The Dallas Cowboys returned to our lives on Sunday, but unfortunately none of us got the result that we wanted. As great as it was to have the Cowboys back, they quickly became very frustrating to watch series in and series out. Over the course of the entire offseason we were all led to believe that things were going to finally be different, Sunday’s results hardly proved that in any particular way.
While it was overall an unquestionably maddening affair, it’s not like it was 100% bad all the way around. Don’t get me wrong, there were things that need dramatic corrections, but there are some solid things to take away.
Here are the winners and losers that we have chosen from Sunday’s game. Let’s begin.
Winner: Aldon Smith
You can make the case that Aldon Smith had the best game of any Dallas Cowboys player on Sunday night. That sentence is all the more amazing when you remember that he hasn’t played football in five years.
Smith balled out against the Rams, including this lucky no-call play against Jared Goff, which is a positive sign for the rest of the season. The Cowboys might have found something special here.
Winner: Trevon Diggs
It is often said that cornerback is the hardest position to transition to when it comes to jumping from the college game to the NFL. Trevon Diggs didn’t have a perfect game by any means, but he played very well for someone getting their first taste of professional action.
The times that Diggs got beat were simply great throws by Rams quarterback Jared Goff. He made a pivotal third-down stop (we’ll get there in a second) and looks like he could be one of the better cornerbacks on the team in 2020.
That is quite a big deal for a rookie second-round pick.
Winner: Trysten Hill
When the Cowboys signed Everson Griffen I tweeted something about how Trysten Hill (who was wearing number 97 at the time) was going to have to change jersey numbers. Many people (fairly at the time) said that the number would become available when Hill didn’t make the team.
That is where things were with Hill in the eyes of Cowboys fans even just two months ago. Many people wrote him off after a rough rookie year, but he contributed greatly against Los Angeles. Trevon Diggs’ tackle will be what is remembered from this pivotal third-down stop, but look at Hill’s hustle.
It was a huge bummer that the Cowboys lost Gerald McCoy for the season. If they can get something out of Trysten Hill and identify him as a legitimate piece of the future, that will be a nice reward to gain out of that.
Winner: Ezekiel Elliott
This is more about feel than anything considering he didn’t put up the most gigantic stat line, but Ezekiel Elliott really does look incredible this season.
Some believe that this is the best shape that Zeke has been in since his rookie season of 2016, and while that type of thing is hard to tell from afar, there is no doubt that he does seem to have a different pep in his step. Elliott looks explosive and like someone that is going to touch the ball in a variety of ways, and to be fair we did see him used in the passing game. He even scored a touchdown that way.
Winner: Dak Prescott
It wasn’t a gigantic fantasy day for Dak Prescott either, but for the most part he looked in control against the Rams. He obviously didn’t lead the team to victory at the end, but there were a lot of factors that were hardly working in his favor.
What’s more is that Dak operated with extreme confidence against Los Angeles. He moved and decided like an elite quarterback. That’s the most positive sign moving forward.
This sounds so easy but the Cowboys simply need to trust their franchise quarterback. When will they finally realize this?
Loser: Mike McCarthy
This was literally the first game in Mike McCarthy’s tenure as the Dallas Cowboys head coach and seeing that they lost it, he is an obvious loser (in terms of this discussion).
Where was all of the ingenuity we expected to see? Sure the team went for it on a fourth down, but where was the overall aggressiveness? This felt so much like last year.
Dallas on first down....— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 14, 2020
17 runs to 12 passes
runs averaged 4.8 YPC
passes avg'd 11.1 YPA
Dak completed 11 of 12 att
A lot of the hype surrounding the Cowboys is hardly Mike McCarthy’s fault. But he mentioned relishing the standards that come with this team and they are here for him to deal with head on.
Loser: Kellen Moore
At some point we have to have a conversation about how Kellen Moore may not be infallible. While it isn’t realistic to actually expect the Cowboys to score 40 points every week, 17 feels awfully disappointing for the talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Why were there so many runs on first down? We have been led to believe that Moore can make the offense more efficient (because he did), but this was a bit of a tired way of going about trying to move the ball.
Loser: Jaylon Smith
Goodness. Where to begin.
To be fair here it didn’t exactly help Jaylon Smith that Leighton Vander Esch left the game so early, but Smith is his own player and should be held responsible for what he’s supposed to do. This was one of his worst games in a Dallas Cowboys uniform.
Smith overplayed just about everything and was constantly running from behind. He looked at least a step slower than just about every Rams skill player.
The Cowboys have a need at linebacker. Jaylon Smith isn’t helping at all at the moment.
Injuries are the worst. No matter who they happen to. We all hate injuries.
The Cowboys got rather beat up on Sunday night as they are conceivably going to be without Leighton Vander Esch for a while and Blake Jarwin for potentially the rest of the year. Cam Erving is still a bit of a question mark.
This is part of football as mentioned so the Cowboys are just going to have to manage, but man, it is rough and we are only in Week 2.
Loser: Hope for change
Between the moment that Mike McCarthy took the job as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and his press conferences last week, he said all of the right things. He justified a lot of what he said, too.
McCarthy dropped the buzziest word in the NFL these days quite often throughout the last few months as he mentioned analytics at plenty of turns. The unfortunate reality is that there was no real forward-minded thinking happening from the Cowboys offense against the Rams. It was rather old school.
Despite that play there was no evidence he believes in analytics. He ran almost every first down, barely threw to the middle of the field, and play calling guaranteed a terrible average yards per pass attempt. That game plan had nothing to do with analytics https://t.co/UHAmnopMDK— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) September 14, 2020
None of this is to say that McCarthy can’t actually be the person that The McCarthy Project built him up to be. Again, it was Week 1 and the group had no preseason to work with. But it’s fair to be concerned.
The Dallas Cowboys are 0-1 and soon enough will be welcoming the Atlanta Falcons to AT&T Stadium. A lot needs to change between now and then for them to play at a level that will go toe to toe with the best offenses in the NFL, and on defense they far more than work.
What do you think? Who would your winners and losers be?