The Dallas Cowboys will head back to California to play the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night. The Chargers didn’t play last week and some might say the Cowboys didn’t either as they were smoked by the San Francisco 49ers. Dallas will look to bounce back and show everyone that they are still a team to be reckoned with. For that to happen they’ll have to beat a Chargers team that has won two straight. Here are five things to look for when the Cowboys travel to sunny California.
1. KELLEN ME SOFTLY
The Cowboys moved on from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore this offseason, much to the satisfaction of some fans and to the chagrin of others. The young play-caller is now heading the Charger offense where his new team is ranked seventh in points, fifth in yards, and fifth in red zone percentage if that matters to you. Moore fits in nicely with his new team.
This will be billed as a revenge game for Moore as this presents a perfect opportunity to light up the scoreboard against his former team. The Cowboys' defense is coming off a game where they were demolished by the 49ers offense. You better believe Moore will know how to attack the weaknesses on the Cowboys’ defense. If the Chargers offense is humming and they beat the Cowboys, this will not be a good look for the Joneses and Mike McCarthy, and their decision to move on from Moore.
2. EKELER’S RETURN
The Chargers have one of the top offenses in the league and they’ve been doing it without their star player, Austin Ekeler. In Week 1, the Chargers as a team ran for 233 yards led by Ekeler who averaged 7.3 yards per carry, but he suffered an ankle injury and hasn’t played since. Joshua Kelly has been the lead back since, but he has fewer rushing yards over three games than Ekeler did in the opener. Kelly is averaging just 2.8 yards a carry in those games. Having Ekeler back will be a huge spark for the Chargers offense.
Last week, the Cowboys had to deal with the league’s most explosive running back, Christian McCaffrey, where they focused all their attention on stopping him. CMC was held to just 51 yards on 19 carries (2.7 ypc), but it came with a price as Brock Purdy lit the Cowboys defense up for four touchdowns. It’s not likely the Cowboys' defense will give Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert the same level of disrespect, meaning more attention will be given to stopping the passing attack. That could allow Ekeler to feast if he can get into space.
3. AIR OR I’LL YELL
Don Coryell was a famous Chargers coach in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s who was responsible for the top-scoring offense in the NFL multiple times during his tenure. His offense, appropriately named “Air” Coryell thrived when quarterback Dan Fouts would constantly look downfield for big passing plays. It’s essentially the exact opposite of what we’re seeing from this Cowboys offense.
But it’s time for that to change. That’s not to say that Mike McCarthy will suddenly change his stripes and start having Dak Prescott sling it around, but if there was a game for the offense to break out finally, this is the game to do it. The Chargers' defense has allowed an average of 300 passing yards per game, the worst in the NFL.
Plus, there’s disarray in the Chargers' secondary as they just traded away high-priced free agent acquisition J.C. Jackson, to the New England Patriots leaving Michael Davis to handle the outside corner responsibilities. Davis has been torched this year, giving up 286 yards receiving, a completion rate of 71.9%, five penalties, and a 138.8 passer rating allowed. If the Cowboys' offense can’t find some big plays against this Chargers secondary, something is seriously wrong.
4. A LITTLE TIME TO OPERATE
The Cowboys had their starting offensive line together for the first time last week, but it sure didn’t seem like it as they couldn’t get the ground game going and Prescott was under duress quite a bit. Fortunately, the Chargers don’t bring the same level of pressure as the 49ers, but they are still a group that’s to be reckoned with. They’ll face the other Bosa brother Joey on one side (if he’s healthy) and Khalil Mack on the other who just so happens to be coming off a six-sack performance against the Raiders.
The Chargers have a respectable run defense and if the Cowboys ground game becomes grounded and Prescott isn’t afforded the time to operate, this could turn into another dink-and-dunk-fest that will leave us very unsatisfied.
5. SO-FI, SO GOOD
This game will make the fourth straight season that the Cowboys will play in the lustrous So-Fi Stadium. They played in the first game ever at So-Fi in the season opener in 2020 against the Rams. That was the game with the infamous offensive pass interference call on Michael Gallup late in the game as he was being covered by Jalen Ramsey. The Cowboys lost that one, but they’ve won the next two. First, edging out the Chargers when Greg Zuerlein hit a game-winning 56-yard field goal as time expired. And last year, they smoked the Rams. They are 2-1 in the new Los Angeles Stadium, and they would love to make it three in a row.
Rabblerousr and I recently broke down the Chargers team and discussed what to look for on Monday night. Check out the latest episode of The Star Seminar.