Full disclaimer, I do not have the authority to hand out coal to anyone on Christmas. That is left up to someone with a lot more authority in the matter. However, after the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-34 on Sunday, there is some blame to go around.
At one point, the Cowboys were leading 27-10, and the holiday season would wrap up on a high note. However, Dallas allowed Trevor Lawrence to come back and go on a 21-0 run to take the lead.
In the spirit of Christmas, there will be a variation on the top ten list, and it’s been checked twice. Here are eight names from Week 15 on the Cowboys’ naughty and nice list.
4. Kellen Moore, OC
Players are the ones who make up the list, but Kellen Moore’s play-calling had as much of an impact as any other player on here. To his credit, any team that scores 34 points in the NFL should win any time they play. There has been a problem with his situational play-calling.
In the two overtime losses on the road this season, Moore has not been able to prove he is a great coordinator when it counts. The Cowboys failed to convert on a critical fourth down in Green Bay that lost them the game, and he called a play in Jacksonville on third down before overtime where a deep ball went incomplete to Noah Brown.
Moore has shown to call effective plays when the team needs it. The pass that ended the game on Sunday was a double-pick route to free Brown across the other side. Great play design to get your players free. Why not call that play instead of the deep pass in the fourth quarter? Moore is a good offensive coordinator, but there is now a clear separation from good to great until he can prove otherwise.
3. Anthony Barr, LB
When Anthony Barr signed in the offseason, it was an excellent signing for someone with lots of experience at a position of need. Barr has not lived up to the expectations, and it looks like Father Time has finally caught up to him.
After Leighton Vander Esch went out of the game with what turned out to be a shoulder stinger injury, Barr was pushed into the starting role along with Damone Clark. When the Jaguars’ offense needed to get short yardage by running up the middle or in the red zone, Barr would look great. He looked very slow when asked to cover a receiver in coverage or move in space.
Players need to be at their best for December football, and with Vander Esch out of the lineup for a few weeks, Barr will be leaned on a lot more. If he can turn back the clock against the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Eve, there would be enough time to erase his name from this list and put him on the good one.
2. Sam Williams, DE
At moments, Sam Williams has given fans hope for what to expect for the future. However, Williams looked to be playing with a lot of immaturity on Sunday, which can’t happen heading into the playoffs.
Williams’s personal foul penalty, slamming the Jaguars’ punter to the ground, was unnecessary. The play was over, and there was no need to prove anything. The Cowboys have struggled with jet sweeps and runs to the outside. With 9:12 to play in the second quarter, Williams again decides to show he’s stronger than his opponent, sacrificing outside contain.
Williams is a rookie, and that immaturity will hopefully fade with age. There needs to be more focus and buy-in to fix these problems now. Hopefully, when Dan Quinn sees this on film, he’ll address it immediately, and Williams can learn from his mistakes.
1. Kelvin Joseph, CB
To no surprise, Kelvin Joseph is No. 1 on the naughty list. An argument can be made that he hasn’t had enough time as a starter to find his footing, but DaRon Bland is a rookie and has shown more growth than Joseph.
Coming into the 2021 draft, there was a lot of concern about Joseph’s skills as a cornerback and a football player off the field. Keeping with the pattern of second-round picks, the Cowboys decided to draft Joseph hoping to find a diamond in the rough. Not everyone can be Trevon Diggs as a second-round pick.
Joseph was benched on Sunday in favor of Nahshon Wright but the door was left open for competition this week. Dan Quinn has a big problem on his hands at the cornerback position opposite of Diggs. Like chestnuts, Quinn’s comments could be the open fire Joseph needed to fight for his starting role; otherwise, his time in Dallas will be limited to special teams and on thin ice for 2023.
We discussed this list and more on the latest episode of The Writer’s Block 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.
4. DaRon Bland, CB
Sticking with the theme of cornerback that ended the previous list, DaRon Bland has become a player for the Cowboys. He picked off his fourth pass of the season, which leads all defenders on the Dallas defense.
Since Jourdan Lewis left with a season-ending injury against the Chicago Bears, Bland has been able to slide into a starting role and look like a third-year pro. There are still hiccups in his game with the long pass he gave up to Allen Lazard in Green Bay, but he will also grade out as the best defender in football, as he did against the Colts, according to PFF.
With Quinn figuring out the best combination at the cornerback position, it might be better to kick Bland to the outside along with Diggs and put Mackensie Alexander in the slot. Regardless of his position, Bland will be on the field for the remainder of 2022 and the foreseeable future.
3. CeeDee Lamb, WR
Going entirely under the radar, CeeDee Lamb has his second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season and ranks seventh in his position group with 1,087 receiving yards. Lamb is now a top-ten receiver in the NFL and has been PFF’s No. 3 graded receiver since Week 2.
Lamb has seemingly worked out all of the communication kinks with Dak Prescott. Both players are on the same page, and Prescott puts the ball in a spot where Lamb can be explosive after the catch, which is his specialty.
If Dallas wants to make a statement in the playoffs and make it to the NFC Championship game, they will need to lean on Lamb and his playmaking ability. Among all NFL pass catchers, Lamb ranks third for plays of 20-plus receiving yards behind Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson. He has solidified himself as the No. 1 receiver in Dallas.
2. Tyron Smith, OT
Even though the Cowboys lost their starting right tackle for the season, they might have a better one in Tyron Smith. That’s nothing against Terence Steele and what he’s meant to the team this season. He has certainly developed into the player Mike McCarthy told us about in 2020.
However, it’s not often that a team’s backup is a future Hall of Fame player at the position. Smith came back into the lineup after he missed all season due to an injury he sustained in training camp and didn’t miss a beat. There was apparent rust to be knocked off seeing Jaguars defenders beating him with a pass rush, but if anyone can make in-game adjustments, it’s Tyron Smith.
McCarthy said he wanted to solidify the offensive line before the Eagles game, and everything has fallen in his favor. Tyler Smith looks like he’s starting to hit the rookie wall, but as the swing tackle, Jason Peters is ready to back him up if he needs some rest. How awesome is Zack Martin and Tyron Smith playing next to each other? The Cowboys should be fined for using that type of cheat code.
1. Micah Parsons, LB
Micah Parsons and the entire Cowboys defense recorded just one sack against Trevor Lawrence, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. On the latest episode of The Writer’s Block Podcast, David Howman pointed out that Parsons and the defensive line had the most pressures in a game all season in Jacksonville.
The strength of this team and defense has been their pass rush, with Parsons being the catalyst. According to PFF, the Dallas defense had 28 pressures, Parsons registering 12 of them. The Lion was active and trying his best to get to Trevor Lawrence, but an effective pass rush is a team effort. Unfortunately, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler, and Dorance Armstrong couldn’t win their matchups, which puts more pressure on Parsons.
This week, he is dealing with an illness that has kept him from practicing, but it’s hopefully precautionary to keep everyone in the locker room healthy and Parsons off his feet to rest. Their record could look completely different if the Cowboys didn’t have Parsons on their team. Because of that, No. 11 will be getting almost every wish on his Christmas list, hopefully ending with the NFL lead in sacks.