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Cowboys vs Bucs: Dallas offense asks too much from Prescott, loses QB to hand injury

The Cowboys weren’t competitive with Dak Prescott on the field against Brady and the Bucs, and won’t have their QB1 for several weeks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys season opening loss to the Buccaneers proved that Dak Prescott is being asked to carry too much for an offense that failed to find the end zone, and now the team will be without their starting quarterback for 6-8 weeks. Prescott injured his hand late in the loss and didn’t return, with Mike McCarthy looking very displeased when getting an update from the training staff on Sunday Night Football.

The Cowboys primetime loss puts them at 0-1 and the bottom of the NFC East, where the Giants, Eagles, and Commanders all won on Sunday. The Cowboys were determined all offseason to prove they’re a top team in the entire NFC, but the talent they’ve lost would say otherwise.

Tom Brady maintained his perfect record against the Cowboys, building a 12-3 lead at halftime that already felt mountainous for a struggling Cowboys offense to overcome. Mike Evans added a third-quarter touchdown against a Dallas defense that did everything they could to keep them in the game, but the Cowboys were stuck on the three points from their opening drive all night.

As we’ll do every Monday, here are some immediate takeaways on what we saw from the Cowboys against the Bucs:

  • The Cowboys defense made good on their offseason promise that Micah Parsons would stay as a hybrid player, and his best snaps were clearly in pass rush. With Jabril Cox inactive, the team needed Leighton Vander Esch to step up, which he did allowing Parsons to move around. Parsons’ two sacks working was the highlight of his night, but he also helped DeMarcus Lawrence get matchups against guards when lined up on the left side.

Osa Odighizuwa was the defensive tackle lined up next to Parsons on his sacks and created penetration as well, but the Cowboys will need to find a balance in their rotation up front to play the run better than the 152 yards they gave up on the ground.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images
  • Another offseason talking point was Tony Pollard having a bigger role in the offense, and while this was certainly the case, the Cowboys didn’t find much success on the gadget plays they used Pollard for. New wide receiver and kick returner KaVontae Turpin was active instead of rookie Jalen Tolbert, and may be better suited for the type of plays they designed for Pollard.

Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott splitting reps should mean Pollard getting similar opportunities to carry the ball or catch it out of the backfield, with Elliott being the preferred back on blocking snaps. These blocking reps will be much more important with Cooper Rush at quarterback, who took a sack on a long down-and-distance play when Pollard was beat on a block. Beyond CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys best players with the ball in their hands likely aren’t receivers, with Pollard and Dalton Schultz needing to carry the load.

  • Dennis Houston getting the start in this first game is exactly the type of progression the Cowboys are counting on to be competitive, but his route on Prescott’s interception wasn’t executed well. The Cowboys had an underneath throw open with a good concept between Lamb and Noah Brown, but Houston as the outside receiver got pinned to the sideline and didn’t draw the defense away from the middle of the field. Prescott’s pass was the type of tight window throw he was forced to make all night, and Antoine Winfield Jr. made the play on it.
  • The Cowboys front office doesn’t have much to hang their hat on when it comes to how their offseason decisions looked on the field in week one, but typically first-round picks work out for this team. Tyler Smith’s first start at left tackle was encouraging, though he may be asked to go back to left guard where he worked in training camp with Connor McGovern out. Smith’s hand play looked as strong as it did at guard, with his length making up for less natural footwork.

The Cowboys involved their tight ends in the run game a lot, and using these big formations that allow Smith to get downhill may be one of their best looks. Though their “future” at left tackle came well before it was expected, the Cowboys can worry just a little less about Tyron Smith’s progress based on what they saw from Tyler Smith against the Bucs.

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