As once famously said, a change is going to come. That change can’t come soon enough for a sputtering Cowboys team. Here are a few changes to get the team back in the right direction.
3. Get Jalen Tolbert involved on offense
Dallas was hoping to have a vastly improved passing game in 2023 after adding Brandin Cooks. They also had Michael Gallup feeling healthier with a full year separating him from his ACL injury. However, after five games, both Cooks and Gallup have been major disappointments. Gallup enters Week 6 with just 15 receptions for 180 yards and has yet to record a touchdown. Those numbers tower over what Cooks has done, with the former Houston Texan catching just nine passes for 73 yards.
What’s worse is, Gallup has brought in just 54.5 percent of the passes thrown his way while Cooks has a catch percentage of just 42.1. All three interceptions Prescott has thrown have been headed toward one of these two wideouts as well. There’s a lot that goes into this from play-calling to the quarterback making the right reads but one thing is certain, the rapport between Prescott and Cooks is non-existent and the passes to Gallup haven’t been much better.
As for the younger wideouts, that’s been a different case. Jalen Tolbert has brought in seven-of-nine targets (77.8 catch percentage) for 71 yards. KaVontae Turpin has caught five-of-six for 50 yards and a touchdown. Sure, the sample sizes for each are small but the offense has moved better when going to the younger playmakers. Unfortunately, Turpin hurt his ankle but going forward, Dallas needs to make it a priority to get the ball to Tolbert more often. Then, when Turpin is back, do the same with him. Perhaps that will be what finally gives the offense a shot in the arm and alleviates some of the pressure on the shoulders of CeeDee Lamb.
2. Let Dak take chances
There was a lot of focus last year on the number of interceptions Dak Prescott threw, and for good reason. Despite missing five games, he still led the league with 15 picks. That played into the departure of Kellen Moore — who they will face this week with the Los Angeles Chargers. Mike McCarthy took over the play-calling duties after Moore left and so far, it’s been underwhelming.
While it made sense to try and limit the turnovers, the dink-and-dunk offense is far from a suitable alternative. With deep threats such as CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and even KaVontae Turpin, it feels almost criminal to keep everything in the short-to-intermediate range each and every week. That’s why the most important thing they can do is actually open up this offense. If McCarthy wants to unlock this team’s potential, and make a run in the NFC East, he’s going to have to let Dak be Dak. That comes with the good and the bad.
Cowboys-Chargers Injury Update: Vander Esch, Goodwin out, Bosa questionable and Ekeler ready - KD Drummond, Cowboys Wire
A look at where the Dallas Cowboys stand regarding their injury status ahead of Monday’s game against Los Angeles.
The final injury reports for the Week 6 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers have been released. After having a whopping 17 players included on the initial report, things are looking a lot more positive for the Cowboys. Dallas will be without three key players, but only one has been moved to injured reserve, which opens up some questions for the status of the other two.
Earlier in the week, Dallas moved TE Peyton Hendershot to IR with his ankle injury suffered in practice before the loss to the 49ers. However two players who sustained serious injuries in that loss, LB Leighton Vander Esch and ST CJ Goodwin, have been ruled out but remain on the 53-man roster. The takeaway here is that the club may be hopeful they can return in less than the four weeks mandatory absence dictated by going on injured reserve.
An alternative view is Dallas just simply doesn’t need the roster space and both players are going to be out so long that waiting to put them on IR is irrelevant.
Dallas also has given injury designations to two other players, but the remainder of the players on the list are cleared and ready to go. Meanwhile the Chargers are set to welcome back RB Austin Ekeler who has been out since Week 1. Their top defender is questionable though, as edge rusher Joey Bosa returned to practice on a limited basis on Saturday.
Fantasy Alert: Chargers’ Austin Ekeler Expected to Handle Normal Workload vs. Cowboys - Erin Walsh, Bleacher Report
Why the fantasy implications for Austin Ekeler’s status could be a nightmare for the Cowboys.
