After such a contrasting turn of events between Weeks 2 and 3 of the new season, fans of the Dallas Cowboys aren’t quite sure what to think of their team. Things started out great, but then a double-digit loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals put a dark cloud over the season. Was that just an anomaly or are there some legitimate issues to be worried about? Let’s take a look at the four of the most common emotionally charged storylines and see if any of them actually hold any water.
Dak Prescott just isn’t good enough
One of the least favorite things about the fallout of a Cowboys loss is you can always count on two things (1) the torches come out for Dak Prescott and (2) his defenders unite to support their guy. It’s inevitable.
The Dak dilemma will never go away, but is there any merit to it? One can make a case that there have been stretches in recent years where Prescott’s performance wasn’t all that great. Yet there are other times he is fantastic. It’s easy to point our finger at him as he’s the guy with the most influence in a game, but he’s still a better performer than the majority of quarterbacks in the league. But there are times when good isn’t good enough and Dak needs to be great. And that’s what people are waiting for, especially when the season spills over into the new calendar year.
Real or Fake? Mostly fake. Prescott is good enough. If he’s not able to have success under the new management of the offense, then maybe we can re-evaluate this because the Cowboys have made all kinds of different changes to help their quarterback. If it continues to not work, somebody has to be held accountable. Speaking of which...
The offensive game has passed up Mike McCarthy
If the Cowboys offense starts to fade and Prescott isn’t the reason, then all fingers will point at Mike McCarthy. The veteran coach replaced Kellen Moore as the team’s play-caller this offseason in hopes of improving the team. We say “team” because McCarthy has gone on record stating he’s not interested in having the number one offense in the league, but rather a more conservative, ball-control offense that puts them in a better overall position to win football games.
When he first said that, it seemed ridiculous. Why would your plan not be to score as many points as you could? That should always be the plan. But then after what we witnessed in the first two games, he suddenly had our attention. It wasn’t perfect, but they were scoring some points and the Cowboys were destroying teams. Then Sunday happened, and we’re left confused as to why the offense played was so disappointing. The Cowboys haven’t scored a second-half touchdown in each of their last two games.
Real or Fake? TBD. The last time McCarthy held this gig, it didn’t go so well as he struggled down the stretch in Green Bay, ultimately leading to his termination. Fans don’t want to hear it, but there’s a range of outcomes where this Cowboys offense is actually worse under McCarthy than with Moore. Only the Miami Dolphins (who scored 70 points on Sunday) have scored more touchdowns than Moore’s Chargers, whereas the Cowboys are tied for 10th. Sure, Dallas is 2-1 and Los Angeles is 1-2, but that’s not an indictment on Moore. He has his offense cooking.
The defense is a facade
Ever since the arrival of Dan Quinn, the Cowboys' defense has turned into one of the better units in the league. This year is no different. But why is it that a supposed elite NFL defense still manages to lay out the red carpet and let a team like the Arizona Cardinals run all over them? It just doesn’t add up.
The reasons why the Cowboys struggle against the run at times are plentiful. Teams are taking advantage of their aggression up the middle and finding creases in the B gap. They’re also putting more physical blockers on the Cowboys' undersized LBs/safeties-playing linebackers. If a team like Zona is going to kill you in the run game, what are we to think is going to happen against SF or Philly?
Real or Fake? Mostly fake. The Cowboys defense will have their struggles and there are some legit concerns to address when it comes to stopping the run. However, this unit is too good to not remain a force and cause more destruction throughout the 2023 season.
The offensive line will never be reliable
This was supposed to be the year that we finally saw the combination of Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Terence Steele all together at once on the offensive line. It didn’t happen in Week 1 after Tyler Smith tweaked his hamstring right before the season started. We thought it might happen last Sunday, but then their linemen started dropping like flies. By the time the game started, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Tyler Biadasz were all observers on the sideline.
Eventually, you gotta think the band will all play together at some point, but just knowing the past history of this offensive line's inability to stay healthy doesn’t inspire confidence. If the Cowboys are constantly working through different arrangements and subbing in inferior players, how are they supposed to hang with the big boys?
Real or Fake? Fake. While it’s disappointing that the team is dealing with this early in the season, this group will be alright. While the backups haven’t been great, there’s enough there to rely on a guy here and there as long as they don’t keep dealing with multiple players missing time. And when they do get all five starters together eventually, it’s going to be one fine-looking group.