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Cowboys news: The Cowboys are championship-caliber, just not for reasons everyone expected

Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are championship-caliber, just not for reasons everyone thought - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys defense is leading the way on their quest for a championship.

So here goes: The Dallas Cowboys have a championship-caliber defense. Seriously. Stop laughing. It’s true. In the playoffs, Dallas will compete against some of the NFL’s best quarterback such as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Kyler Murray or Matthew Stafford. Those quarterbacks aren’t going to provide many opportunities to make a big play, so when they make a mistake the Cowboys must take advantage of it because they might not make another.

The pass rush now has three players who can affect the quarterback, and we know that quarterbacks under duress make mistakes. When the opponent is driving or momentum has swung to the other side, a familiar refrain pops up: Can somebody, anybody make a play The more dudes capable of doing that, the better.

For years, DeMarcus Lawrence has been the only consistent playmaker on defense. Now, he has company. You saw what the Cowboys’ playmakers did against Washington with their full complement of defensive players for the first time all season. They limited Washington to 224 yards, while recording five sacks and forcing four turnovers. Lawrence had a sack and two tackles for loss, Gregory had a sack, a forced fumble and an interception, while Parsons had two sacks and a forced fumble that led to a touchdown. Jourdan Lewis led the team in tackles and added a forced fumble with a fumble recovery.

The Cowboys have 27 takeaways, second in the NFL behind 29 from Indianapolis. They haven’t had that many through the first 13 games since 1999. Those turnovers are leading to points. The Cowboys defense has scored a league-high five touchdowns this season.

NY Is No Opportunity For Rest, Despite Injuries - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

Even with multiple guys banged up, the Cowboys can’t afford to give players rest against the Giants.

Given their impressive record and their lengthy injury report, there's been plenty of talk of giving the Cowboys' playmakers a chance to rest up during this stretch run. That thought has centered around Ezekiel Elliott as he fights through a knee injury, and the same can be said for Tyron Smith. Asked about that Tuesday morning, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said it's not an attitude they can afford.

"We've got to play this game as though it were for the marbles," Jones said. "I think the other day, the second half the other shows us there's no given. We all let down a little bit going into that second half and our thoughts were maybe this one is in the bag. We all had that feeling."

The course of events reflect that. The Cowboys jogged into the halftime locker room with a 24-0 lead against Washington that had almost looked easy. By the time they boarded the buses to the airport, they had eked out a 27-20 win that had made plenty of people nervous. "They got players — whoever you're playing — have players that can make those plays, make those inordinate plays," Jones said. "And your team can make a bad play. And before you know it, you're right there and fighting."

Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Dallas & New York - Staff, DallasCowboys.com

Taking a look at some storylines for Sunday’s matchup.

Giants. Two late touchdowns were not enough for the Giants to erase their massive struggles in a 37-21 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday. Things looked positive early on as the two teams were tied at the end of the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. However, the Chargers rattled off 30-unanswered points and stormed out to a 37-7 lead on the strength of a dominant, three touchdown, performance from Justin Herbert. Additionally, the Giants never got off the ground offensively either as they tallied just 181 yards in the air and Saquon Barkley was held to only 64 yards on 16 carries.

Quarterback Daniel Jones has been unavailable for New York since he suffered a neck injury in a Week 12 win over Philadelphia and has missed two straight games. Jones' overall status for this week, and moving forward, is very much in question as the team has sought multiple opinions from New York to Miami and Los Angeles over the last few weeks. While the Giants await updates on Jones, Mike Glennon has also been banged up. The veteran backup had to be cleared out of concussion protocol last Friday before making his second consecutive start. He is still expected to be the starter against Dallas barring any drastic change in Jones' diagnosis.

Jerry Jones sort of uses the word ‘slump’ to define Dak Prescott’s recent play - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys

It’s clear the signal-caller has not been right for the past month or so.

McCarthy is doing the right thing by protecting his quarterback. And it’s not like Prescott has been awful, he’s just been middling, an also-ran at quarterback during this recent slump (and yes, he is in one), rather than the $40-million-a-year franchise QB he was paid to be. But even Jerry Jones, who has been known to be too candid for his on good, basically acknowledges the slump.

“I don’t want to say ‘slump,’ but that’s probably fair,” Jones said. “But it’s such a multi-faceted evaluation that I would say that our offense is definitely away from where we were playing five and six games ago from the standpoint of production. What the opposing defenses has to do with it needs to be considered.”

Jones said that Prescott is healthy and that he doesn’t think there’s “merit” to the idea that his mechanics are out of whack as a result of time missed due to injury over the summer or in the season. He also said he has “real confidence” in Prescott and the offense putting everything back together. “He will figure it out,” Jones said. “That’s the key thing here. He has no superior in working on it, studying it, taking it to the practice field, repetition. He’s as good or better than anybody I’ve ever seen and so he will mentally and physically rep this through.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay has Cowboys adding another pass-rusher alongside Micah Parsons in 2022 mock draft - Staff, Dallas Morning News

An early look ahead at the 2022 draft class.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first mock draft making picks for the entire first round using ESPN’s Football Power Index to determine the order of selection for all 32 teams. Last offseason, after trading down from No. 10 to No. 12 in the first round, the Cowboys selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. That’s turned out pretty well so far. Now, slated at pick No. 27, McShay has the Cowboys going back to the pass-rushing well, this time in SEC country, selecting Georgia defensive end Travon Walker.

“Walker has been a big riser this fall, previously getting overshadowed by some of the other talents on Georgia’s phenomenal defense. But his tape is outstanding, and I expect him to wow scouts at the combine with his workouts,” McShay wrote. “He is versatile with the ability to play off the edge or on the interior, and he possesses the power to walk blockers back.”

Walker, a 6-5, 275-pound junior, has 32 tackles and four sacks this season on a defense headed to this year’s College Football Playoff. And given the potential for change along the Dallas defensive front in the coming years, according to McShay, Walker could help fill the void alongside Parsons

5 key defensive plays that helped Cowboys beat WFT - Lauren Barash, The Landry Hat

What defensive play do you think was the most impactful?

5. Jourdan Lewis forces a fumble against Antonio Gibson. After going into halftime 24-0, Washington slowly started to creep back into the game. Inching towards the end of the third quarter, WFT had already scored a touchdown and completed a two-point conversion to put the game at 24-8. How did the dismal offense respond? By punting after just one first down. But, as was always the case in this matchup, the defense was there to save the day.

This time, cornerback Jourdan Lewis was able to punch the ball out of Antonio Gibson’s hands to force a fumble. He then recovered the ball, giving the Cowboys optimal field position. It’s important to note that even though the offense got the ball on about the 25-yard line, they still couldn’t make anything happen after that huge defensive play. It has to be frustrating to be a member of this defense and do everything to help your team dominate this game just to have the offense do nothing with key opportunities.

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