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Cowboys news: Dallas defensive performance against Seahawks raises questions

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Is It Time to Be Concerned About the Cowboys’ Defense? - Shane Taylor, Inside the Star

Despite the dramatic win against the Seattle Seahawks, did the Cowboys create more questions about the team’s makeup than provide answers.

Next four games

The next four games for the Cowboys are against teams with winning records. The Bills are .500, but they have an offense on the same level as the others. The defense looks lost in coverage when they don’t get pressure, and one thing they need help with is when teams run motion.

Seattle’s playoff hopes hung on this game, so they played more aggressively, but they did whatever they wanted to on offense. The Cowboys are going to see the best of the best when it comes to the postseason.

If they give up 35 points a game to teams that will play in January, that is a reason to be concerned. Right now, Dak Prescott is playing the best football of his career, and probably better than anyone in football since the loss to the 49ers.

Time will tell

As noted, we will find out what this team is made of over these next four games, two at home and two on the road. They had a good start by beating Seattle on Thursday, but if they can go 3-1 over these next four games against the Eagles, Bills, Dolphins, and Lions, folks will start thinking they have a real chance to win it all.

I have yet to give up on the defense, but to say they are elite still will not work. They are struggling with teams that have winning records and those that can push the ball down the field. They still have a penalty problem that will cost them in the big games.

Jake Ferguson’s adding extremely important elements to Cowboys’ identity - Reid Hanson, Cowboys Wire

The second-year tight end is providing the Cowboys with another weapon to make the offense even more potent.

For the better part of the 2023 season, Jake Ferguson has been the No. 2 option in Dallas. He trails only CeeDee Lamb in targets and receptions and with five games yet to play, he’s already nearly tripled his output from 2022.

Even though he’s been a key cog in the Cowboys machine throughout the year, it took a big day on the Thursday Night Football stage to truly elevate him into the hearts and minds of the nation. Tony Gonzalez, a former NFL tight end and current TNF analyst, gushed over his six reception, 77-yard and one-touchdown performance, prompting many to call this Ferguson’s “coming out party.”

Those close to the team know better. The former fourth-rounder from Wisconsin has been that guy in Dallas all season long. And it didn’t take a couple flashy plays in primetime football to make it official.

As a blocker, Ferguson has quietly established himself in the NFL’s top tier. Of those with at least 300 snaps, Ferguson ranks sixth in run blocking and fifth in pass protection. With the same snap minimum, Pro Football Focus grades him seventh overall this season, making him the second-youngest TE in their top-10.

But while the pure blocking and receiving numbers are great, it’s the intangibles that seem to set him apart.“He’s a baller,” Dak Prescott said. “His mentality is why he is the guy that he is. He expects to do what he did in tonight’s game and he’s no different than me.”

It wasn’t just what Ferguson did on Thursday, but how and to whom he did it. Jawing with All-Pro Jamal Adams early, Ferguson essentially went after the biggest bully in the yard. It was a beef only made beefier when Ferguson pulled in the go-ahead touchdown in the face of Adams in the endzone.

Cowboys Rumors: DAL Seen as Shaquille Leonard’s Best Fit by Insiders amid Eagles Buzz - Adam Wells, Bleacher Report

The Cowboys are in need of help at linebacker and could be getting a reinforcement. Dallas met with Shaquille Leonard last week and a decision is coming.

Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Dallas Cowboys are considered the best fit for Leonard because of his ability to fill the role that has been open since Leighton Vander Esch suffered a season-ending neck injury. Fowler noted the Philadelphia Eagles are also in the mix for Leonard, who “will likely” decide between the two NFC East rivals at some point this weekend.

Leonard was waived by the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 21 after his role on their defense had decreased this season. He became a free agent the following day when no team claimed him on waivers. The Eagles and Cowboys were immediately identified as teams that would have interest in the three-time Pro Bowler.

Middle linebacker is one of the few areas where the Eagles have been vulnerable this season. They are also going to be without Zach Cunningham due to a hamstring injury for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. Christian Elliss replaced Cunningham in the second half of Philadelphia’s 37-34 overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cunningham could miss more time beyond this week with a strained hamstring. Vander Esch hasn’t played since Week 5 against the 49ers when he injured his surgically-repaired neck. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on Nov. 14 that Vander Esch will miss the rest of the season.

Dallas can use Micah Parsons as an off-ball linebacker, but he’s clearly much more valuable wrecking games as an edge-rusher. Leonard was one of the best linebackers in the NFL for the first four years of his career. He was named to the All-Pro team every season from 2018 to ‘21, including three first-team selections.

NFL division winners need to stop getting automatic home playoff games - Jess Haynie, Blogging the Boys

The NFL playoffs could use an update.

After Thursday’s win over the Seahawks, Dallas has the second-best record in the entire conference. The only issue is that they’re stuck behind the Eagles in their own division, which caps their seeding potential at the fifth seed if Philly takes the NFC East.

2023 isn’t the first time we’ve seen this issue. In fact, we saw it last year when the 8-9 Buccaneers won the NFC South and hosted the 12-5 Cowboys in the first round. Washington was 7-9 when they won the NFC East in 2020. Even more common is when a division winner doesn’t have a losing record overall but also doesn’t have one of the four best records in the conference.

In 2019, Philadelphia won the NFC East with a 9-7 record. They hosted the 11-5 Seahawks in the first round, who had the third-best record in the NFC but were bested by the 49ers within their division. What really made this one goofy, though, was Seattle had actually beaten the Eagles during the regular season.

A home playoff game is a reward. Less travel for the team, another game for the home crowd; it’s supposed to acknowledge what a team accomplished and give them a boon to start the tournament. So why are the rules set up to reward mediocrity?

We’re not saying winning your division shouldn’t matter. But why isn’t a guaranteed playoff spot enough? Why should the Falcons, Saints, or Bucs get bumped up to the fourth seed and leapfrog superior wild-card teams just because they were the best team in the NFL’s worst division?

Yes, we’re talking about this because it’s been landing on the Cowboys lately. And no, blowing out Tom Brady and the Bucs in their own house last year was far from distressing. But the point here is that Dallas is probably finishing the regular season as one of the four best teams in the NFC and having to travel to play someone who’s only in the playoffs on a technicality seems far from equitable.

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