Dallas Cowboys own Pro Bowlers the weakest link against Green Bay
By Matt Aaron
The Dallas Cowboys lost badly to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. Surprisingly, their best players might have been most responsible for the loss.
Like many viewers watching the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-34 loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, I was stunned for much of the game. I just couldn’t believe I was seeing the Cowboys perform so badly.
I mean, this wasn’t 2016 without a decent backup for injured All-Pro offensive tackle Tyron Smith. We didn’t have a substitute player letting pass rushers blow past him like so many passengers on the new Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios.
This wasn’t the first half of 2017, with quarterback Dak Prescott still recovering from the burning of Atlanta, behind a barely functional offensive line with All-Pro center Travis Frederick out, and only one competent wide receiver. This was 2018, after going 3-1 in the first four games of the season.
I thought the Cowboys had solved their problems. In the last few years, the brass upstairs has spent a lot of resources shoring up key parts of the team. They’ve drafted several offensive linemen in guards Connor Williams and Connor McGovern and signed half a dozen other quality back-ups.
They’ve acquired a whole new wide receiver corps in Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and Randall Cobb. Between that, and promoting boy-wonder Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator, the team had looked awfully good in their first three games this season.
America’s Team had a top-five offense through the first four games, and Prescott was looking like a legitimate MVP candidate. Dallas’s defense also looked very strong, limiting their first four opponents to a 14 points per game average.
Then on Sunday, the Cowboys got destroyed by the Green Bay Packers. Just embarrassed and humiliated. I was embarrassed for them, just sitting on my couch. How did this happen?
I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last few days. For a while, I had no idea what to say. Then, a thought occurred to me. It started with the linebackers.
During the game, as I watched Green Bay running back Aaron Jones slice through the Dallas defense, I kept on asking: Where are the linebackers? Where are Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch? I mean, isn’t that what linebackers are for? Stopping running backs? Where were the Cowboys supposedly elite linebackers?!
Of course, Prescott also played terribly. I mean, he stunk up the joint, throwing three interceptions, which could have been five if a couple takeaways hadn’t been called back on penalties. No one cares that he threw for 463 yards. He was giving out interceptions like Halloween candy.
But then, it occurred to me that one of those interceptions was Cooper’s fault. The ball hit him right in the hands, as the cliché goes, before ricocheting into the awaiting arms of Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander. So, that one was on Cooper, obviously.
That’s when it hit me. Sure, the Cowboys were terrible on Sunday, especially in the first half. But the worst offenders were Dallas’ best players, many with Pro Bowl pedigrees.
All of the players I just mentioned, Prescott, Smith, Vander Esch, and Cooper are all considered star players for the Cowboys. All but Smith are Pro Bowlers. All of them contributed to the loss. But it doesn’t end there.
Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith was out with an injury once again. Dallas’ other top-graded offensive tackle La’el Collins was also injured during the game. Though I don’t blame them for getting hurt, that still left the team with two fewer star players.
Given their job is blocking, that might also explain why Ezekiel Elliott, the team’s All-Pro running back and the league’s leading rusher for two out of the last three years, gave his second lackluster performance in a row, rushing for an uninspiring 63 yards.
Oh, I almost forgot. Dallas’ two star defensive ends, DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, had zero sacks between them. Yup, a big round goose egg for the Cowboy’s fearsome twosome.
Do you see a pattern forming here? It’s pretty clear why Dallas lost this game. Almost all of their best players had terrible (or at least sub-par) games, or were out with injuries.
Well, maybe not all of them. Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones played okay. He didn’t do anything embarrassing anyway. Ditto for all-world offensive guard Zack Martin. But the rest of the Cowboys’ all-stars stunk on ice. Part of me would like to rant some more. But I think that’s the crux of it.
A few questions remain, however. Will the Cowboys get it together or will we be seeing this for the rest of the season? If the Cowboys remain true to form, then they should continue to look great against weaker teams, and under-perform against better teams. But at least that means they should play well against the Jets. I hope.
On the other hand, it’s also early in the season. The best teams in the playoffs are often teams who don’t look all that great early on. We’ll see. The truth is we won’t know one way or the other for a while. We’ll just have to watch this play out. Of course, it would be nice to see Dallas’ best players perform like the Pro Bowlers they are.