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4 burning Cowboys questions: Is the offense broken? Time to unleash Pollard? Replace Zuerlein?

Let’s address some hot topics floating around Cowboys Nation.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With no game on Sunday, fans of the Dallas Cowboys had some extra time to reflect and pontificate about the state of this football team. A loser of three of their last four, the Cowboys are in a weird place as things aren’t exactly a bed of roses in Big D. And they better figure things out quickly because another Thursday game is right around the corner.

With so many questions flying around, we thought we’d highlight some of the hotter talking points and attempt to provide answers.

Is Dak broken? Has Kellen Moore been figured out?

We’ll answer these two together. Dak Prescott was playing his best football not too long ago, but lately, we’ve seen some struggles from the offense. Part of this can be attributed to Prescott’s health as he gets more comfortable with what his body can do. Part of this is being without a couple of star receivers. These things have made Dak look a little uncomfortable at times as he just hasn’t been able to connect well with some of the other receivers. If you’re interested in a more detailed breakdown of Dak’s performance, I highly recommend checking out the latest edition of Dak Watch from our own Mark Schofield.

Opposing defenses smell blood and are challenging Prescott to beat them. That’s not to say a “blueprint” has been drawn up to defeat the Cowboys offense, but it’s hard to deny that teams are having success getting them off the field recently. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore doesn’t appear to have as many answers as he did before when the offense was humming.

It’s understandable to be concerned, but it’s hard seeing these offensive struggles continue much longer. The plays are there, Prescott is making the right reads, and if some of these close incompletions were hauled in, we wouldn’t be questioning the authenticity of this Cowboys offense. With some Dak-friendly receiving targets returning soon, things are going to improve.

Should we start feeling uneasy about this defense?

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the Cowboys gave up 509 yards to the Raiders on Thursday, but did you know that’s more yards than they gave up in any one game last year during a season where they set a new franchise record for most points allowed (473)?

As bad as the overall yardage numbers look, you might be shocked to learn that the Cowboys defense held the Raiders to 3 for 13 on third down. Of course, costly penalties on the money down gave Vegas extra chances to work through that inefficiency and keep on rolling. Despite giving up some big plays, when you look closely at the game, there were a lot of instances where the defense won the play. And while it’s hard to see it because of all the penalties, the defense made some big stops in this game.

The Cowboys defense isn’t playing as well as they were a few weeks ago, and we might have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves thinking they could be great. They’re not; at least at the moment. But this is still a good group that can get it done, especially if the offense rights the ship and creates opportunistic moments for them.

Should Pollard be the team’s starting RB?

Tony Pollard is having a nice season. To the satisfaction of Cowboys fans everywhere, Pollard’s usage has increased by 50% this year, and to be quite honest, fans are still yearning for more. Pollard already has eclipsed his career-high in rushing yards and there are still six more games to play. He’s averaging nearly a yard more per carry than Ezekiel Elliott, and every time Pollard gets involved, good things happen. Check this, 10 times in his career, Pollard’s received more than 10 carries. The Cowboys have won all 10 of those games.

As for being the team’s starting running back, don’t push all your chips in the middle on that one. A healthy Zeke is still pretty darn fantastic. That said, Pollard should be getting the lion’s share of carries right now. Preserving the health of Elliott is crucial and it would behoove the Cowboys to let Pollard loose down the stretch of the season. What can it hurt? The youngster’s earned that right and he’s shown his value to the team. Let Elliott rest, and when he returns fresher, we’ll have a better idea of what type of running back split the Cowboys should employ. Who knows, maybe Pollard will provide the spark this offense needs to get on track. Worst case scenario is they get a more rested Zeke for the home stretch of the season.

Should they get a new kicker?

It’s certainly troubling that Greg Zuerlein has missed some easy kicks this year that have come back to bite the Cowboys. The points squandered from “gimme” kicks in both the Tampa Bay and Las Vegas games could’ve turned losses into wins had he knocked them down. But it should also be noted that Zuerlein has made three long kicks that have either won the game or sent it into overtime as time was winding down in the fourth quarter (Chargers, Patriots, and now Raiders). That’s clutch.

What’s very puzzling is that Zuerlein is a complete contrast to what the team had in their former kicker Brett Maher.

Zuerlein is not hitting the super long ones, and it’s odd that he’s suddenly struggling with extra points (never an issue when he was with the Rams), but he’s incredibly accurate from anything less than 50 yards. With his time in Dallas, he’s only missed three field-goal attempts (out of 52, that’s a 94% success rate) from that range. That’s pretty reliable.

Every miss he’s had this year are kicks he’s pulled to the left. He’s changing up his starting position for his PAT’s, so something mental is going on that he’s trying to work through. Head coach Mike McCarthy remains comfortable with him, and sticking with him might be the best play for the Cowboys right now.