“Yes. I think that’s fair to say,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley told reporters Saturday when asked if Ekeler would have a normal workload against America’s Team. “We’ll trust what we see on game day, but we expect him to go.”Ekeler has missed L.A.’s last three games with an ankle sprain. He told reporters earlier this week that he was “99 percent sure” that he would suit up for Monday’s matchup against the Cowboys.
The 28-year-old was impressive in the team’s season-opener against the Miami Dolphins despite a 36-34 loss, rushing for 117 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, in addition to catching four passes for 47 yards.However, the Chargers running game has largely struggled in Ekeler’s absence. After totaling 233 rushing yards in Week 1, L.A. managed just 61 and 30 total rushing yards in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
Chargers’ passing attack. He’s coming off a career 2022 campaign in which he rushed for 915 yards and 13 touchdowns in 17 games and also caught 107 passes for 722 yards and five scores. Although the Cowboys have had one of the best defenses in the NFL this season, Ekeler should still be a no-brainer start for fantasy managers this week considering he should see a normal workload.
Mike McCarthy has been in Monday’s position at Chargers before, but with Kellen Moore by his side - Sean Martin, Blogging the Boys
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy faces an early crossroads in the 2023 season. His offense is being questioned and compared to the offense he had with former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Moore now will stand across from McCarthy on the opposing sideline Monday with the Los Angeles Chargers. This week, we’ll get the chance to examine both offenses at the same time.
When it comes to support for Herbert, he’s completing a career high 71% of his passes in Moore’s offense with only one interception and running back Austin Ekeler should return to the backfield on Monday. The Chargers are also coming off a bye this week with an extra day of rest on Sunday. Over Moore’s time as Dallas’ OC, the Cowboys were 3-1 and averaging 29 points per game immediately following a bye.
On the other side of this coin, anything and everything related to the offensive identity of the Cowboys has been under fire all week. Managing just eight first downs against the 49ers, the Cowboys were hardly present in the stunning loss, conceding anything San Francisco wanted both on the ground and through the air. Meanwhile the 49ers defense forced four three-and-outs with three interceptions and a fumble recovery. It showed the Cowboys have a long way to go in proving they belong anywhere near the upper echelon of the league’s elite teams, and getting more out of Mike McCarthy’s offense has to be the first step starting as early as Monday night.
The same issues that Moore’s offense would face later in seasons - defenses scouted his tendencies and making adjustments - are rearing their head much earlier under McCarthy. The offense has route concepts that give Dak Prescott few answers in the passing game, and too many breakdowns in protection putting them behind the sticks. The Chargers defense ranks top five in getting off the field on third down and sacks, but are the second worst team behind the Broncos in average yards per target against. The Cowboys have work to do in finding their core concepts that can give Prescott consistent completions, but if they avoid disastrous turnovers the opportunities to open up the playbook downfield could be there.
The offense may also find confidence in the situation they found themselves in against these Chargers in 2021, although much has changed on both teams since then. Coming off a close loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs, the Cowboys traveled to the Chargers looking to avoid a 0-2 start. Greg Zuerlein’s field goal from 56 yards with no time remaining would give them the dramatic win that sparked a six-game winning streak and changed the tenor of the season. McCarthy got credited with Dallas’ first win against the Chargers since week one of 2005, but just as this 2023 team is looking to do, it was one fueled by Dan Quinn’s defense. Trevon Diggs and Damontae Kazee had interceptions, and the Cowboys held the Chargers to one touchdown on four red zone trips.
The balance between McCarthy’s offense and Quinn’s defense for this year’s Cowboys team is still very much a work in progress. Offseason comments about McCarthy wanting to run the ball more to rest the defense were walked back before a ball was ever kicked off, but the run game has still struggled when needed, and so too have the staples of the West Coast offense that should be seeing Prescott play much more efficiently. The Cowboys would welcome the 13 attempts for 109 yards and a score Tony Pollard had against the Chargers the last time these teams met, but he also had Ezekiel Elliott leading the way with 16 carries for 71 yards and another touchdown.
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