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What we’ve learned about the Cowboys for the Commanders game

Do you feel like you know who the Cowboys are this season?

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders
Expect Sam Howell to be under constant pressure.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! It is of course time for the annual Dallas Cowboys holiday game, this year against their division rival Washington Commanders. We’ve had ten games to learn about the Cowboys and here are the most important things we have gleaned from them.

A potent offense

While the performance against the Carolina Panthers was a bit lackluster after their string of increasingly big outputs the previous three games, they still put up 27 of the 33 points in that game which was more than enough for the day. Dak Prescott’s stat line was unimpressive, but as our Dan Rogers pointed out, that was a bit misleading. Give the Panthers credit for making a lot of good defensive plays to counter another very accurate day at the office for Prescott.

There were some other good signs from the Carolina win. Michael Gallup was graded highly by PFF and if he is finally getting back to full health, Dallas has a quartet of very dangerous targets for the quarterback in him, CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Jake Ferguson. And rookie Luke Schoonmaker also got great marks for his performance.

Tony Pollard also showed up big, with two 20+ yard runs, including his first touchdown since the season opener. The offensive line is not perfect, but is finding ways to get the job done, as they did on the other long Pollard run which was just a textbook display of run blocking. And Prescott was never sacked in the last game, although a lot of that was on his great ability to evade the good pressure the Panthers brought.

Protecting the ball is also a crucial task for the offense. Prescott was all you could ask in that game, with no passes deemed turnover worthy. If he can keep that up as the opponents grow more formidable, it will be a huge asset for the quest for the playoffs.

As a whole, this offense should be more than Washington can handle and should put big numbers up in the stat sheet and on the scoreboard.

Attacking on defense

While Carolina was not the best test, seven sacks is still impressive. After a quiet game against the New York Giants, the main leader of the defense, Micah Parsons, was roaring last Sunday as he notched 2.5 of the sacks. The entire pass rush was fierce and should make it a long, hard day for Sam Howell and his offensive line.

We are running out of superlatives for DaRon Bland. He has already tied the all-time NFL record for pick-sixes in a season in only ten games, and watching to see if he can break it is going to be one of the fun parts of this game. He has forced himself into the DPOY conversation and an All-Pro nod seems nearly inevitable.

The Cowboys won the turnover battle again last Sunday. Chance always plays a part in that part of the game, but the relentless way Dan Quinn sends his players at the opponent helps generate those takeaways.

If there is one lingering concern about the defense, it is against the run. There were times the Panthers managed to gash the defense. But another good sign was a strong performance from Donovan Wilson, who looked to be getting back into his enforcer role, making big hits. If they can tighten up the run defense, there are few teams that can outscore them.

Home cooking

It was not that long ago that Dallas had a road warrior identity, with AT&T Stadium harder to win games in than opposing venues. Mike McCarthy has changed that, with the team on a twelve-game winning streak in Arlington. They are entering a stretch of three straight home games to try and extend that, ending with the much-anticipated rematch with the NFL leading Philadelphia Eagles. It should be a suitably hostile environment for Washington.

Penalties

This has been an ongoing issue for the Cowboys. While fans fume at the often uneven officiating, there have been far too many unforced errors that gift yards to the opponents. The pre-snap penalties are the most galling. Both false starts and encroachment penalties have marred many games. Those are discipline issues, and the coaching staff has done a poor job this season getting these cleaned up. The team has overcome their own mistakes in several of the wins. This game should not be one where penalties will affect the outcome, but as mentioned, things are going to get harder after this game, and this is something the team needs to work on.

Health

The past few games have been a bit remarkable, with no significant injuries in the heart of the season. Key players like Joe Burrow go down every week. Dallas has suffered some major losses earlier, most notably Trevon Diggs and Leighton Vander Esch, but they have overcome those very well thanks to players like Bland and Markquese Bell.

There is a concern with CeeDee Lamb showing up on the injury list this week with an ankle problem, but McCarthy has stated it is not a big one. Of course we’ve heard similar things before that have ended up with a player missing a game. With the recent contributions of Cooks and Gallup, this might be a situation where they might hold Lamb back, at least to start the game. If they can still be effective on offense with Lamb taking few if any snaps, that would be a very good sign for depth while also giving him time to get better.

Luck just plays such a huge part in this. The Cowboys have had some good fortune so far, but that can change in an instant. All we can do is hope for the best.

Overall, this is a game Dallas should win, most likely by a big margin. While the broadcaster would prefer a close affair for ratings, Cowboys fans would love nothing more than to see their team cruise to a dominant win. Here’s hoping that is one more thing we can be thankful for.

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