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Cowboys news: Staying the course on defense, and Dak Prescott’s performance

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Jones: Now is not the time to think about drastic changes - Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk

Things aren’t working and many are asking for change, but the Cowboys are not ready to do that yet.

The honeymoon is over for head coach Mike McCarthy and especially defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The Cowboys rank 30th in total defense and are last in turnover ratio with nine giveaways and two takeaways.

It’s a recipe for a sub-.500 season, something the Cowboys haven’t done since 2015.

After only four games, though, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team has no thoughts of changes on the coaching staff.

“We just have to be better. We have to go to work,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Monday. “Now is not the time to think about things like that. We have to be better. We have to go to work. We have to bring our lunch bucket, and I’m very convicted about this staff and very convicted about this team, but right now we’re not playing winning football.”

The Browns rushed for 307 yards Sunday, the most allowed by the Cowboys in team history. Dallas has allowed 38 or more points in three consecutive games, the first time that has happened since 1960.

What on earth is wrong with the Dallas Cowboys? - Jeremy Layton, New York Post

That’s the question on everyone's mind at this time, and no one has an answer.

Wrong. Nothing is good in Jerry World after the defense allowed Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham and the Cleveland Browns to put up 49 points on their defense, which has been all kinds of awful through four games. Dallas has allowed the most points per game (36.5) by a whopping margin and the third-most yards (430.5). Their high-priced pass rush isn’t generating enough pressure, and their secondary can’t cover anyone without Byron Jones. They’re now 1-3, and might have been 0-4 if not for an epic Atlanta Falcons collapse in Week 2.

Still miraculously only a half-game out of the NFC East lead, the team that was expected by many to run away with the division has a host of problems without any clear solutions. New coach Mike McCarthy was supposed to bring discipline where Jason Garrett could not, but the Cowboys lead the NFL in turnovers (tied with the Eagles, so at least that’s something to assuage the fans in Big D). McCarthy’s handpicked defensive coordinator Mike Nolan hasn’t been a DC since 2014 (with the Falcons, where he had limited success), and looks in over his head. Dallas’ offense will continue to put up huge numbers, but until they can stop anybody, this team will be all sizzle and no steak.

Dak Prescott Deserves Better Than the Dallas Cowboys - Ryan Phillips, The Big Lead

Dak Prescott is doing his part but hasn’t gotten a lot of help from other places.

So far Prescott has been impeccable. He’s thrown for 450 or more yards in three consecutive weeks while completing 68.2 percent of his passes, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, and racking up nine touchdowns against three interceptions. With all of those contributions from the most important player on the field, it’s shocking the Cowboys are currently 1-3 and only have that win because the Falcons suffered an unimaginable collapse in Week 2.

The Cowboys have utterly fallen apart on defense this season. They rank 30th in yards allowed (430.5 per game) and 31st in rushing yards allowed (172.5 per game). They’re also giving up an NFL-worst 36.5 points per game. They are currently leading the NFL in total offense (509.5 yards per game) and are third in points per game (31.5), but are 24th in rushing yards (101.8 per game). Prescott is basically creating all the offense on his own.

Dak is the Dallas Cowboys right now and the rest of the team is letting him down. Remember, Jerry Jones & Co. refused to pay him like an elite starting quarterback when they had the chance. Now they’re stuck with him on the franchise tag and, unless they want to tag him again for big money in 2021, he could walk away after the season.

Dallas Cowboys 40-burger defense: Simplify or stay the course? - Reid Hanson, Dallas Fort Worth

Change the scheme, the personnel, the coordinator. Change something.

The Dallas Cowboys not only have the best offense in the NFL, but also the worst defense in the NFL. And frankly, a solid case can be made their special teams are the worst in the league as well – even with that miracle onside kick that feels like ions ago.

The Cowboys defense has given up 29, 39, 38, 49 points respectively over the first four weeks of the season. Trending in the wrong direction on the scoreboard and seemingly getting worse by the day, it’s clear something must be done. But what exactly?

The Dallas Cowboys moved from Rod Marinelli and his Cover-3 single high scheme to Mike Nolan’s multiple look defense this year. To say it’s more complicated is an understatement. The Cowboys alternate between different fronts as well as different coverages early and often. The goal is to be less predictable as they were under Marinelli. Unfortunately, the players have had trouble adapting to the changes and there’s been numerous breakdowns at all levels.

