It has only been a few days since the Dallas Cowboys lost their season opener against the reigning world champions, but a lot has happened. When we all woke up on Friday morning the Cowboys were 0-1, but full of an enormous amount of promise. Going blow-for-blow with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is an indication of a number of positive things. Morale victories are not exactly popular, but many people felt better about this year’s version of America’s Team.
Of course, Friday happened. A report dropped that Michael Gallup is expected to miss 3-5 weeks with a calf strain, and while we were talking ourselves through how doable that stretch is things got worse when news broke that La’el Collins is suspended for the team’s next five games.
Neither of these things are death sentences for the current Cowboys. They are definitely problems, but there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this team entering Week 2.
Dak Prescott looks like the best version of himself that we have seen
There is one just-about-indisputable truth in the National Football League. In order to compete at a high level week after week, you have to have sustainable top quarterback play. Dak Prescott was unquestionably the best player on the Cowboys on Thursday night and given that he plays the most important position in the game, that bodes well.
Elite quarterback play is the most valuable asset in the NFL, but one of the best things about it is that it can help cover up deficiencies elsewhere on offense. As long as the Cowboys have Dak, they are within striking distance.
Kellen Moore might have called his best game as the team’s offensive coordinator
For some reason there are people who believe that the Cowboys erred on Thursday night by not running the ball more. Kellen Moore had a plan, he stuck to it, and he damn near pulled it off.
We know that the Cowboys offense can operate at elite levels off of raw talent, but if they are also being methodical about things then there is all the more reason to let the hype train build up momentum. Our own Aidan Davis put it well over the weekend:
On Thursday night, Dak Prescott had an average time to throw of 2.39, which would have ranked fifth in the NFL in 2020. Kellen Moore didn’t give Tampa Bay the opportunity to get to the quarterback. The game plan was clear, let Prescott shoulder the burden without allowing the Buccaneers’ defensive line to become a factor.
We are far removed from the 2014 Cowboys offensive line that could bully defenders and wear them down throughout the game. Instead of letting the d-line play a factor in an uneven matchup, Kellen Moore removed that aspect from the game entirely.
Dak is not going to throw the ball 58 times in every game this season. But on a week-to-week basis, Kellen Moore will take advantage of the defense however he sees fit.
Identifying weaknesses that can be exploited is what we want and ask of all Cowboys staffers. Kellen Moore did that against the best team in the National Football League.
It is exciting to think what he can do against more down-to-earth levels of competition.
Trevon Diggs locked down one of the game’s top wide receivers
DeMarcus Lawrence has generated a lot of deserved headlines, but the Cowboys got a similarly impressive performance at the back end of the defense. Trevon Diggs began the ascent that we all hoped to see this season.
Much has been made about the fact that Diggs is the younger brother of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs and how much practicing against him can/will develop him as a defender. Well, he took on one of the game’s other top wide receivers in Mike Evans and just about pitched a shutout.
Trevon Diggs shadowed Mike Evans, aligning across from him on 39 of his 47 routes (83%).— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 10, 2021
Diggs allowed just 1 reception for 10 yards on 3 targets, and aligned in press coverage on over half of his routes vs Evans (51% press).#DALvsTB | #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/jp3kSKBSSh
Diggs also came away with an interception on the night. While turnovers can be fleeting, that type of performance against Mike Evans is something that should be repeatable in the future. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
Depth seems to have been found in Connor McGovern
Last weekend got Week 1 off to a rough start for the Cowboys as we all found out that Zack Martin would miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19. The news served as yet another reminder at how quickly things can change.
The Cowboys committed to Connor McGovern as the plan there though and he delivered in an effective manner. McGovern finished second on the team in both run and pass blocking according to PFF (La’el Collins and Tyron Smith were first in each respective category) which definitely seems like way more than anyone was expecting.
It’s not like the run game was a component that the Cowboys really relied on anyway so that sample size is a bit small. Still though, the fact that McGovern graded so well gives the Cowboys the guard depth that they have needed. What’s more is it also gives the team options in terms of moving offensive linemen around to deal with La’el Collins’ upcoming absence.
The next five games are not exactly intimidating
Speaking of Collins being out, obviously there isn’t any sort of positive to take away from that. Five games is a huge stretch of time and considering that Michael Gallup’s expected absence is 3-5 weeks it makes sense that they could both be out until Halloween.
Why is that? As the Cowboys are now entering Week 2 it is important to note that Week 7 (the week after their next five) is their bye. Their first game back after that is on the road against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8, a game they will play on Halloween night.
The Cowboys could be a bit of a mirage at the midway point. We might look at this team the week of the Vikings game and feel like the defense is much improved versus who they were last year. While that could literally be true, it will be important to consider the context of who they have just played.
These are the next five teams that the Cowboys will play, the stretch of time where they will operate without La’el Collins and for at least part of it without Michael Gallup.
Weeks 2-6 for the Dallas Cowboys
- Week 2: Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert)
- Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles (Jalen Hurts)
- Week 4: Carolina Panthers (Sam Darnold)
- Week 5: New York Giants (Daniel Jones)
- Week 6: New England Patriots (Mac Jones)
You will note that we have included each team’s quarterback in parentheses which is important because, as mentioned up top, who that person is for each squad is an incredibly important detail. After next week’s matchup against the Chargers the Cowboys are facing signal-callers who are all generally agreed upon to be in the bottom half as far as all starters across the league.
This is why going 1-1 through the first two games has felt like the necessary task for the Cowboys. Nobody is saying that losses are accepted or to be desired, but if they are able to be at least .500 after Sunday afternoon then the stage will be set for them to enter the bye with a lot of steam, even going through this entire stretch without La’el Collins and potentially Michael Gallup.