One of two inexperienced QBs will get his shot on Sunday for the Cowboys.
FRISCO, Texas — Imagine the excitement of knowing you could make the first start of your NFL career on Sunday. Imagine it coming for the Dallas Cowboys (2-6). Imagine it coming against the NFL’s lone unbeaten team in the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0).
Now imagine being two days before kickoff and not knowing if you will win the job or if the guy you see in practice every day will get it.
Yet both quarterbacks said they are not looking at practice as some sort of duel.
“I think ultimately, I think he understands it, too. He’s been in this league long enough — we’re here to win a football game,” Gilbert said. “Yeah, we’re competing for the starting job, but we’re competing to go win a football game for this team. We would both be doing ourselves a disservice by doing that and comparing ourselves to one another, and I think we’d be doing the team a disservice because I think that would be getting in the way of our preparation. ... That’s the only thing we can do ... continue to prepare like we’re playing on Sunday.”
It’s Tank szn in more ways than one.
Watching the Cowboys play earlier in the season, it was clear Lawrence wasn’t able to play at full speed because of a knee issue, but with three sacks in the last four games, Lawrence is once again showing what he’s capable of when healthy. When asked about how he felt in Philadelphia, the former Boise St. Broncos responded,
“Yeah, I feel like my knee is progressing real well, and when you’re out there on the field you’re trying to give it your all. I think people overlook it or they just don’t care. So yeah I feel like this is one of my best games I’ve had this year.”
Dallas’ defense came back to life a week ago, and Lawrence’s three tackles for loss, one sack, and two quarterback hits were a crucial part of the revival. When asked about the group’s performance, Lawrence said,
“I feel like we’re taking some big huge steps, just understanding what coach wants out of us, understanding our plays and understanding each other and being able to bond a little more with each other and get after it. I feel like it’s coming together, molding together real well and getting better each and every day.”
Dallas entered Week 8 allowing a league worst 34.7 points per game, and were tied for a league low with just three turnovers generated.
Will Ezekiel Elliott be up or down on Sunday?
Elliott was listed as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday. The Cowboys are scheduled to practice again Saturday.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed confidence that Elliott and defensive end Aldon Smith (knee) – also limited in practice this week – will be able to play Sunday.
Elliott injured his hamstring during the Eagles’ fumble recovery and return for a touchdown. If he were to be limited in Sunday’s game, it would mean more work for second-year veteran Tony Pollard, who had seven carries for a season-high 40 yards against the Eagles.
It’s Hunter the Punter season.
Some exciting news for XFL fans from this week: Hunter Niswander, former Punter for the DC Defenders, will be starting for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, according to Mike Mitchell.
Hunter had been signed to the Cowboys practice squad last week, which he announced on his Twitter and Instagram accounts:
Due to Chris Jones’ upcoming surgery, it makes sense to see Niswander finally get a start in the NFL. He was spectacular for the DC Defenders in the XFL’s short 2020 season, averaging 46.8 yards per punt. With his talent at the punting and kicking positions, Niswander should be a fantastic addition to the Cowboys’ Special Teams squad.
Five things to look for in week nine.
The Cowboys run defense did a lot better on Sunday night against the Eagles as their 119 yards allowed was a breath of fresh air considering they had surrendered 200+ in three of their previous four contests. Granted, the Eagles seemed more interested in letting Carson Wentz lead their team to victory, so the Cowboys defense wasn’t smothered with a lot of rushing attempts. And with the Eagles starter Miles Sanders missing the game with an injury, there wasn’t a huge rushing threat to deal with.
That will change with the Steelers James Conner. Since taking over for Bell, Conner has been a very effective as a runner. He’s had some struggles staying healthy, but other than exiting the season opener with an ankle injury, Conner has been healthy this season. And when he’s on the field, you can count on him seeing work. In fact, Conner has at least 15 rushing attempts in each of the last six of the Steelers’ games. He hasn’t had any huge games this year as his largest rushing total is just 109 yards, but he’s an elusive runner than can really hurt defenses when he gets some room to maneuver. The Cowboys defense has shown they can put themselves in precarious situations, and if they’re not careful, it will be hasta la vista, baby.
Cowboys Will Be In Unfamiliar Territory Against The Steelers On Sunday - Kevin Brady, Inside the Star
Home dogs for the win. Are you betting on the Cowboys to cover?
It’s been a season of weekly lows for the Dallas Cowboys.
Now sitting at 2-6 and down to their fourth starting quarterback of the year, no one expects Dallas to even compete with the rolling Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Pittsburgh is 7-0, riding high after consecutive victories against two of the AFC’s best in the Titans and Ravens. But while the Cowboys faithful may be hoping for a Steelers letdown game, Vegas is seeing things very differently.
For only the second time in the Super Bowl era, the Dallas Cowboys are double digit home underdogs this Sunday. In most books, you’ll see the Cowboys at +14. Two whole touchdowns.
The last time the Cowboys were in this spot was during the infamous 1989 season, when the Cowboys finished 1-15 and began to rebuild their team under Jimmy Johnson. Then, Dallas was a 14 point underdog against the 49ers, who covered the spread that week and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Film room: 3 bold predictions for Cowboys-Steelers, including a big day for Dallas’ pass rush - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
Big and bold predictions.
Cowboys will sack Ben Roethlisberger at least 3 times
Randy Gregory has shown glimpses of his electric pass-rush ability, but he’s still reacclimating to the NFL game. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if he had a couple of successful pass rushes against Villanueva, especially since Gregory’s most effective rushes have been when he converts speed to power.
On the other side, DeMarcus Lawrence appears to have hit his stride as he comes off a dominant performance against Philadelphia, but the Steelers’ Chukwuma Okorafor presents a tougher challenge than Jordan Mailata did last week. If Lawrence gets enough one-on-one opportunities, he could find a lot of success with inside moves like he did against the Eagles, as Okorafor at times can overset and present a soft inside edge.
The Cowboys don’t have any individual players along the interior who will make an impact rushing the passer, but Dallas has done a better job of generating pressure with interior blitzes as of late. Leighton Vander Esch’s sack against the Eagles is a great example (above clip). As the Cowboys have gained more experience in Mike Nolan’s system, they’ve started to see more production when dialing up well-designed blitzes.
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