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Cowboys news: Dallas defense is off to a historically bad start in franchise history

Catch up on the news from Tuesday

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

In one telling stat, the Cowboys are off to their worst start in franchise history - Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports

The Cowboys defense underwent a significant amount of change this offseason, highlighted by a scheme change and losing their best player, so expectations weren’t high for this year. But they were surely higher than this, right?

When the 2020 campaign began, this unit was going to be whatever the mishmash of parts and plan dictated. Thus far, the result has been nothing short of terrible — to a historical degree.

How bad? Four games into the season — including Sunday’s embarrassing 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns — Dallas has given up an atrocious 146 points. That’s an average of 36.5 per game, which currently projects as the single-worst scoring defense in team history. To put that into perspective, the Cowboys’ previous worst-scoring defense contributed to a midseason firing of head coach Wade Phillips, who started 1-7 during a 2010 debacle that ushered in the Jason Garrett era. That infamous season, Dallas surrendered 436 points (27.3 per game) and finished 31st in the league in points allowed.

Right now, that 2010 defense would be an upgrade.

Cowboys release Brandon Carr, sign Greg Senat - Charean Williams, NBC Sports

The Cowboys barely used Brandon Carr in Sunday’s demoralizing loss, playing just one snap, and on Tuesday they released the veteran defensive back. In his place, they added an offensive lineman for added depth.

The Cowboys released backup defensive back Brandon Carr, the team announced Tuesday.

The team signed Carr, a 12-year veteran, to the practice squad after final cuts because of injuries in the secondary. It later signed him to the active roster, but he played only 21 snaps the first four games.

The Cowboys also cut backup offensive tackle Alex Light. They signed offensive tackle Greg Senat to the active roster off the Browns’ practice squad and added offensive tackle William Sweet to the practice squad.

Cowboys sticking with Mike Nolan after historically bad defensive start in 2020: ‘We’re staying the course’ - Patrik Walker, CBS Sports

The Cowboys’ miserable start to the season defensively has turned all eyes towards defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, but despite the horrible performances from that side of the ball, Nolan isn’t going anywhere just yet.

“Very high confidence in Mike Nolan,” Mike McCarthy told media on Monday when pressed about potential changes to come at coordinator. “We are going to stay the course. A lot conversation as you would expect. Mike and I were here last night.

“John Fassel and I were here last night. We’ve spent more times on these kinda games than you probably should. We are on top of where we are. We don’t like the way it turned out. Certainly understand the point totals. Drive starters — as far as 20 percent of the drives have started across the 50.

“That is a challenge for any defense. We are focusing on the details of the things that we need to do better. My confidence is very high in Mike Nolan.”

Jerry Jones is disappointed in the Cowboys’ 1-3 start, but knows they can do better - Calvin Watkins, Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys entered the 2020 season as Super Bowl contenders with Mike McCarthy at the helm, but a 1-3 start has shattered those expectations. Jerry Jones isn’t satisfied with it, but he’s still holding out hope for the season.

“I’m disappointed because I know we’re the proverbial four games into this thing,” Jones said on KRLD-FM on Tuesday. “You don’t have to look at how the state that we’re in the NFC East conference. I don’t believe anyone has doubted that it’s impossible for us to be in the playoffs. What I think I can add to the mix is firsthand I know we can do better for the outcome of those games.”

The Cowboys’ biggest problems are defense (allowing a NFL high 36.5 points per game) and turnover margin (a NFL worst -7). To help with the defense, starting cornerbacks Anthony Brown (ribs) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) on injured reserve and defensive end Randy Gregory (suspension) will return at some point during the season.

“Eliminate those turnovers,” Jones said. “We’re going to get better at working our schemes. We’re going to get better on individual technique. Other teams are, too. We’re going to have to have the benefit of help on the way. Those are players that we got out that we can actually come back and help us. I think all of that can happen for us. I really do. There’s no reason why it can’t, and there’s no reason why, as we sit right here today, we can’t be in contention and I know the quality of our talent.”

Decoding Kellen Moore: Cowboys going nowhere fast until they fix their turnovers - Bob Sturm, The Athletic

As Dallas has stumbled out to their 1-3 start, the defense has been the obvious target to place the most blame. But the Cowboys offense has also had an issue holding onto the ball, and that problem popped up again against Cleveland.

I feel confident this would have been a massive gain and a well-conceived idea. But La’el Collins isn’t playing right tackle. Steele is, and we know the undrafted rookie is badly overmatched against the best edge rusher in football. He already had a sack and to try this without even a chip on Garrett seems to be a flaw that is easily second-guessed on Tuesday morning in this space.

So I will. You can design any idea you want, but you had better understand the biggest threats and how carelessness can ruin the entire day. I believe on both Garrett sacks, there was no help for Steele and almost no quick options as part of the play design.

You would have to put these mostly on Kellen Moore, and if you want to grade Prescott hard, you could dock him a bit for not getting out of the play. But I do think it would be harsh to work all week on a two-back “shot play” and then not believe in your RT to block Garrett one time on his own.

NFL overreactions, Week 4: Time for Cowboys to trade Ezekiel Elliott? - NFL.com Staff

Dak Prescott is off to the hottest start of his career, even if it’s been out of necessity more than anything, and the offense has clearly shifted to make him the focal point. At the same time, Ezekiel Elliott has played poorly, so should the team explore trading him?

Ezekiel Elliott has recorded fewer than 100 rush yards in each of the first four games of a season for the first time in his career. He’s also received fewer than 15 carries in consecutive games for the first time since he entered the league in 2016. Remember, Zeke has ranked among the top two in carries and top five in rush yards in all but one of his previous four NFL seasons.

This drop-off in production through the first month of the season isn’t totally surprising considering first-year Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy never had a running back finish among the top three in carries or top five in rush yards in his 13 seasons at the helm of the Packers. However, the fact that Elliott is averaging 5.8 receptions per game (would be a career-high) and 68.3 rush yards per game (would be a career-low) might mean that McCarthy isn’t going to feed Zeke’s appetite for carries. So, if you’re not going to use Elliott to the fullest, why not deal him before a full season’s worth of declining production lowers his value? Yes, this is a spicy take, but these are overreactions. What did you expect?

After all, it doesn’t appear that Dak Prescott is going to stop slinging the ball all over the field at a high rate now that he holds the record for most pass yards (1,690) over a four-game span in NFL history.

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