Folks, there ain’t enough lipstick for this particular pig. This, for many, is the worst edition of the Dallas Cowboys they have ever seen. In the history of the franchise, only the inaugural 1960 season, when they went 0-11-1, really jumps out to be in the conversation with this year’s edition for worst ever. It is a team that is not just showing real signs it could be the worst team in the worst division in the league. It is not merely in the thick of the race for the number one draft pick. It is threatening to set league records for ineptitude. That is as good a place as any to start this look at some damning numbers from the loss to the Washington Football Team and the season to date.
The record for most points allowed per game is clearly within grasp
And, yeah, that’s not a good thing. The Cowboys currently have yielded 34.7 points per game. The NFL record at the moment is held by the 1966 New York Giants, who gave up 35.8. Dallas was actually on track to be stuck with that dishonor before they “only” gave up 25 to the Football Team.
Of course, they fell off the pace largely because they were facing one of the worst offenses in the league. Even after their best offensive performance of the year, Washington is still the NFL’s third worst team at scoring points, and gaining yards. The only teams that rank lower are the New York Jets and Giants. The Cowboys will face the Giants again - but every other team they face the rest of the year is more potent.
Worse, they will probably play way above their normal level against the Dallas tissue paper defense.
Dallas is getting run over
The entire defense is miserable, but it is against the run that the Cowboys are at their absolute worst. And the league’s, since they are dead last in yards given up against the run. Other teams average 178.3 yards a game against them - and the trend is not positive. Against the Giants, who have nearly as many woes as Dallas, they only gave up 89. But otherwise, they have offered only token resistance to the ground game. In week 4, they were hammered for 307 yards. The Arizona Cardinals slammed them for 261, and the Team racked up 208.
What is absolutely amazing is that, in this era of passing, all three of those winning teams had more yards on the ground than through the air. Of course, when you are having such uninterrupted success running the ball, why put it up? Oh, you may want to occasionally totally embarrass some defensive back with a long bomb just to remind everyone you can throw, but in general you are safer just handing the ball off, knowing that the odds are in your favor that you are far less likely to fumble than the Cowboys. Of course, you are also far less likely to be intercepted while passing against Dallas . . .
Yeah, we’re gonna moan about turnovers for a while
Some wit made the comment after the game that at least Ezekiel Elliott didn’t fumble the ball. Actually, the Cowboys were not charged with a lost fumble, although the quarterbacks put the ball on the ground three times during the game. It was recovered by a teammate in each instance.
Of course, one of those was Dalton Schultz falling on the Andy Dalton fumble that got into the end zone. He tried to get up and advance it past the goal line, but since he was unsuccessful, it turned into a safety. And then Kyle Allen marched his team right down the field for a touchdown after the short kickoff after the safety set Washington up at their own 37. So even though that doesn’t show up in the turnover stats, it was at least as damaging.
Meanwhile, there was the interception that killed the drive just before halftime, and really ended any hopes the Cowboys had of climbing back into the game. Since Dallas continued with its aversion to forcing fumbles or getting interceptions, the team is now -13 in turnover margin for the season. With nine games left to suffer through.
It was over by halftime
Yes, the Football Team had a total of 25 points, but let’s be honest. If the Cowboys had mounted any real attempt at a comeback in the second half, there is every reason to think that the home team could have come up with more than the lone field goal they added. With 22 points and 252 yards of offense, they had almost a full game’s worth of work done by the intermission. And it was as balanced an effort as you’ll ever see, with 125 yards on the ground and 127 via the air.
Simply put, a team that has shown little in the first six games to indicate that they have an effective offense just dominated the Cowboys in the first half. Then they put their seat back and just cruised to victory. When the only truly notable moment of the final 30 minutes of football is a totally cheap shot that is completely unavenged by the rest of the team, well, the technical term for your performance is “it sucks.”
This is a team in total and complete disarray, if not full meltdown. The offense is a shell of what it was supposed to be due to injuries that just keep coming. Realistically, there is not be much that can be done to improve things when you are on your third-string rookie QB from a FCS school behind an offensive line that is hoping to get Zack Martin back so they have two of the season’s planned starters on the field.
But defense is another matter. They have had injuries, but truly not much more than average. What we have seen is a massively underwhelming disappointment.
We could see some shakeup on the coaching staff. But so far, we just hear the same old platitudes about having faith in Mike Nolan and his assistants. What has surfaced are some rumors about trading away a player.
Finding some trade/cut candidates to shake up the defense
The target of those rumors is Everson Griffen. The team got Randy Gregory back, but he only saw the field for six plays after his long suspension. What is interesting is the snap count percentages of the defensive ends (as denoted by the official NFL stats.)
DeMarcus Lawrence - 62%
Aldon Smith - 61%
Griffen - 57%
Dorance Armstrong - 38%
Tyrone Crawford - 22%
Gregory - 9%
Bradlee Anae - Inactive
There is certainly a “progress stopper” argument to be made about Griffen. While he has contributed two and half sacks, he has not generally been a big factor in the run defense - which is where the team is truly hurting. Parting ways with him, even for a late-round pick, has some merit.
There are a couple of other candidates. Darly Worley has only had one pass breakup and 14 tackles. With Chidobe Awuzie getting closer to returning, Worley could be in line for departure. And a stronger case can be made for Dontari Poe. He saw fewer snaps than either Justin Hamilton or Neville Gallimore. His main role this year was supposed to be shoring up the run defense on early downs, and that has been a pretty abject failure. The team may have to rely more on Crawford playing inside, or maybe get creative with Gregory and the other ends, but it would be easy to see Poe moving on.
That may just be fiddling around the edges, to be honest, but something needs to be done beyond complaining about how the team is responding. Yes, that is a shot at Mike McCarthy. While dealing with a restive locker room by getting rid of a few players might seem counterintuitive, it could also show the team that the coaches are serious, and if it leads to some better results, it might just get attitudes to come around.
But one thing is just blindingly obvious. The numbers all show that this team is on a fast road to the bottom of the league. While high draft picks are nice, the cost of getting them is always painful. This season looks to be beyond salvaging. Now would be a good time to get a jump on clearing some deadwood.