After eight weeks of the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys headed into their bye week with a record of 6-2. The six wins from America’s Team thus far currently ties them for the second-most wins in the entire NFL. Given the trials and tribulations the franchise has gone through already, it is quite remarkable to be in the position that they are currently in. Kudos to this team as it seems to have that grit that some teams unfortunately do not possess.
In Week 8, Dallas defeated the Chicago Bears, 49-29. With the score being what it was, for the most part, the Cowboys stock went up, but there is one area that still is a concern where the stock is trending in the down direction. Let’s break it down.
The passing game is starting to find it’s groove
Although Cooper Rush guided the Cowboys to a 4-1 record while he was the starter, Rush is not an elite player and he was a backup for a reason. There was a considerable dropoff from a talent perspective going from Dak Prescott to Rush. Rush did a solid job by being a game manager and simply doing just enough to win football games. Prescott, on the other hand, is a game breaker, who does not necessarily need a great overall team performance to win football games. His talent alone, when applied properly, can guide the Cowboys to a lot more wins than losses as his career winning percentage currently resides at 62.5%.
At times, Prescott can be a little too free when delivering passes which explains the careless interceptions thrown by him from time to time. From Week 8, Bears defender Eddie Jackson cashed in on one of those careless attempts from Prescott by grabbing an interception. The decision by Prescott which led to that pick by Jackson was very poor, but for the rest of the game, Prescott started to look like his elite self again. In Week 8 alone, he completed nearly 78% of his passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. This was the first time all season that Prescott looked like the player who received a hefty pay raise not too long ago.
These type of games from him are one of the main reasons why he is as well paid as he is. In the NFL, if you don’t have a franchise quarterback, more times than not you’ll be drafting early enough year in and year out looking for one of those quarterbacks. As much as folks complain about Dak’s price tag, he is an elite player who is one of the better quarterbacks in the league today. Be thankful to have him as a Cowboy, because the alternative probably isn’t ideal. As the Cowboys currently enjoy the bye week, it was good to see Prescott putting things together and looking more like himself. If Dallas intends to go deep into the playoffs, they’ll need Dak Prescott in form and it seems to be trending in the right direction.
The rushing attack proved to be in good hands without Ezekiel Elliott
Week 8 was a great performance by the lead back (at least this week), Tony Pollard. Pollard carried the mail just 14 times, but cashed in on three of those occasions for touchdowns. One of those three scores, included a tremendous 54-yarder where he was able to show off how electric he is with the ball in his hands. Pollard’s skill set is so flashy that it keeps opposing defense coordinators up late at night as they devise a way to slow him down. The rushing attack, without their lead dog Ezekiel Elliott, ran for 200 yards this past weekend. Prescott carried the ball five times, one of which resulted in a touchdown. Undrafted rookie Malik Davis also carried the ball eight times to help fill the void left by an injured Ezekiel Elliott.
Although the ground game looked good without Elliott, he is still the focal point at the position for the Cowboys. Elliott has had a very solid career since joining the Cowboys in 2016. He’s certainly regressed as a player which is common for the running back position as a player gets close the age of 30. However, when you look at his numbers currently, he is still a quality NFL running back. His style isn’t as flashy as Pollard’s, but with each carry, he’s actually making things that much easier for Pollard. As Zeke pounds the rock as the lead back, he is softening up the defense to help open things up for Pollard. Again, Zeke isn’t flashy and he doesn’t need to be. This dynamic duo should continue to put up good numbers as long as they are given ample opportunities to do so. A balanced offense is key for the success of this team, and given the yardage from both the air and ground proved to be exactly what the Cowboys were looking for.
The defense as a whole has been elite, but stopping the run is still a big concern
For the majority of this season, the Cowboys defense has been the driving force en route to the 6-2 mark while heading into the Week 9 bye. And it’s for a good reason - they are really good. In fact, this unit is one of the most elite defensive groups in the league today. However, the Dallas’ front office, to their credit, saw a weakness in this unit and made a trade. They wanted to shore up the weak spot which is run defense, so they acquired Johnathan Hankins from the Raiders.
Hankins has been in the league since 2013 and was originally drafted in the second round by one of the franchise’s division rivals, the New York Giants. Acquiring Hankins for low end draft capital was low-risk, potentially high-reward move to shore up the issues in stopping the run. Through one game post Hankins trade, the team saw a significant increase in rushing yards given up when the Bears ran for 240 yards. Obviously, one game into a trade doesn’t mean the move was bad, but as the trade deadline passed, the team decided to stand pat and not make anymore moves. Let’s just hope that this rushing defense can improve in a hurry or it could come back to bite the Cowboys later on in the season.
All things considered, this was the most complete performance that the Cowboys put out as a team. They showed good balance on offense where they passed for 250 yards, and also ran the ball for 200 yards. The defense, even with the poor game in terms of stopping the ground attack, still performed well enough to help preserve a victory when Micah Parsons looked like a running back when he scored on the scoop and score. As long as the defense continues to work on stopping the run better, and then pairs that up with an ever-improving Cowboys offense, that should make for some great games ahead for America’s Team.