As the NFL gets into its fourth week, the picture of each division is starting to come more into focus. For the NFC East and this weeks divisional matchup, it’s a Dallas Cowboys team on the rise, and a Washington Commanders team finding itself in strife.
Let’s take a look at the head-to-head battles on offense.
Carson Wentz vs Cooper Rush
If we went off the first two weeks of the regular season, this would be a different outlook. Carson Wentz threw seven touchdowns; Cooper Rush only started playing in Week 2. But with Week 3 in the books, the comparison has shifted slightly for these two.
When watching Wentz the most obvious point to make is that he is slinging it around the field at the moment. He ranks sixth in yards thrown, but also sixth in turnover-worthy plays. Wentz’s issues are affected by the amount of pressure his offensive line is allowing. Wentz is ranked third in pressures and first in sacks, with 15 sacks so far after three weeks. Sure, the issue can be attributed to the offensive line, but Wentz also has to be accountable for some of it by holding the ball, and this is a good example of how a sack can be a quarterback problem.
A plus for Washington is that Wentz’s general accuracy isn’t all that bad, and watching game tape he seems to be moving in the backfield quite well with the pressure he’s under, even getting some extra yards using his legs. But there is a problem, and it’s why this matchup is a little closer this week than it should be. In Week 3 Wentz threw for zero touchdowns, 58% passing accuracy, and the scrambling he’s been doing behind the line of scrimmage trying to develop plays has him now at three fumbles, with two coming last week versus the Philadelphia Eagles. The second overall draft pick looked to be slowly rejuvenating his career, but after last week’s play you have to ask how much longer he can keep playing this way when you think of his injury history.
As for the Dallas Cowboys, they have Cooper Rush. Dak Prescott is moving toward returning by throwing some of the lighter practice balls. There will be more information about Dak’s timeframe to return as the week develops. But so far Rush has done his job. He has yet to turn the ball over and has thrown a touchdown in each game he’s played. Rush ticked all the right boxes against the Giants, making some big throws and showing tremendous accuracy on his touch passes, it was just a shame some of his receivers fell short of making use of those plays. But Rush is now an undrafted QB that has won each of his first three NFL starts and thrown for 500+ yards over those starts, something Kurt Warner was the last to manage back in 1999 with the St. Louis Rams.
For this head-to-head though, it has to go to Wentz, but only very slightly.
Gibson/McKissic vs Elliott/Pollard
Antonio Gibson isn’t that bad of a runningback; the problem for him at this stage is he’s stuck in the Washington backfield, and they’ve just drafted a new ball carrier from Alabama who is currently injured. Both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard have more rushing yards individually than Gibson, and the Commanders starting RB has an average yards per carry that ranks him 47th among his peers. So far this season he has yet to run for a chunk play, which accounts for some complaints about his breakaway ability. But for a production comparison, both Gibson and Zeke have the same number of attempts. Zeke has more yards, more average yards per attempt, better yards after contact, more first downs, and the only statistic Gibson has bested Zeke is in touchdowns, and that’s by one.
In terms of runningback battle in this head-to-head position breakdown, this is more about Zeke vs Pollard than what the tandem in Washington can provide. The Commanders have J.D McKissic and so far has 25 yards rushing and just over 100 yards in receiving. Where as for Pollard, he has 156 yards rushing which ranks him 23rd (higher than Gibson), and is seventh in average yards per carry.
McLaurin/Dotson/Samuel vs Lamb/Brown/Tolbert (Gallup possibly… again)
Jalen Tolbert finally got to the field, and caught a pass! Hopefully one of many more to come. But we can’t talk about the receiver position without mentioning CeeDee Lamb. He certainly found a groove last week, and everyone is talking about the mind-blowing catch he made for the touchdown. But the play immediately before was just as crazy as he got into open space, caught the ball clean, hit the boost button getting upfield and barreled over Giants defenders. In the last two games, Lamb has caught 15 passes and gone for 162 yards. In that same timeframe he has made that highlight reel touchdown, has a QBR of 104.7 when targeted which ranks 24th, and best of all he ranks seventh in first downs. Noah Brown was getting manhandheld last week, and a little too much for Cowboys fans’ liking. Brown will do more work as the starter for now until Michael Gallup gets set for a full return, then it will be interesting to see how Kellen Moore moves the lineup at receiver around.
On the Commanders side Terry McLaurin provides the biggest threat and is already over 200 yards receiving. He offers a reliable deep threat for Wentz, and is second in the NFL in yards per reception. Their first-round pick Jahan Dotson is already on three touchdowns and shows he can also be a good downfield receiver. And Curtis Samuel is displaying his worth playing from the slot and has caught two touchdowns on the season.
This one is tricky to choose, so to break the tie let’s use the most recent performance to find a winner. One WR corps scored a touchdown last week, the other scored a doughnut.
Logan Thomas vs Jake Ferguson/Peyton Hendershot (Dalton Schultz maybe)
Just like last week, let’s start by saying if Dalton Schultz plays then this is an easy win. Peyton Hendershot went quietly through last week’s game doing everything pretty well. He had three targets catching all three, and two of those catches went for a first down. What’s more, one of those first down catches he made also helped set up the CeeDee Lamb touchdown. Jake Ferguson didn’t do a bad job either making two catches, and he allowed zero pressures on his eight pass blocks against the Giants. Both did exactly what was asked of them minus a couple of penalties that so infuriate Cowboys fans.
As for Washington, they have Logan Thomas. He hasn’t allowed any pressures on pass protection duties but his run blocking could certainly use some refinement. He has a touchdown on the season and has the larger sample size so far, and talking about penalties, he has less on the year than the Cowboys duo. If Schultz plays then this head-to-head can get modified. But for now, it’s a win for the Commanders.
In three weeks of the NFL, the Cowboys offensive line has allowed only one sack. The last two games they’ve helped keep Rush completely clean. The Cowboys offensive line currently ranks third best in sacks allowed, and their 25 pressures allowed is the 11th best in the NFL. Matt Farniok has taken much of the blame for a lot of the allowed pressure, but we got to see a sprinkling of Jason Peters at the problematic left guard position, and he did a pretty good job. Perhaps a full game at the position is coming his way sometime soon. Rookie Tyler Smith has looked good at left tackle, and on 117 pass block snaps he’s allowed only a single sack. That’s not only good for a rookie, it’s good for a rookie playing the position he never trained in preseason for.
For Washington, their offensive line really is struggling. They have lost players to injury, and the last two games have been problematic with little consistency. The run blocking is lacking for sure, but the same can be said for the pass blocking. And now the most sack happy offensive line in the NFL is no longer the Cincinnati Bengals. As we’ve seen before from the Cowboys defensive line, if the opposition’s offensive line isn’t up to the task then the Cowboys pass rush becomes a blood bath. If teams send the blitz at this Washington line and use stunts at a healthy rate, then the protection fails and Wentz loses all protection. The Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles both knew this, and the obvious tactic paid off. Cowboys win this battle and it will be interesting to watch in practice who is in at LG this week.
Which team has the better offense?
This poll is closed