While it’s not Rob Ryan 2.0 (remember that mess?) it’s still a pretty disorganized clusterfudge. The question at hand is whether or not the growing pains are worth it or not. And if the Cowboys would be better served playing their unspectacular vanilla brand of football they left behind in the offseason.

Prescott’s monster day overshadowed by Cowboys loss: ‘No other stats matter’ - Todd Brock, CowboysWire

It’s pretty evident that without dome defensive improvement, things will not get better.

The quarterback led the Cowboys offense on three straight touchdown drives, each of which was capped with a successful two-point conversion to cut the deficit to just three with less than four minutes to play.

On those three drives alone, Prescott went 17-for-23 on 29 total plays, throwing for 208 yards and two touchdowns. The possessions covered 77, 84, and 80 yards.

Odell Beckham’s 50-yard scamper killed the Cowboys’ momentum, but didn’t ice the game. Down by 11 with more than three minutes to work with Prescott tried to engineer the second-most improbable comeback win for Dallas in a three-week span.

The rally finally ended when the two-time Pro Bowler was intercepted inside the Browns’ ten-yard-line. It was his second turnover of the afternoon, following a strip fumble early in the second quarter that led to a Browns score.

For McCarthy, though, Prescott is the only reason the Cowboys ever had a hope of stealing a win.

“Dak is exactly what you’re looking for,” the coach said afterward. “He’s wired the right way, his ability to just keep playing through adversity. He never blinks. Obviously, the turnovers: you take a look at them, why they happened, how they happened. It’s like anything in this game; the negatives are usually not just one thing or one person, so we’ll take a look at that. But I thought Dak stood tall and led us back to give us a chance to be in the game there at the end.”

Like Tony Romo, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott can do only so much - Todd Archer, ESPN

Tony Romo and Dak Prescott may have some things in common.

Twice in Cowboys franchise history have quarterbacks thrown for more than 500 yards. Prescott has a similarity with Romo. In a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in 2013, Romo threw for 506 yards and had five touchdown passes and an interception.

“We’re going to continue to fight,” Prescott said, his team now a surprising 1-3 under new coach Mike McCarthy. “No matter what happens in the game, we’re never going to give up. This team’s going to always be resilient. We’re going to stay at it. That’s what we know; that’s the only thing that we know.”

From 2011 to 2013, the Cowboys’ defense finished 14th, 19th and 32nd. In 18 of the 24 losses among those three seasons, the Dallas defense allowed 27 points or more.

The 2020 Cowboys defense has allowed more points through the first four games (146) than any other team in franchise history, putting them on pace for a staggering 584 allowed.

Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence challenges accountability of historically bad defense: ‘I call it soft’ - Patrik Walker, CBSSports

DeMarcus Lawrence calls out the defense, but that includes him.

In dissecting the marshmallow, you’ll note the Cowboys defense has now allowed 146 points through the first four games (36.5 points per game) — the worst in franchise history — and continue to look more lost than Red Riding Hood. The problem for the Cowboys is unlike Ms. Hood, they can’t escape the big bad wolf, and that’s in large part because they are also the wolf — chomping into their own arm on a weekly, quarterly and play-by-play basis. This consistent cannibalism of self manifests as an inability to both prevent the big play over the top and to stop key possession plays underneath, the latter not being helped one iota by drive-extending penalties by the defense.

As a related aside, sources tell CBS Sports there has still been no movement on the Earl Thomas front.

What makes things infinitely worse for Dallas is the fact they’re getting gashed by the backups to the backups. When Chubb went down with a knee injury in the first quarter, he was averaging 7.1 yards per carry, and it was easy to view his loss as a damaging blow to the Browns. Instead, they were able to dissect the Cowboys run defense with surgical precision thanks to Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard and, most notably, D’Ernest Johnson. Johnson, an undrafted talent who had only 26 rushing yards in his young career entering Week 4, was able to lead Cleveland with a career-high 95 yards on 13 carries (7.31 yards per handoff).

“If you don’t stop the run you don’t have a chance,” said linebacker Jaylon Smith of the defensive letdown. “And we understood that going into this game and we didn’t get the job done.”

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