finish at the quarterback. Dalton has plenty of space here to step up in the pocket, and by himself more time to scan the field, and allow his wideouts to get open. With two backup tackles, Dalton has to be better with his pocket presence and mobility.

Dalton really struggled to read the field, and make smart decisions in the Cowboys 38-10 loss at home in week six. The Cowboys are right on the edge of field goal range here on third down, so Dalton has to realize that if the first down doesn’t present itself, that there has to be some sort of positive gain in order to give Greg Zuerlein a chance at a reasonably distanced field goal. Instead, Dalton opts to force a inaccurate football to Gallup for an incompletion. Dalton has multiple options here to pickup positive yardage, and even has CeeDee Lamb in the middle of the field with inside leverage that was a much better option than the decision he ended up making. When the offensive line gives Dalton time, and there’s a chance for points to be had, he has to take advantage of those opportunities.

Andy Dalton has issues holding onto the football for too long on many instances on Monday, but he also was far too quick to checkdown to underneath guys when he had time and receivers open down the field. Let it be known that playing quarterback in the NFL is extremely difficult, but there were just far too many inconsistencies in Dalton’s decision-making against the Cardinals. While getting the football out quickly isn’t necessarily a bad thing, staring down receivers, and not taking shots when given time, is. Gallup is wide open here at the top of the screen after dusting the cornerback off the snap, but Dalton has already made up his mind where he’s going with the football pre-snap. While this play in itself wasn’t necessarily a bad one, Dalton’s repeated struggles in this area led to a redzone interception later in the game.

Going back to a repeated theme in this post, when the offensive line and receivers did their job, Andy Dalton often failed to connect or make the right read. Here he makes the right read, but severely overthrows Gallup, who has Patrick Peterson beat for an easy touchdown. It was a rough day at the office for Dalton, but even this wasn’t the worst of plays from the veteran quarterback.

The Ugly

Great play call, great job from CeeDee Lamb creating big-time separation, but Dalton cannot pull the trigger, and there’s no real excuse for why. Lamb was as open as open gets in the NFL, and Dalton sees it and even loads up to throw to Lamb, but for some reason he pulls the ball back down. This allows the pressure to get on top of him and then tries to throw the football while getting hit, almost resulting in a pick-six. Can’t have these types of plays from a veteran quarterback, especially when everyone else involved executes.

Another example here of Dalton locking in on a receiver and forcing a ball into tight, double coverage. The disappointing thing here is Dalton doesn’t try and hold the middle safety in the middle of the field, which gives him only one read to make and that is Cedrick Wilson. Dalton, a 10-year veteran, has to do a better job of manipulating defenses with his eyes, and make movements in the pocket to help give his receivers better opportunities down the field when in man-coverage.

Icing on top of the cake here for Dalton and Cowboys where another pre-determined read results in a negative play for the offense. Dalton stairs it down from the start, and Budda Baker, one of the best safeties in the league, knows exactly what’s coming before Dalton even starts his delivery. Another play that a 10-year veteran can’t make if he wants to give his football team a chance for the remainder of the season.

It should be said that this was Dalton’s first week getting the ball. There is hope that with more snaps, and practice time, he will improve and build continuity with his supporting cast. There’s still hope for the 2020 season for the Dallas Cowboys, but Dalton will need to play better, much better, if they want a chance at the playoffs. Not turning the football over would be a great step in the right direction.

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