Is there any hope for the future? Mike McCarthy believes so.
FRISCO, Texas — With the Dallas Cowboys beset by injuries to key players, including Dak Prescott, and having lost six of seven games to fall out of contention even in the NFC East, leading to questions about the team’s effort, coach Mike McCarthy’s first year has been a mess.
“We’re not where we need to be. Clearly. Our record reflects it,” McCarthy said Friday. “We can improve on a number of things. It’s just not one area, one person. Everybody’s 3-9 right now, so we all need to do a better job.”
This the worst 12-game start McCarthy has endured. He was 4-8 in his first year with the Green Bay Packers in 2006, and that team won its last four games. He was fired in 2018 with a 4-7-1 record. The Cowboys’ 3-9 mark is the worst the franchise has had since it was 1-11 in 1989, Jimmy Johnson’s first year.
“It’s definitely a challenge. We’re all in this to win. Make no mistake about it. No one is happy,” McCarthy said. “No one likes where we are today. But I think to a man everybody sees the opportunity to continue to build. We still have a number of opportunities in front of us. With that, my focus has always been about improving. We definitely need to improve.
Jerry the GM has a lot of work to do.
There is a need for good players at all positions. Cornerback is always a wise investment early if the player is good enough, and it is also hard to pass on an outstanding edge rusher.
Defensive tackle and safety are positions Dallas has not valued in the draft, although the recent selections of Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore indicate that may have shifted for DT. However, what the team still has failed to acquire is an effective true nose tackle to shore up the pitiful run defense. If a big, athletic body is available in an early round it would be worth it, although not in the first. Safety might be somewhere a first-round pick could be wisely spent, however, and certainly needs to be addressed early.
Linebacker is a big issue at the moment. The team has unwisely locked itself in with Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch is not going anywhere this year with one year remaining on his rookie deal. Both have talent, but something has gone woefully wrong with their decision making and reactions. This is a position where the team has a tendency to over-invest draft capital as well. They should shy away from a linebacker in the first couple of rounds, but from the third on, they need to really look hard for a value.
It looks like the Cowboys could have a lot of picks to use, and there are enough positions of need that they will need all of them. They also have a lot of young players to evaluate in the final four games. It needs to be done wisely.
The defensive issues run deep, but this one thing could be the biggest issue.
FRISCO, Texas – With largely a new coaching staff, the Cowboys implemented a lot of change to their defensive philosophy during an offseason condensed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In hindsight, maybe too much.
Less schematic change is a “do-over” Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones wished the team had as they continue through the final month of the regular season at 3-9, coming off two straight losses.
“I see guys that are trying to work the problem, trying to get better,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “I will say this: Like anybody, you’ve got a lot of do-overs. I’d like to start again on how we approached our defense this year. I’d like to start that over again. I’m sure everybody else would, too.”
In the offseason, first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan installed more of a multiple scheme featuring 3-4 principles as well as the traditional 4-3 fronts the club played in recent years. Injuries to multiple positions have been a factor, but the defense also hasn’t found consistency from an execution standpoint in games.
They gave up 294 rushing yards in Tuesday’s 34-17 loss to the Ravens – their second-highest total allowed this season and another step backward from a solid November stretch against the Eagles, Steelers and Vikings. Through 12 games, Dallas ranks last in rushing yards allowed per game (167.8) and points allowed per game (32.8).
Dalton Schultz has been quite good in 2020.
On the season Schultz’s 48 receptions are tied for sixth among all eligible tight ends. He’s combined that with 476 yards and three touchdowns. Considering how injuries have forced instability at quarterback this season, it’s been extremely impressive to see how Schultz has been able to produce regardless of who has been under center. The way he has continued to develop despite the play of everyone around him and a revolving door of quarterbacks has been a true bright spot this season.
Aside from his raw numbers, the Cowboys’ signal-callers have all been extremely successful when throwing to Schultz. The cumulative passer rating of 95.9 that Dallas quarterbacks have when targeting him is second-best among eligible receivers on the team behind only rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb’s 99.1.
No one is going to mistake Schultz for Travis Kelce out in Kansas City or George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, but he doesn’t need to be. Health assuming, this team has a ton of talent at their skill positions, and Schultz can still play a very valuable role for them. He’s already demonstrated a willingness and ability to block upfront, as well as shown a ton of development as a pass-catcher.
It’s clear that Schultz should continue to have a role on the offense and it will be a lot of fun to see how Dallas will utilize him alongside a healthy Jarwin next year. The two of them should complement each other nicely too. While Schultz has proven to be a reliable target in his own right, Jarwin is far more of a vertical threat. That alone should allow the Cowboys to call some unique plays out of a two-tight end set next season.
Terrence Steele has been... good the last few weeks.
A better guard than tackle, Terence Steele will continue to play right tackle for the Cowboys, with Martin going on injured reserve. Steele is coming off one of his better pass-blocking performances, as he allowed just two pressures on 49 pass-blocking snaps against the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday. Watching the tape, I observed that Steele showed good technique in pass protection and had a good anchor but encountered trouble against the inside rush and when blocking stunts. He handled the outside rush well, but keep an eye out for how he deals with a good speed rusher. As a run blocker, he is best in a limited area, because he can be inconsistent sustaining blocks against linebackers in space.
Say what you want about McCarthy, but at least he’s taking some accountability.
DALLAS (105.3 The Fan) - Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, as he does each Friday morning, joined Shan and RJ on 105.3 The Fan.
McCarthy was asked about the decision to hire Mike Nolan as the defensive coordinator, and more importantly why he feels Nolan should continue on as the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys?
“I think our staff as a whole is not where we need to be. And that’s ultimately my responsibility. We’re going through things for the first time, as all first-year staffs do. There’s not a lot of continuity between coaches because most of us have not worked together before. And so when you talk about development, it doesn’t just stop at players. You’re developing a program, a system. Coordinating things that have been here in the past. You have a training staff that’s been together a long time. But we’re not doing things exactly how they’ve been done the last 20 years. You’re trying to coordinate that and put it all together. That’s part of building a program. It’s no different in all phases, especially with the coaching staff.”
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