Coming off the Week 9 bye, and heading to Lambeau Field with a 6-2 record, usually means a big time matchup is ahead for America’s Team given the consistency of the Green Bay Packers organization from a performance perspective. However, this year seems to be a little different because of how Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have played thus far in 2022. Green Bay, is the current owner of a five-game losing streak and has a record of 3-6. Regardless of their record, and regardless of the current play of Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, this upcoming game could pose as a trap game if not careful. It wouldn’t be wise to sleep on Rodgers given his proven track record against all opponents, and especially the Dallas Cowboys.
Before we get to Week 10, and coming off a bye, it feels like now would be a perfect time to grade the Cowboys performance thus far in 2022.
Without Dak Prescott, this offense is below average. With Dak Prescott, this offense is one the most potent units in the entire NFL
Quite frankly, given the play of the Cowboys offense without Dak Prescott, it is a small miracle that the franchise is in this position and possesses a 6-2 record through eight games played. This isn’t a knock on Cooper Rush, because he played well enough to engineer a 4-1 record this season as starter in Dak’s absence, it’s more a reflection as to how blessed America’s Team is to have a franchise quarterback like Dak Prescott. Just in the small sample size alone with Prescott at the helm in 2022, the offense looks much better and more like a well-oiled machine whereas when Rush was under center, the offense seemed to sputter more often than not. Thankfully the other units picked up the slack to help make things a bit easier for Rush to be in a better position to succeed and win football games.
Aside from the quarterback situation, which is obviously in good hands with Prescott healthy once again, the running attack has been performing quite well thus far. As a unit, the ground game has totaled 1,052 yards on the year which averages out to 131.5 yards per game. This ranks as the 12th best mark in the league currently. In the last three contests alone, the Cowboys have ramped up their ground to an average of 157.7 yards which ranks sixth in the league. It appears that the running back duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard is trending in the right direction, which will be important as Dallas works its way into the playoffs once again.
The passing game, as expected, is starting to trend upward as well, now that Dak Prescott is back in the mix. CeeDee Lamb has had a solid season thus far as the go-to receiver in this offense given the early hand he was dealt with a backup quarterback at the helm for five of the eight games thus far in 2022. Noah Brown, has had a nice breakout after many seasons of being known for his blocking skills compared to his receiving skills. Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup seem to be getting in the groove with Prescott back which is a great sight to see given the lack of production when both have been in the lineup. Granted, Schultz has been nicked up and Gallup is working his way back from an ACL injury so the bye week was probably a good thing for those two in particular.
As a unit, when healthy and fully loaded, is one of the better in the league. The season stats tell a different story, but by the end of this season, it should be improved.
The defense has been the catalyst for the 6-2 start, and without this unit’s play, the playoff hunt could’ve already been out of reach
The Cowboys defense features arguably the best player in the league, Micah Parsons, who is a unicorn. It was not just the play of Parsons that is remarkable, it’s the play of the unit as a whole. From in the trenches, all the way back to the secondary, and everywhere in between, this unit is supremely talented.
Speaking of trenches, the Cowboys possess five players with at least three sacks through eight games. Micah Parsons is fourth in the league with eight sacks, DeMarcus Lawrence looks more like the Tank we’ve come to know and love and has four sacks, and Dorance Armstrong has become a force with his play and has become a legit pass rusher in the NFL.
The linebacker group features Micah Parsons once again who can play literally everywhere on the field and do it so well. Not to be forgotten is the quality of play by Leighton Vander Esch, who many didn’t think would be on the roster this time last year. Anthony Barr has also played quality football and his late signing coming into the regular season has proven to be a good call by the Cowboys front office.
The secondary unit of this defense, which for the safeties means a lot of in the box play, has also played very well. This unit as a whole has been indispensable because they will lineup just about anywhere on the field and make plays. Guys like Trevon Diggs, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker just to name a few have done their job very well when their number has been called.
As an entire unit, they check just about every single box you look for in terms of being an elite defense aside from the ground game. Dallas traded for run-stopping specialist Johnathan Hankins to help shore up this weakness. If this acquisition, along with the improvement in this area as a whole starts to happen, then this defense will be complete.
Coming into the year, the special teams unit had many question marks and through eight games there isn’t any question how reliable this unit has been
Entering the 2022 season, the only thing for certain about the Cowboys special teams unit indeed was uncertainty. The Cowboys initially had plans for an undrafted kicker to take over for the departed Greg Zuerlein until that plan backfired. The Cowboys turned to a journeyman who spent sometime in the CFL, until that plan also didn’t workout. Third times the charm, as they brought back a familiar face in Brett Maher, who was known for his monster leg but not for his accuracy, but has now become one the more accurate kickers in the league. Talk about a stroke of luck as he’s only missed a pair of nearly 50-yarders, and had an extra point blocked. Aside from that, he’s been perfect. Who saw that coming?
Not only were there kicker questions, but who would and should be the kick/punt returner. CeeDee Lamb? Tony Pollard? Those two names popped up and for good reason, they are both electric with the ball in their hands. Problem is, their services are much more important to the offense which means that it is time to find someone else to handle the return duties. Once again, a stroke of good fortune where the current USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin was signed to handle those duties, and talk about hitting the jackpot. Turpin is arguably one of the fastest players in the NFL and is due to break the big one for six. It is only a matter of time before this becomes reality.
The only thing really for certain was the return of Pro Bowl punter Bryan Anger. So far, so good for Anger as he’s done his job and played well. He also currently holds the longest punt in league in 2022 thus far for what it’s worth. From being unstable to being the consistently stable, this unit has been the most surprising and thank goodness for that.