The Dallas Cowboys once again were able to come out on top against the 3-0 Carolina Panthers. The Cowboys offensive line and defensive lines were the stars of this game as they were able to control the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game. After a few halftime adjustments, the Cowboys offensive line was able to pick up the Panthers heavy blitz packages, countering it with effective run blocking allowing Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to pick up large chunks of yards and giving Dak Prescott the time to find receivers downfield. The defensive adjusted their blitz package to get pressure on Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold in the second half. They weren’t the only bright spots though, so it’s time to take a look at how the entire team did this week.
This was a statement game for the Dallas Cowboys who wanted to show the rest of the league that they are for real. The most impressive part was that it was a true team win this week as the Cowboys players were able to keep the Panthers speed on offense in front of them, and the Cowboys offensive unit put on a clinic on what a truly balanced offense looks like and what it can do to one of the best defenses statistically in the NFL. The Cowboys coaches have to be given credit for coming up with a great game plan.
The reason the coaches are at a “B” is that they should have known that the Panthers were going to attack this offensive line with heavy blitzes packages early after the way this offensive line played against the Eagles. They seems to adjust to that only after halftime, and they also adjusted their defensive blitz package at halftime. Credit for the adjustments, but they seemed a little unprepared in the first half. Outside of that, head coach Mike McCarthy must be listening to the media as he seemed more aggressive this week, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called another balanced and efficient game, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn moving Micah Parsons all over the defense and using three safeties at one time has been paying off for him.
It was another impressive outing for Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott who didn’t get the amount of yardage through the air that we’ve grown accustomed to but did pass for four touchdowns. Prescott was also able to protect the ball after a few bad snaps from center Tyler Biadasz and used his legs to pick up some big first downs. Prescott’s control over this offense and his ability to manipulate the defense was on full display. After meeting with OC Moore at halftime, Prescott was able to go back to certain plays, tweak the formations, and was able to get two touchdowns out of them based on what he was seeing the Panthers do on the field.
Running Backs: A
Ezekiel Elliott continues to prove his early-season critics wrong after another strong showing against this Panther stout run defense. Rushing for 143 yards and one touchdown with his 47-yard run being the third-longest of his career. Tony Pollard was able to contribute as well picking up 67 yards on the day. Both running backs averaged over six yards per carry on the day with neither of them doing any damage through the air this week. If these two can stay healthy they will be a tough duo to slow down.
Wide Receiver: C
Amari Cooper was dealing with a rib injury and then ended up tweaking his hamstring early in the game. Lucky for the Cowboys he was able to return as he was the most productive receiver for the Cowboys this week with 69 yards and a touchdown. Fellow receivers CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson both made some plays and Wilson was able to add a touchdown of his own in the Cowboys win. Overall, though, this group didn’t really do to much on the field to warrant a higher grade. Hopefully, they get Michael Gallup back soon and take some of this pressure off Cooper and Lamb.
Tight Ends: A
Not only did Dalton Schultz score another touchdown but he was willing to share the wealth as Blake Jarwin was also able to find the endzone this week. Both tight ends were effective in the run-blocking plan this week as they were able to set the edges or seal off a block to allow Elliott and Pollard to find lanes and pick up yards. Schultz continues to show the Cowboys and the league that he’s someone that needs to be game-planned for because if not, he’s going to continue to find the endzone.
Offensive Line: B
They didn’t start off strong but as the game went on they were able to protect long enough to allow him to find his receivers. Prescott wasn’t sacked like he was last week, so that’s an improvement but the big guys up front are still having some problems picking up the blitzes, and that has to get better. In the running game, this offensive line is a well-oiled unit that has been able to bully teams outside of week one against the Buccaneers. They just need to do a better job picking up blitzes and La’el Collins could help fix that in a few weeks.
Defensive Line: A
The Cowboys defensive line was able to pressure Sam Darnold throughout the day and make it tough for the Panthers running game, minus Christian McCaffrey, to get anything going to help take pressure off Darnold. Micah Parsons got another sack but it was Randy Gregory that was the man this week picking up two sacks. This defensive line continues to get the job done without their best player and that should be a very scary thought for teams around the league. Because their young talent is only going to get better each week.
Cowboys linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith played well but a lot of the work was done for them this week by a defensive line that manhandled the Panthers offensive line most of the game. With Parsons going between assignaments, the grade here is mostly for Vander Esch and Smith and they did their jobs in picking up the scraps but it wasn’t that tough of a day for them minus McCaffrey. Next week, though, they’ll be dealing with Giants tight ends and a running back that can take over a game if allowed to.Of course, they will be doing that now, and forever more, without Jaylon Smith.
We are saying this every week, but Trevon Diggs is playing the best football of any cornerback in the league so far this year. Now in his fourth game, he was able to get not just one, but two interceptions, bringing his total for the season to five. He wasn’t alone though as the Cowboys safety play has been much improved as we aren’t seeing the blown coverages that we use to see. Instead we are seeing smart and effective safety play in the back of this defense, and as help against the run game of the opposition. Dan Quinn is quickly turning around this defense.