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5 things to watch when the Cowboys face off against the Jaguars

We got a list of key things to track when the Cowboys take on the Jaguars on Sunday.

NFL: International Series-Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys will travel into Jacksonville for only the second time ever. The last time Dallas had a road game against the Jags was back in 2014, but that game was played in London. The Cowboys have won the last two meetings and you have to go back to the Wade Phillips mid-season firing year of 2010 to when the Jaguars last beat Dallas. It’s been a rough road for Jacksonville as they have only had one winning season over the last 15 years (2017). Of course, they went all the way to the conference finals that season, a feat the Cowboys haven’t accomplished in 27 years.

The Jaguars have started to put things together recently. After losing five straight, Jacksonville has won three of their last five games. They are just two games behind the division-leading Tennessee Titans, a team they beat by two touchdowns last week. As they try to keep a good thing going, they’ll face a Cowboys team that is also two games behind their division leaders, the Philadelphia Eagles. And with a Christmas Eve date with the Eagles coming up shortly, a road win against Jaguars is imperative if they want to stay in the hunt for the coveted top seed in the NFC.

We discussed this idea in greater detail on the latest episode of The Star Seminar on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

Can the Cowboys make it five in a row? Or will this hungry Jags team put a lump of coal in our Christmas stockings? Here are five things to watch when the Cowboys play the Jaguars on Sunday.

1. No more lolligagging!

There was a lot made about the remarkable resiliency of this Cowboys team after playing 55 minutes of underwhelming football against the Houston Texans, only to rise from the ashes and pull off the come-from-behind victory. The final stretch was impressive. The defensive stand. The ice-water veins of Dak Prescott. Quite impressive, indeed.

But there is another element to this as well and that’s the Cowboys' propensity of not playing well for the first three quarters of the game as that has been something we’ve seen quite a bit of this season. This Texans game wasn’t an anomaly. The week before they only led by two points heading into the fourth quarter against the Colts before the onslaught began. The week before that, the Cowboys started slowly against the Giants on Thanksgiving. And there’s more. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were up...

  • 10-6 against the Lions
  • 15-10 against the Commanders
  • 13-13 in the first game against the Giants

Granted, those last two mentioned were games where Cooper Rush was the starting quarterback, but we as fans can remember the frustration of not playing better until the final quarter of regulation and that wasn’t fun to sit through.

The question becomes is this how the Cowboys operate now and maybe the Minnesota game was the anomaly? If they continue to come out sloppy, the Jags aren’t a team that will just let them show up late and get the dub. The Cowboys need to have their act together early in this one.

2. The quick-thinking Lawrence

To the surprise of everyone, the Cowboys' pass rush was a complete non-factor against the Texans last week. Give the Texans credit, they designed their offense to get the ball out of their quarterback's hands quickly and with a lot of rollout plays.

Expect the Jaguars to do more of the same. Trevor Lawrence has been sharp over the last five games as he has thrown 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in that span. Just as a reference, Prescott has thrown seven interceptions in that same five-game span. If the Jags second-year quarterback is making quick reads and uses his mobility to escape pressure, this could be a problem for the Cowboys' defense.

3. Attacking the weakness

Another problem the Cowboys' defense could run into is that Jags’ offensive coordinator Press Taylor loves to attack the other team’s weakness. That seems like an obvious plan for any coordinator, but Taylor is more committed than most in going after a matchup he can exploit. Normally, that would mean all eyes would be on the Cowboys' ability to stop the run game as that has been exploited a time or two; however, they have gotten better in recent games.

The real problem could be the outside coverage at cornerback opposite Trevon Diggs. As we know, second-year corner Kelvin Joseph started last week after taking over for the injured Anthony Brown. He was decent against the Texans, but he is exploitable. We also saw their other second-year corner Nahshon Wright see his first action of the year on defense. He is most definitely exploitable.

The Cowboys have survived okay to this point with their depth, but don’t be surprised if the Jaguars come after their young corners.

4. Action over the middle

On the other side of the ball, the opportunities are plentiful as well. The Jags are playing well, but they leave something to be desired defensively. They are near the bottom in yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and the number of first downs given up. Jacksonville is middle of the pack in points allowed, but they do allow teams to move the ball on them.

Kellen Moore should look to exploit matchups as well and this week that could mean a lot of action over the middle. The Jaguars linebackers are vulnerable in coverage as there shouldn’t be any linebackers making plays on the ball over the middle. This means that the Dalton Schultz safety valve and the CeeDee Lamb fly-across could be useful tactics for the Cowboys' offense this week.

5. Gameplanning around the OL depth

One of the biggest storylines for the Cowboys in this game will be how their offensive line will hold up as it is currently under construction. Tyron Smith is back, but the coaching staff has indicated they might give him, Tyler Smith, and Jason Peters a little work here and a little work there.

While the offensive line ine experiment will be something to keep an eye on, the Cowboys are likely to adjust their game plan accordingly. This could mean an extra dose of play-action and bootlegs to allow their tackles to jump-set their blocks and not be asked to hold up in pass protection for longer-than-desired moments. If the Cowboys look a little more conservative than usual, it may be by design.

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