We have new life! After fearing that the season was all but over for the Dallas Cowboys in the wake of injuries to Dak Prescott, Connor McGovern, Jayron Kearse, and Tarell Basham in a season opener that was a display of offensive ineptitude, our hopes are greatly buoyed by the way the team rallied around Cooper Rush and got a much-needed win over the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.
But will it last? Next up for Dallas is the surprisingly undefeated New York Giants. The Cowboys opened as underdogs on the betting markets, but there is certainly reason to be suspicious about just how good the Giants are. Their victories were over the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers, both winless so far and displaying a lot of issues. Clearly it is still very early. This week’s matchup in New Jersey will be as much about determining the reality of the two teams as anything.
To figure out Dallas, there are a variety of questions we need answered. Here are five that come to mind.
Will the defense continue to terrorize the quarterback?
Dan Quinn’s bunch held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady to just 19 points. They followed that up with limiting Joe Burrow and the Bengals to 17. Part of that was how they got after the quarterbacks. While they only got two Micah Parsons sacks against Brady, they amassed a full half dozen last game. Brady is renowned for how quick he gets the ball out, while Burrow frankly has a terrible habit of hanging on far too long. He was the most sacked quarterback in the league in 2021 and leads in that stat again this season.
Now they face Daniel Jones, who is somewhere in between. But at least as far as how they rank in this category, he is closer to Burrow than Brady. He also is playing behind a line that has some issues. So far, the Cowboys have shown an ability to exploit weaknesses on offensive lines, and there look to be opportunities this week. Parsons is the big threat, but Dorance Armstrong has entered the conversation, and Dante Fowler got credit for one against the Bengals as well. As we had hoped, the pass rush is emerging as perhaps the greatest strength of the team. If they can keep it up, Dallas should stay in the thick of the NFC East race. The Philadelphia Eagles are starting to look like a problem, but we will look at them when they host the Cowboys in Week 6.
Can Rush remain Mr. Perfect?
It is a bizarre and quirky statistic that the backup QB has never started in a loss in his six years in the league. Of course, we are talking about an extremely small sample size, since that is only two games. But one thing he clearly displayed in both games was that the situation was not too big for him. He remained calm and collected in both, and led the team to victory on their last possession of each game.
We discussed these questions in greater detail on the latest episode of Ryled Up 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.
Now the team needs him to string back-to-back successful starts for the first time. And for the first time, the opponent has a full game to review to try and diagnose how to stop him.
Rush deserves a tremendous amount of credit for how he has prepared and responded. Not every backup QB is ready when they are unexpectedly called upon. The challenge is different now as consistency will be key.
Will Kellen Moore continue to improve?
While the victory was at least party attributable to Moore doing a better job in week 2, he still had a real problem with going conservative far too early in the game. For some time, he has been much better during the early “scripted” part of the game, but seems to lose a bit of nerve once the game plan gets beyond that. Or perhaps a lot.
He did call the plays that set Brett Maher up for the game-winning field goal, but at that point everyone knew he had to call passes until the final run and spike of the ball. When things are more fluid, he does not do as well. Oddly, part of his issue is going away from the run when it is working. With Rush, a viable running attack seems even more necessary. The Giants are middling in yards allowed on the ground, but again the level of their opponents needs to be factored in. And while the last game showed an improvement in getting receivers open after the miserable performance to open the season, that has to continue to improve. Rush only completed passes to five different receivers. He is going to have to spread the ball around more. That is also something that Moore has to work on.
Being without Prescott is a big challenge. He has to rise to this challenge for the team to get some more wins, and that includes after Prescott returns.
Will reinforcements arrive soon?
Both Jason Peters and Michael Gallup are getting closer, and may be available for Monday night. We don’t know what role Peters would fill, as he could just become the swing tackle. But Gallup would be expected to at least have some role in the offense in his first game back. The team is certainly teasing that is just around the corner.
The Cowboys tipped their hand that Michael Gallup would return Monday Night, when they waived Dennis Houston yesterday. And today, Mike McCarthy says that Gallup will get a “full slate” of reps this week in practice.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) September 21, 2022
Expect Gallup on the field Monday Night, barring a setback.
We also will have to see how soon Connor McGovern and Jayron Kearse will be back, although they seem unlikely to be ready for the Giants. Matt Farniok is still a work in progress and it would be good to not have to lean on him too long, whether he is replaced by starting Peters at left tackle and moving Tyler Smith back to left guard, or getting McGovern back in the lineup. The teams is hinting they prefer the latter since Smith has looked good at tackle. And Dalton Schultz got nicked in the last game and is uncertain for this week. But getting healthy is always a help. Having so many players go down in the first game but not having to be out for an extended period has the side effect of the team getting stronger as time goes on. They still must avoid more injuries. That is largely up to chance. It would be good to be lucky for a while.
Is the gamble on the young receivers going to pay off?
The unexpected emergence of Noah Brown as the biggest weapon in the passing game is very good, but he is not a neophyte after spending five years with the team. None of the others have been much of a factor. Now Dennis Houston has been waived after being active instead of Jalen Tolbert, a subject of some angst among fans.
Even if Gallup returns to the field, the team still needs more from Tolbert, Simi Fehoko, and/or KaVontae Turpin. Schultz’s situation also puts pressure on Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. We have already seen how Rush needs to find some different receivers to help open things up for Brown and CeeDee Lamb. Lamb definitely benefited from having Brown doing some work. This is one of the questions from before the season started that lingers. How they answer it will impact the team all year.
As we have seen, not all of our questions get answered each week, and when they do, we don’t always get the results we want. This is just another game to try and figure out this year’s edition of the Cowboys. Let’s all hope things go well and they stack another win while giving us positive answers to these questions.