Ed. Note: This article was written before the Trevon Diggs injury news broke. Obviously that will have a big effect on the Cowboys, but that is why it’s not mentioned here.
It’s getting easier to believe that the Dallas Cowboys are a special team, as they are leading, or highly placed, in many statistical categories. Power rankings across the media have them as one of the top three NFC teams along with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. Some are starting to view Dallas as the best in the entire league. Countering that, of course, is that it is still very early in the season. The sample size is very small, and things are further complicated by not knowing just how good or bad the first two opponents the Cowboys faced really are. It is always risky to make assertions this soon, but the evidence for some is still very persuasive.
The safest so far would seem to be that this is one of the best defenses in the league, and that may be too modest a claim. They just dominated the New York Giants and New York Jets. Of course, that is just why we might need to err on the side of caution, as there are serious questions about the quality of football being played by teams that are based in New Jersey. Countering that is just how badly they abused those opponents. The Dallas defense has only yielded ten points total and 193 yards per game so far, both being examples of those league-leading stats. Even if you can safely say that the New York teams are both pretty bad, this is still an exemplary showing by Dan Quinn and his destroyers. They also are the best in the NFL in sacks and takeaways. A maxim is that those are things that are very hard to replicate year to year, but so far this bunch is doing that. They led the NFL in takeaways in both 2021 and 2022, and last year they were third in the league in sacks. You simply are not supposed to be able to do that, but we are seeing it happen so far.
For once, most of the media is acknowledging the dominance of this defense. But the Texas Coast offense is still getting a wait-and-see approach, if not outright skepticism. Here, a major argument being advanced is that the offense simply has not been tasked with having to do much to win games. Somehow, 70 points in the first two starts is not seen as being impressive, even with the way the Jets defense was viewed as one of the NFL’s best going into last Sunday. The red zone woes in that game have just added to things.
We discussed this overall idea on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you do not miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Let me posit that the Jets game was a perfect time for being conservative and settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. It was still a 20 point win, which verges on blowout territory in the NFL. Ball security is also a big focus this season, with Dak Prescott only throwing one interception-worthy pass in the first two games. He got lucky on that one. They have also benefited from the alert and aggressive play of Tyler Biadasz, who recovered both of the fumbles the team has had this season. They say it is better to be lucky than good, but both is best, and so far that has been true for the Cowboys.
The question of just how capable the Dallas offense is may not be answered for a few more weeks, as the next two opponents, the Arizona Cardinals and the New England Patriots, are winless so far this season. That is not at all to say the Cowboys can be complacent, which Mike McCarthy alluded to on Wednesday.
Coach McCarthy on the #DallasCowboys not letting off the gas:— Bri Amaranthus (@BriAmaranthus) September 20, 2023
"There is a lot of confidence that comes with success... There is a fine line between being confident and complacent."https://t.co/bo49YbLbxN #CowboysNation @fishsports pic.twitter.com/5MYbNa6dYX
This seems very apropos for this week’s trip to Arizona, as they have been a consistent thorn in the side for Dallas in recent years. The Cowboys have lost six of the last seven games against the Cardinals, and those were frequently games that Dallas was favored to win. Everybody wants to be the team that beats the Cowboys, and that is especially true at the moment as Dallas is one of the early favorites to take it all. As McCarthy says, this is not the time to ease off.
Fortunately, there seems to be something of a killer instinct in this year’s team. The defense clearly sets the tone, but it’s there for the rest of the squad as well. One of the major positives is how many sustained drives Dallas has this year, with the Jets game a very lopsided affair as they ran a whopping 83 plays from scrimmage! That is a different kind of domination that was clearly on display despite the lack of touchdowns in that game.
It is also an integral part of the West Coast offense that McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer have based their offensive scheme on. So far, Dallas has proven to be quite adept at that aspect, and as mentioned, that was supposed to be a very good defense on Sunday. If this holds up, the Cowboys will give any defense fits. And we already know just how dangerous their own defense is.
Something that was a bit underappreciated against the Jets was the perfect performance by Brandon Aubrey. The concerns about him being the kicker are all but gone after his hot start to the season, with his only miss being on the initial extra point try against the Giants. And our colleague Mike Poland uncovered an odd factor that may have contributed to that one negative for Aubrey.
Interesting piece of news from @nickeatman on the Brandon Aubrey miss in Week 1.— Mike Poland (@kenfigkowboy) September 20, 2023
Could Aubrey be perfect on the year if it wasn’t for the administrative foul up by the refs?#Dallas #Cowboys #DallasCowboys #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/OsALTzGP6u
While we still have some questions remaining, the preliminary answers have mostly been very good, and there is nothing really negative to point to. This week could also see the Cowboys at or near full strength for the first time, as Tyler Smith, Brandin Cooks, and Donovan Wilson look to be on track to be active after missing last week. There is still a bit of concern about both Zack Martin and Chuma Edoga, who were working on the side in Wednesday’s practice, but neither has been ruled out, and T.J. Bass did a pretty good job when he had to come in for Edoga against the Jets. That offensive line depth will be watched with some nervousness all season, but so far, it has held up quite well.
It’s been a great way to start the year, but the Cowboys have to be thinking one game at a time. The week five matchup with the San Francisco 49ers is highly anticipated, but there are two more contests to get through. Every week, we get a little more information about this team and refine our picture. Let’s hope the new data after this Sunday just improves it.