With the farewell week in the rearview mirror, the Cowboys coaches and scouts can focus on building a team that is playing its best ball on the field. Despite the tumultuous start that has created a buzz about the team’s chances for the title in league circles, the Cowboys have a lot of work to do to turn that dream into reality.
Having little time to study team performance during the first half of the season, here are some thoughts and observations on Team America:
The Cowboys star defender was playing at an MVP level before the good week, but he was also fed up with a calf injury at the end of the Patriots game. The continuing effects of injury can affect the way Dak Prescott plays in and out of pocket and change the way the Cowboys do their business in attack.
Attack coordinator Kellen Moore needs to be aware of the limitations of No. 4 and adjust the game plan to minimize his exposure on the perimeter. Moreover, the Cowboys have to adjust the following game to display shots that allow Prescott to shoot comfortably with his diseased foot.
From using more fast-paced shots that require little pocket movement to extensive hunting weapon operation, the Cowboys need to put their QB1 in the best position to perform at a high level while he recovers from an injury that may have lasting effects. If the Cowboys are able to manage Prescott’s rehabilitation and recovery by keeping him on the field, it gives them a chance to maintain the chemistry and continuity that has helped them emerge as title contenders this season.
What is happening to La’el Collins?
The Cowboys right-back’s treatment returns after suffering a five-match suspension, but it is not certain he slips into his starting position when he returns. Terence Steele has played well in his absence and Mike McCarthy should not risk ruining the unit chemistry by removing the third year professional from the lineup.
That said, Collins is one of the top five strikers on the squad and he should have a place in the starting lineup. If he shifts to guard, he is an improvement over Conner Williams and a more natural fit as an internal blocker.
At LSU, I thought he would be at his peak as a professional on guard because of his joking style of play and athletic restraints. Collins can focus on sumo wrestling with larger bodies in tighter areas compared to facing fast-paced runners who attack quickly from the edge. In addition, the veteran would give the Cowboys a sharp left side if he played alongside Tyron Smith on the left guard. The massive duo would allow the Cowboys to crush opponents in the running game as the team switched to a left-hand approach to maximize the strengths of a rebuilt offensive line.
Collins may like the cheer and the money that comes with being an initial attacking intervention in this league, but a move inside can help him and the Cowboys attacking line thrive on levels.
Keep the return rotation in place.
The Cowboys have kicked off a hot start after the spectacular play of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Despite the outsiders suggesting the team should appear on top of each other, the Cowboys have ignored the noise and given each player plenty of opportunities to influence the game.
Elliott remains the Cowboys workhorse as a powerful runner with extraordinary vision, balance and body control. He averages five more yards per carry, while 100 yards in four of the last five games. With Elliott almost missing the 100 yards point in the fifth game (97 yards). The Cowboys have received steady output from an RB1 with a pair of rushed crowns.
Pollard has been a prominent contributor as a rhythm-changing option in the backcourt. He is on average six yards to perform in a variety of runs that show his speed and agility. In addition, Pollard is leaving his mark as a receiver with 15 receptions for 115 yards. With the third-year professional taking the first six shots as a passing catch, the Cowboys have another weapon in the arsenal to counter opponents trying to remove Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb with two deep covers.
Overall, the Cowboys’ 1-2 fist in the backfield has given opponents trouble and given the attack more knockout power this season.
Defense is being fed with energy.
The elite defenses in this league feature a handful of players providing power and electricity to the group. The Cowboys defensive success has certainly been tied to their empowers, Trevon Diggs, Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory, adding a little buzz to the unit with their sensational play during the first half of the season.
While Diggs has received a lot of attention for his cannonball skills on the island, it has been his ability to successfully “travel” with the No. 1 receiver that has ignited the defensive backstage earlier this year. It is rare for a sophomore to take on the defensive challenge of players like Mike Evans and Keenan Allen without help, however Diggs has been up to the task while also offering a spark as a circulation specialist.
Gregory and Parsons have added boredom to the front line with their athleticism and non-stop engines. The duo is ruthless in pursuing the quarterback and the ball bearer and this collective energy is infectious. The group is fed up with their aggression and enthusiasm as the entire defense competes to enter the gaming festival.
DQ has ignited the flames of competition by enabling its new players to play free and fair within the system while holding them accountable for their performance while maintaining high standards of effort. With the trio adhering to instructions while playing games, the Cowboys defense looks like they are playing with the ball.
Which Greg Zuerlein will appear?
John Fassel has shown complete confidence in “Greg the Leg” this season, but the veteran has been inconsistent to date. Despite having hit some key hits with the game remaining in balance this season, he has missed several lineups (extra points and short-range goals) that have affected the game.
With the shot that can not guarantee points on the PAT and short-range goals, the head coach and attack coordinator need to reconsider their attacking plans as they approach the red zone. Lack of confidence in the attacker can force more aggressive calls and quarter-down games that create major emotional upheavals on the side.
Moreover, the shaky confidence in Zuerlein could put more pressure on Dak and Co. to play more games when the attack is on the verge of reaching the red zone. Sure, you want the number 4 to keep his foot on the gas whenever he’s on the field, but the added risk can backfire if a wrong shot or deflected pass falls into the hands of an opposing defender.
That’s why it’s important for the Cowboys to find out early in the second half of the season whether Zuerlein will get back in shape because of the impact his shot has on the rest of the squad. If he can regain his pace and prove to be one of the best long ball scorers in the game, the Cowboys goal range will expand and everyone will feel better about the team’s chances of winning a close match in December / January.