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Cowboys news: Dallas ‘average at best’ offensive line is the cause of their offensive mediocrity

Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Cowboys’ offensive line is average at best, and that’s why the offense is stuck in mediocrity - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News

This once highly-touted offensive line has struggled at times this season.

The line doesn’t consistently move defenders and create holes for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the running game. They don’t pass protect long enough for Dak Prescott to feel comfortable going through his reads and throwing deep. They commit way too many penalties — an embarrassing 52 as a unit — and if they can’t play any better than they did Sunday against Arizona then the Cowboys’ offensive woes will continue.

Prescott led the Cowboys in rushing, which should never ever happen. Elliott and Pollard combined for 25 yards on 12 carries. Embarrassing. Understand this, sports are fluid and what’s true in the morning might be false in the afternoon. And what’s true today might not be true a day, a week or a month from now. See, the Cowboys did have one of the best offensive lines early in the season when they were building a 6-1 record. At least, they were playing that way. That offense averaged 29.1 points and 402 yards per game, and hung 35 points and 567 yards on Bill Belichick’s defense on the road.

But that’s before Smith suffered an ankle injury in the win over New England on Oct. 17, when Conner McGovern rolled up his ankle. Since then, he’s missed five of 10 games, pushing his total to 31 games in the last six seasons. That’s before Collins regressed from a potential star to a slightly above-average player. Connor Williams and Tyler Biadasz are average at best, which means Martin is the only elite player on the offensive line.

For Cowboys, playing to improve is more important than rest ahead of regular-season finale - David Moore, Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys have a big decision to make about potentially resting their starters in Saturday’s season finale.

If you shut down key players in the Cowboys’ finale to avoid injury, you do nothing to work on the offensive malaise that grips this team. If you ride with your starters against Philadelphia and one or two go down to injury, you’ve compromised your team’s postseason fortunes. This scenario resonates even louder at the moment since an MRI confirmed that receiver Michael Gallup suffered a torn ACL and will be lost for the playoff run.

Choose whatever side you want in this debate. But don’t let your intransigence blind you. There’s no universal truth on how to proceed when a game has little to no bearing on the playoff picture. One size does not fit all. McCarthy has discussed the options with his staff and ownership and come to a conclusion. “We’re going to play to win the game,” McCarthy said. “That’s our approach. Obviously, with everything in front of us we understand the scenarios and so forth.

“We’re going to Philadelphia and we’re going to line up to do what we need to do to win the game.” Play to win sounds good. Play to improve is arguably more important.

Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Cowboys & Eagles - Kyle Youmans, DallasCowboys.com

Taking a look at some Cowboys & Eagles storylines.

Eagles Philadelphia needed a come-from-behind effort to down the hobbled Washington Football team in Week 17, 20-16. Washington held a commanding 16-7 lead at the halftime break but were blanked in the second half and allowed 13-unanswered points to Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense. The win clinched a playoff spot for Philly and pushed them to 9-wins for the first time since they won the NFC East in 2019.

The Eagles are dealing with their biggest COVID-19 breakout of the season, placing 12 players on the reserve list on Monday. The list includes big names such as Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Dallas Goedert, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott. New NFL protocols state that players can return to the team after just five days but must be symptom-free. So it's possible those players can play against the Cowboys. However, with the Eagles already clinched a playoff spot and even a win doesn't guarantee them to improve their seeding, head coach Nick Sirianni said the coaching staff is still discussing whether to rest players against the Cowboys in Week 18.

3 & Out: A Playoff Run Hinges On These Essentials - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

What’s the most important ingredient to a deep postseason run?

I Know…this sounds strange to say after a loss, but the Cowboys' identity became even clearer against the Arizona Cardinals. Win or lose, this is a complementary football team reliant on matching contributions from the offense, defense and special teams. During the first seven games of the season, when Dallas was shredding defenses at a 34.2-points-per-game clip, this looked like an offense-first group.

Down the stretch, as opponents have adjusted and the offense's production has dipped, it's clear how much the defense's takeaways mean to the team's overall success. The defense had chances last Sunday (including an apparent forced fumble in the final two minutes and change that wasn't called or reviewed) but didn't get a takeaway for only the fourth game this season. The Cowboys' record in those four games is 1-3: losses to the Cardinals, Raiders and Broncos, and a razor-thin victory over the Vikings on Halloween without Dak Prescott in the lineup.

No team has scored more than the Cowboys' 479 points. Nearly a quarter of those points (112) has come from 33 forced turnovers, tied for first in the league. On special teams, Pro Bowl punter Bryan Anger and the coverage unit has been a major factor in tilting field position. This is actually the right recipe to win in the playoffs. As head coach Mike McCarthy said after the Washington game, "

Diagnosing the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive woes in recent games - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys

The offense came back to earth on Sunday, struggling once again.

The poor job against the Cardinals follows several others where the offense sputtered and the play-calling seemed to offer few real surprises for opponents. The run game has largely been abandoned, the deep ball seldom gets thrown, and the focus is on screens and short completions. That is not exactly an exciting approach to pitch in his interview.

When looking at the ground game, it is an interesting chicken or egg question. Ezekiel Elliott has looked like a shadow of himself since getting hurt falling on a pylon back in week five of the season. But Tony Pollard has shown flashes of explosiveness, yet against Arizona, the run game was almost unused. There were only twelve handoffs in a contest that the Cowboys never trailed by more than ten points in the first half. While a couple of scores in the third quarter forced the team into catchup mode, Moore went away from the run long before that. It is especially puzzling because Pollard gained nine yards on two carries just before the end of the first quarter, and then had an eight-yard gain called back for holding on the first play of the second. He would not get a handoff the rest of the game. Was it a case of giving up too early on the run, or just a belief it was not there in the first place?

Defenses love to make an offense one-dimensional. Moore seemed far too acquiescent in allowing this to happen, particularly in the second quarter when there was still plenty of opportunity to still run the ball.

Washington Football Team might've just blown their new team name reveal - Lauren Barash, The Landry Hat

Dallas’ long-time rival may have accidentally revealed their new team name.

ESPN’s Joon Lee tweeted that if you go to WashingtonAdmirals.com, it leads to the Washington Football Team website (Lee’s tweet has since been deleted). Come on, Washington. Can’t you have one thing go well this year?

Ironically, despite the fact that tons of names have been thrown out for this team (Red Hogs, Defenders, Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Commanders, etc), the name they might have chosen is already being used in the nation’s capital.

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