When will Mike McCarthy start to look like a coaching upgrade for the Dallas Cowboys? - Tim Colishaw, Dallas Morning News
What is your grade on Mike McCarthy through three weeks?
Kevin Stefanski vs. Mike McCarthy. Now who ya got?
The Browns’ Stefanski, the former Minnesota quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, has the only winning record (2-1) among the five new head coaches in the league. New York’s beleaguered Joe Judge has the only 0-3 mark while McCarthy, Carolina’s Matt Rhule and Washington’s Ron Rivera are all 1-2. That might sound like McCarthy is off to a so-so start, but it’s worse than that when you consider why these coaches were hired.
Four took jobs on teams with at least back-to-back seasons of losing records. McCarthy inherited a club that won a playoff game in 2018 and went 8-8 last season despite owning a better point differential than seven of the 12 playoff teams. Jason Garrett’s final Dallas team led the league in offense but was sixth in points, suggesting the Cowboys weren’t getting complete bang for their buck. Thus, change was mandated and made.
This was supposed to be a team that hit the ground running, one that added CeeDee Lamb to that league-leading offense. With the addition of the onetime quarterback guru McCarthy, who knew what heights might be scaled? The sky or at least the closed roof on AT&T Stadium was the limit.
What have we seen? Is there anything you have watched on any given Sunday that tells you someone new and better is in charge?
The final injury report is out.
4:08 p.m. — Left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (shoulder/knee) are officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s home game against Cleveland. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but his game status is not in question, per the official injury report.
Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones sounded optimistic that all three players will be available Sunday.
“We all know that we do have several days here before kickoff and it’s subject to that,” Jones said. “But it’s certainly looking like we’re going to have them available. It can be a game-time decision. But it is looking that way.”
Injuries have hurt the Cowboys at the start of the season.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Zack Martin has spent plenty of time in practice through the years at positions other than right guard, where he’s been a starter since the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the first round in 2014.
The closest the four-time All-Pro has come to thinking he might actually switch in the middle of a game came last week, when Martin ended up moving to tackle for the first time since his Notre Dame days in the second half against Seattle.
The surprising retirement of center Travis Frederick in the offseason, followed by injuries to the top three tackles, have the Dallas offensive line in flux as much as Martin has seen from the once-steady group in his seven seasons.
“It’s not going to be the 22 guys starting at the beginning of the year that are going to take every snap,” said Martin, the anchor of a line that for years was considered among the league’s best. “I think these coaches do a great job of emphasizing that, and I think guys are preparing the right way.”
The Cowboys could get closer to their projected starting five up front Sunday at home against Cleveland. Coach Mike McCarthy said seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith is on track to return after missing two games with a neck issue.
Free agents anyone?
We stick with the trend of bringing back former players. Not only did the Cowboys re-sign Brandon Carr, but we looked at Ron Leary as well as a potential addition. So why not keep it going and land former No. 1 pick Morris Claiborne.
Like Carr, the mere mention of Claiborne’s name will be an immediate fire-starter. There are plenty in the fan base still angry about how terrible things went after seeing the promise Carr and Claiborne brought to the team in 2012. Having said that, it clearly wasn’t the fault of either player.
Carr left Dallas and looked much better with the Baltimore Ravens. The same was true of Claiborne, who spent two seasons with the New York Jets before winning a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. This doesn’t mean Claiborne wasn’t a bad pick for Dallas, but just that he does have some talent and can perform when put on the field.
Instead, his question has been centered around durability. Claiborne couldn’t stay on the field at all for Dallas, which stunted his growth. That played a large part in him being a bust, as did the team’s decision to move him and Carr — both man corners — into a zone scheme.
And while he never lived up to his draft status, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to bring him back now. Not only would he be affordable, but the Cowboys secondary is an absolute mess, especially with the injuries to Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown.
There is still plenty of hope.
The potential road to recovery begins this Sunday with the Cleveland Browns coming to town. While the Browns are feeling good right now on a two-game win streak, those victories have come against the winless Bengals and the 1-2 Washington Football Team.
If the Cowboys play up to their potential, which should be helped this week by the return of Tyron Smith, Dallas is arguably a better team than Cleveland. They’ve certainly faced tougher opponents so far this year in the Rams, Falcons, and Seahawks.
In fact, despite the disparity in their records and level of opponents, the Cowboys actually have a slightly better point differential (-9) in their three games this year than the Browns (-13).
That’s not to say Cleveland is going to be an easy win. They have a strong pass rush with Myles Garrett and Adrian Clayborn (remember him?) and stout running attack with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Both could exploit some of Dallas’ biggest weaknesses right now.
It’s funny to say this, but things should get easier for the Cowboys after playing the Cleveland Browns.
Five things to watch!
2. Turnover differential
We don’t have to sell you on the idea that taking care of the ball is very important. The Cowboys have been especially bad at this lately, turning the ball over three times in each of the last two games. Even worse, five of those instances have come in their own territory, resulting in golden opportunities for their opponents.
The Browns just so happen to be coming off a game where their defense forced five turnovers. Granted, it was against the Dwayne Haskins-led Washington Team, but they are an opportunistic group. With some heavy hitters, the Cowboys need to be careful holding on to the ball. Dallas cannot continue with these self-inflected gaffes as it’s just incredibly hard to win football games that way.
Baker Mayfield has been a turnover waiting to happen in previous years, but he’s done a much better job taking care of the ball this season. It sure would be nice to see the Cowboys defense make a play or two to give them an advantage for once, and Baker could be the guy to make that happen.
Keys to victory.
COWBOYS KEY TO VICTORY: The Dallas secondary needs to survive vs. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. The pass defense has surrendered 277 yards per game this season and working on improving communication is crucial to victory.
“When it comes down to it, we are playing the Cowboys’ defense and we have to do whatever it takes to win,” Heisman Trophy-winning Mayfield said. “If that is a shootout, then great, and if it is another game where we have to control the clock, then we will do that.”
EYES ON: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott... Elliott only rushed for 34 yards on 14 carries in the Cowboys loss at Seattle. The Browns have yet to face an elite running back like Elliott this season and my bet is Elliott is ready to bounce back with a highly-productive game. Elliott was “bothered” by his dropped passes vs. the Seahawks that could have resulted in first downs. Look for a mistake-free Elliott and a successful screen game on Sunday.