Monday night’s battle in Los Angeles brings the Cowboys to a Week 6 meeting with the Chargers. Coming off an embarrassing beatdown from the 49ers, Dallas hopes to get back on the winning track. Along with the team-wide goal, some individual players hope to see their production increase.
Arguably the biggest matchup of the game will be between two coaches; Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. After watching each other’s work from 2021-2022 in Dallas, plus with Moore having been involved with the Cowboys as far back as 2015, this reunion will be a narrative focal point.
That being true, the Cowboys offense is still a major storyline. QB Dak Prescott has been uneven since Moore’s departure, bringing down WR CeeDee Lamb and other teammates. Is Mike McCarthy’s play-calling part of the problem or is it Dak’s inability to adjust? Thankfully, they get one of the league’s worst defenses in Los Angeles to work out some issues.
Given these factors and others, here are the Cowboys players projected to have strong and weak games against the Chargers.
WR CeeDee Lamb
While we did just mention Lamb as a victim of the offense’s lack of consistency, this is setting up to be a bounce-back performance. There is a stated goal to get Lamb more involved from the coaches and we had a reported heart-to-heart with Prescott about on-field chemistry issues.
If they are going to try to lean on Lamb this week, the Chargers don’t seem equipped to do much about it. They’ve allowed star receivers like Tyreek Hill (11 rec, 215 yds, 2 TD) and Justin Jefferson (7 rec, 149 yds, 1 TD) to go off for huge games. Davante Adams had eight catches for 75 yards two weeks ago despite the Raiders’ starting QB being out. It would seem a ripe opportunity for Prescott and Lamb to reignite their strong production from Weeks 1 and 2.
RB Tony Pollard
Pollard’s versatility should be on display in this one. In the Chargers’ last game, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs had eight catches for 81 yards and 139 yards overall. Minnesota’s Alexander Mattison had 125 overall the week before, 32 of which came through the air. Even with the Titans offense struggling overall in Week 2, Derrick Henry still topped 100 total offensive yards.
While Lamb’s lack of production has been more publicized, Pollard hasn’t been a fruitful as expected since becoming RB1 in Dallas. He should have a solid game overall, and his touches could spike significantly if McCarthy chooses to lean more on the run this week and then worry about fixing the passing game during the bye.
The trio of Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse, and Donovan Wilson stand to rack up a lot of tackles against Kellen Moore’s pass-heavy scheme. With Leighton Vander Esch out for a while, we could see even more of all three on the field together as Kearse plays more of his hybrid role. If Micah Parsons does have to play more linebacker, it could also lead to more creative blitzing from the defensive backs.
While Chargers QB Justin Herbert has only thrown one pick so far this year, a possible shootout could give Dallas’ safeties an abundance of play-making opportunities. Los Angeles has had five fumbles over their last two games, so perhaps turnovers can come in other ways. The Cowboys have been league leaders in forcing turnovers since Quinn’s arrival and would love to get back to it here.
K Brandon Aubrey
The Cowboys are going to move the ball successfully against this bad Chargers defense. It’s when they get down into that dreaded redzone that things could get dicey, which means a high probability of field goal attempts for Aubrey. With the rookie a perfect 14/14 on his field goals so far, it’s shaping up to be a high-scoring night.
OT Terence Steele
Los Angeles has been on a tear with 16 sacks over their last three games. While these have come against bad teams, Dallas hardly looked solvent last week in San Francisco. Even if they don’t allow the Charges to pour it on, Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa (if he plays) are a dangerous pair and Steele is going to have his hands full with whoever lines up on his side. Pass protection is still a weak point for Dallas’ right tackle and it could lead to penalties and excessive pressure on Dak Prescott.
LB Damone Clark
The second-year linebacker hasn’t really shined yet in 2023 and now will carry a heavier burden in Vander Esch’s absence. While Parsons may wind up playing more true linebacker, he’ll still be deployed as a pass rusher plenty. Not only will Clark have to deal with increased snaps, but highly versatile RB Austin Ekeler is set to return for L.A. and could throw some lesser-seen wrinkles his way.
TE Jake Ferguson
Other than an eight-catch, 78-yard game from Minnesota’s T.J. Hockenson in Week 3, opposing tight ends haven’t done much against Los Angeles. Safety Derwin James is certainly a reason for that, but it also could be the way teams have been successful in feeding their star receivers. If the pattern holds, it should be a quiet night from Ferguson.