In Week 2 of the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys face their second New York opponent in as many weeks, the New York Jets. As we’ll do each week, we breakdown the positions on offense for the Cowboys versus their opponent, in this case the Jets.
Dak Prescott vs Zach Wilson
Last week’s game to judge Dak Prescott as a passer is a tough one. With the way the game script unfolded, tied with the weather situation, meant Dak had to ease back in the passing game. The good news is that most of the throws he did make were delivered well, he looked very comfortable in the backfield, and showed tremendous poise through the game. His tight ends left a lot to be desired having so many dropped passes. His throw to Peyton Hendershot in the endzone was right on the money and inch perfect as he slotted it between the defenders. Just a shame Hendershot couldn’t maintain the catch. But what we did see from Dak was some quality quarterbacking. He led the offense downfield, maintained composure and ensured personnel matchups were correct. His read of the defense as well as checking his landmarks and keys helped keep the Cowboys offense on schedule last week.
The Jets will be without Aaron Rodgers who went down four plays in the last game versus the Buffalo Bills. It’s an Achilles injury which ends his season. So that means the Cowboys will get ready to face backup quarterback Zach Wilson this weekend. So what are the the positives and negatives of having to face Wilson this week? On the positive side is he’s not a quarterback that throws with accuracy or with good degrees of decision making. This will lead to turnovers and low scoring which is exactly what happened against Buffalo. He’s not going to throw with anticipation and he struggles to throw when under pressure, and this Cowboys defense can generate a lot of pressure. So what does he do well that could threaten the Cowboys? For one it’s the quick passing and RPO plays. He has some pretty good mobility which he can use to manipulate defense’s and that also helps when it comes to RPO plays. That mobility has been seen plenty when it comes to extending plays or making plus out of the pocket.
To put Wilson in Prescott’s class would be dishonest. The Jets know that Wilson still needs to develop and he’s not ready to take the helm. The whole reason for Rodgers coming to New York was due to the concerns of Wilson’s play and lack of confidence he gave the team. Don’t let last week’s lack of passing production dissuade you from the fact that Dak has the arm talent and understanding of defenses to win big in games.
Tony Pollard/Rico Dowdle/Deuce Vaughn vs Breece Hall/Dalvin Cook/Michael Carter
Pollard needed to be the guy last week given the circumstances of weather at MetLife stadium. He did exactly what was needed of him and played 37 of a possible 55 snaps, which is telling of how the coaches want to divvy up plays. He had 70 rush yards, averaged five yards per carry and scored two rushing touchdowns. He also caught two passes, one helped convert on third down in the Giants redzone (which he fumbled but thankfully Tyler Biadasz had his head on a swivel). Think we can call that a successful day for Pollard. Rico Dowdle played his part and averaged four yards per carry on six rush attempts. His play style and running ability looked to complement what Pollard was doing. Then Deuce Vaughn had his chance toward the end of the game as the coaches rotated to the backup and third-string players to conserve the starters. The sneaky entry here for Dallas was the use of KaVontae Turpin on the toss play that scored him a touchdown. We saw Turpin take snaps in the backfield with the running backs in Oxnard and it looks as though he could be a weapon the team are looking to unleash in this fashion. If we see more play from the backfield or on jet-sweeps with Turpin we may have to add him to this list going forward.
The Jets running back corps has everything going for it on paper this week. Against Buffalo, Hall was a beast that helped secure victory. On ten attempts he went for 127 yards and had a run that broke for 83 yards. They also have Dalvin Cook who has faced this Cowboys defense before and during his last meeting he ran for 72 yards. But Cook has showed signs of slowing down and the elite explosiveness that made him special has begun to diminish.
The Cowboys running backs had to be the primary chain-movers last week and got the job done. The addition of Turpin coming into the backfield adds some extra firepower to the position and is like the pinch of salt to an already delicious recipe. At the moment, with the current usage plan, Pollard could end up being a top-5 running back by the end of the year. The only thing holding him back will be the Jets defensive line that held the Bills to just 97 yards rushing last game.
The Cowboys defense had to face one of the league’s top running backs along with one of the top rushing quarterbacks in a run-heavy game. They allowed only 108 rush-yards against such a heavy threat and this week the rushing force from Jets, although is good, should be looked at as less effective than the Giants. Hall represents the biggest threat and if they can keep him from running away for huge plays that should shut the offense down. Hall is still recovering from an ACL injury he suffered last year so the coaches may limit his snap count. The simple way to look at this, the Jets have the best one/two tandem, Cowboys have the better depth. Starters always count for more. And the Cowboys have the better offensive line which can help overcome any talent gap. The Jets have the stronger running back tandem, but the rest of their offense hinders them.
