The Dallas Cowboys didn’t start out on the right foot as the Los Angeles Rams got the better of them on Sunday night. The team also suffered a few injuries that challenged their depth, and that’s something they’ll have to deal with throughout the season. All in all, it wasn’t a good way to begin the long-awaited 2020 season, and it sure opened the door for several different theories to start buzzing through Cowboys Nation.
Today, we’ll examine a couple of these narratives and determine which ones have merit and which ones are myths.
A 17-point performance, are you kidding me? Is this offense just as vanilla as they were last year?
Instead of Team 40 Burger, the offense ordered from the value menu with just 17 points on Sunday. With Jason Garrett no longer around to blame, how are we supposed to direct our frustration? Is Mike McCarthy just as inept? Or is the Kellen Moore effect more of an issue than we’re willing to admit? And what about Dak Prescott? Where was his play-making ability when it counted the most?
There are some issue, sure. The offense struggled converting on the money downs, and Moore offered very little window dressing before the snap. Basically, they just ran a receiver in motion to let Dak know if it was man or zone coverage. It felt like they were dummying down the offense to keep things simple for Prescott, why would they do that now that Dak is an experienced vet?
It’s important to note that the Rams have a decent defense and appeared to dictate what the Cowboys offense did versus Dallas bringing the fight to them. That’s not encouraging. We shouldn’t overreact to just one performance, but it’s okay to be skeptical.
The offensive line is a little vulnerable, and that’s a big deal. If Dak becomes skittish, that could be a problem. And this is not just limited to their right tackle situation as we wait for La’el Collins to return from injured reserve. The interior line is not what it once was. Losing Travis Frederick may sting more than we thought. The Cowboys offense struggled in short yardage situations in 2018 (when Frederick was out), and that could be something to keep an eye on this year as well. It took Dallas two tries to punch in a goal line run after Prescott came up just short, and they even got a little extra help on the second attempt as they inserted Antwaun Woods to play fullback.
Besides the Cowboys struggles, there are some reasons to feel good about the offense, too. The two-minute drill they had an the end of the first half was near perfection. They flew down the field and there was never a moment when it felt like they were going to have to settle for a field goal because of lack of time. They were aggressive when they made the bold decision to go for it on fourth down. Right or wrong, it was an aggressive move, and we have to appreciate the mindset there.
So, what’s the verdict on this one?
Fiction: Tapping the brakes is okay as it’s worth monitoring, but there is no reason to believe that this offense won’t eventually find it’s way.
The Cowboys have a red carpet defense
There are mixed views on this Cowboys defense after one week of action. On one hand, the defense struggled to get off the field as the Rams strung together several long drives, efficiently converting on third down. It took 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter for the Rams to attempt their first punt. That’s not ideal.
Then, on the other hand, the defense only gave up 20 points to a good offense, including the last four possessions consisting of an interception followed by three-straight punts. So, what do we make of Mike Nolan’s defense?
Scheme-wise, the unit was a day late and a dollar short on just about every misdirection play that occurred in the first half. The Rams offense was outstanding in getting all hands on deck in their blocking efforts to create space for their ball carriers. This put the players in vulnerable situations.
On the surface, the tackling didn’t seem all that great, but the good runs were more of just the players not being in the right place than the physical ability itself. Jaylon Smith was slow at times and got washed out taking wrong angles, but as a team, the Cowboys defense did a good job flying to the ball. Players like Joe Thomas, Xavier Woods, and Darian Thompson were aggressive and showed a lot of instinct in their ability to defend the run. For that reason, the absence of Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee or the decision to not make a move to upgrade the safety position shouldn’t be as worrisome as some might think.
The play of Aldon Smith was great to see. He was everywhere. And despite Everson Griffin jumping a couple times that got flagged for neutral zone infractions, he also induced an intentional grounding penalty by pressuring Jared Goff and made a nice pass deflection on a third-down play.
The stat sheet will show 422 yards of total offense for the Rams, including 40 rushing attempts that helped give them over a ten minute advantage in the time of possession. As a team, the Cowboys needed to do better from the start, but it was nice to see adjustments made. The defense stopped the Rams on four straight possessions, and that should’ve been enough to allow the offense to step up and win the game.
Fiction: Improvement is needed, but better things are coming from the Cowboys defense