4 key reasons for the Cowboys defense’s improvement during Dallas’ current win streak - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys defense has improved and there are a few reasons why.
Offense making life easier. The Cowboys offense’s impact shouldn’t be overlooked either. The offense has exploded to the tune of 30-plus points in each game of the win streak. Dallas’ 31.3 offensive points per game in the past three weeks ranks seventh in the NFL during that span. You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that it’s much easier to play defense when the offense is racking up 30-plus points per game. Not only does that take pressure off the defense, but it forces opponents to attack differently as well.
The Cowboys defense’s biggest weakness this season, including during the win streak, has been defending the run. Dallas has allowed more than 100 yards rushing in all but two games. But because opponents have been forced to try to keep pace with Dallas’ offense lately, those teams ran the ball less in an attempt to pick up quicker scores and production through the air. It’s not a coincidence that the Dallas offense’s eruption over the past three weeks has led to the only three-game span this year in which opponents ran the ball less than 45% of the time. From Weeks 6-13, opponents ran the ball around 51% of the time against Dallas. In the past three weeks, that run rate has dropped to 42.7%.
Anytime the Cowboys’ run defense can be exposed less, it’s a great thing. The offense deserves partial credit for the defense’s recently improved play.
The performance of the offensive line has been a big part of Dallas turning things around.
The O-Line has figured it out. Joe Philbin deserves a standing ovation for getting the Cowboys' offensive line to play its best football down the stretch. This unit has been ravaged by injury this season and the constant reshuffling of personnel made it difficult for the unit to develop any chemistry along the frontline. In addition, the lack of experience on the edges posed additional challenges in determining how to best protect the quarterback in pass protection while also designing a running game that suited the runners and blockers.
After studying the offensive line's performance over the past few weeks, the Cowboys' frontline quintet has found their way and they're beginning to control the trenches in every aspect. From moving defenders off the ball in the running game to acting as a fortress in front of Dalton, the combination of Brandon Knight, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Connor McGovern, and Terence Steele have improved significantly down the stretch. Tyler Biadasz has also contributed as a super-sub asked to come in when an injury forces a short-term reshuffle.
Although this unit certainly pales in comparison to the lineup that was expected to feature Tryon Smith, La'el Collins and Zack Martin, the steady improvement and overall development of this group is encouraging for 2020 and beyond.
Daring to Dream: Who Could Cowboys Meet in 1st Round of 2020 Playoffs? - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star
If Dallas makes the playoffs, who would you want to play in the Wild Card round?
The Rams are 9-6 and have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bucs from their Week 11 victory. They host the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday while Tampa is hosting the Atlanta Falcons. If the Rams win and the Bucs lose then LA would slide up into the 5th seed and face the winner of the NFC East. Los Angeles should have a much tougher battle this week with the Cardinals still fighting for a wild card spot themselves. The Falcons are completely out of the playoff hunt and may not give Tampa much resistance.
And while they’re already locked into a wild card spot, the Bucs will have plenty of incentive to try to keep that 5th seed and play the NFC East winner over one of the top three teams in the conference. I know some of you are reading this and thinking, “can we make the playoffs first? Sheesh.” But by the time Philly and Washington kickoff on Sunday Night Football we will know whether or not the Cowboys are even still alive, plus who the 5th seed in the playoffs will be between the Bucs or the Rams.
A late three-game winning streak has provided hope for the future in Dallas.
If Elliott remains in Dallas for next season and beyond, the Cowboys may have to tailor their offense to feature two primary backs, instead of relying on their big-money man. That strategy would come with its detractors since the Cowboys are paying Elliott so much money, but it may be the smart move given how both running backs have performed this season.
Dallas is not lacking talent at wide receiver, either, as first-round draft pick CeeDee Lamb is second behind Amari Cooper on the team's receiving yardage chart and is tied with Cooper and Michael Gallup for the most receiving touchdowns. Lamb is not the best rookie wideout in the league. That title belongs to Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, but he has displayed plenty of talent alongside the team's veteran wideouts.
While some critics could argue that Dallas should have picked a top defensive talent back in April, Lamb is justifying the pick and could be a menace to opposing defenses next to Cooper for years to come.
How special teams ace C.J. Goodwin became the catalyst that helped the Cowboys contain Jalen Hurts - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
It’s been a tough year, but Mike Nolan deserves some credit for the recent play of the defense.
“C.J.” saw Goodwin play 16 defensive snaps. On his first snap, a third-and-14, he pressured Hurts to force an incompletion and cause the Eagles’ first failed third-down conversion of the game. Both of Dallas’ interceptions came when Goodwin was on the field. Goodwin seemed to be a factor in the first, closing in on Hurts at the time of throw. Again, Nolan deserves credit.
“We talked about using C.J. a few times this season in the same capacity, and for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen,” Nolan said. “But I thought it was a good time. We got some real good downs out of it. If he didn’t chase him down, it was nice to keep him in the pocket, and I think after a few times that he saw that C.J. was chasing him down, I think it kept the quarterback in the pocket more often than we’d like to think, just because he knew if he got out of there, he was going to get run down quickly.
“A lot of teams have a player that they put in and assign to the quarterback, but C.J. was pretty unique in the fact that he can get on you real quick. …C.J. has got a natural knack for it because of what he does in the kicking game.”
Dallas Cowboys get inspiring performances from their rookies - Connor Green, FanSided's The Landry Hat
The play of some key rookies has been one encouraging sign during this season.
Part of the reason the organization was able to keep the elusive Sanders in check was the performance of Gallimore. The 23-year old defensive tackle has continuously earned more playing time during this season and recorded his first career “half” sack against Philadelphia. After putting up a season-high in total tackles in the team’s victory over the San Fransisco 49ers last week the young defensive tackle followed that performance up by being apart of an important sack and posting his first career back-to-back performance with a quarterback hit.
America’s Team also got help from another one of their talented, young defenders in cornerback Trevon Diggs. After coming back from a foot injury last week the young cornerback managed to nab his third interception of the season, all against the Eagles.
While both Gallimore and Diggs have struggled at times this season both of them have shown promise in an otherwise disappointing year on the defensive side of the ball. These two young defenders made big plays in the teams’ victory over the Eagles this past Sunday and continue to highlight their potential.
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