CeeDee Lamb/Brandin Cooks/Michael Gallup vs Garrett Wilson/Allen Lazard/Randall Cobb
Last week Lamb was money for Dak when he needed him. On a day where the passes were limited, Lamb still caught all four targets that went his way for 70 yards and made a huge 49-yard catch-and-run early in the game. This week Lamb will face a heavier challenge as he squares up against Sauce Gardner. Keep close watch on this battle this weekend as a lot hinges on Lamb getting open. Brandin Cooks was good making two catches and also drew a pass interference on a deep ball. He should look to get more production this week with his matchup. Michael Gallup being the third guy on the list during a low passing game caught just one pass for ten yards last week. Depending on how they look to spread the Jets secondary out, he maybe used to draw attention from Gardner to allow Lamb to get free more often.
The Jets receivers are a lot more talented than what the Dallas defensive backs had to deal with last week. Garrett Wilson had an electrifying rookie season that ended with him going over 1,000 yards receiving. Last game he only went for 34 yards but did score a touchdown. Wilson has deceptive speed he can unleash on defenders with elite levels of acceleration. He can drift through his gears very effectively on routes, so Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore need to be on complete alert while covering him and not allow him to get too much freedom or draw flags. Allen Lazard also was kept quiet during the last game with two catches for 34 yards. Last year Lazard still scored six touchdowns, but one thing to note on Lazard is during his five-year career as a receiver, he’s only managed to get 100 yards receiving in a game three times, and last year he failed to have a game of 50 or more yards receiving seven times.
Both of these teams receiver corps have a tough matchup against some quality cornerbacks. The question here is who would you rather, the veteran tandem of Lamb and Cooks, or the younger duo of Wilson and Lazard. Given the Buffalo game has showed a lack of passing attack with Wilson driving the bus, the Cowboys corps looks more set up to succeed.
Jake Ferguson vs Tyler Conklin
It was a tough day at the office for Ferguson against the Giants, and Hendershot had his problems last week as well. We can keep blaming the wet conditions, which is true, but even still both tight ends needed to be reliable than what they were. Ferguson was targeted last week more times than any other Cowboys player and only made two catches for 11 yards. Some of the drops were not hard catches to make. With the Jets defense aiming to take the Cowboys receivers away, Ferguson is going to take a vital role this week. The Jets defense against the Buffalo tight ends allowed over 50 yards of receiving, so this needs to be an emphasis of attack for Dallas this week. One thing that this tight end corps did do extremely well last week was in blocking. Some of the most efficient run blocking last week came from the right ends and were instrumental in providing space for Pollard down at the goal line.
Tyler Conklin isn’t a bad tight end. He’s good for 20-30 yards a game and has shown a steady level of production at both Minnesota and with the Jets. Against Buffalo though he caught one ball for two yards and this Cowboys safety group will look to try and do the same.
Given that both sides have some questions at tight end this is a tricky projection. For Dallas, Dak likes to target his tight ends when he needs to check it down. But the tight end group for Dallas coming into the season was questionable, and so far nothing we’ve seen has changed that opinion. For the Jets, they have a quarterback that doesn’t target his tight ends as often, but Conklin has a better proven record so far. Slight edge to the Jets for now.
Cowboys fans held their breath last week after the news on Tyler Smith broke. The good news was Chuma Edoga was more than up to the challenge and played well. T.J. Bass had to come in temporarily, and was also fine for the short moment we saw it. But generally the depth of this line when challenged stayed true to its mission. Last week against a decent Giants pass rush, Dak was sacked zero times and allowed only four pressures, that’s the third-least in the league currently. But what also apparent was how effective the run blocking was. No better example of the Cowboys run blocking was during Turpin’s touchdown play late in the game. Keep an eye on Tyler Smith this week on the practice report who should gear up for this weeks game providing there’s no setbacks.
Aaron Rodgers and the Jets offensive line was met by a top-10 pass rush during their last game and Rodgers got sacked on the first drive which ended his season. This week that line has to face Dallas and a defensive line that got seven sacks in one day. The biggest concern for the Jets line is at tackle. Both sides have huge questions as their left tackle Duane Brown is now 38 years old and right tackle Mekhi Becton has huge issues with durability. The Jets offensive line last year ranked 20th in sacks allowed and against Buffalo allowed three sacks.
Which team has the better offense?
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New York Jets