A midseason evaluation of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys
By Tyrone Starr
With seven games in the books and the bye week at hand, here is a midseason evaluation of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys and where things may go moving forward.
It is Week 8 in the NFL which means it is the Dallas Cowboys‘ bye week. At 4-3, it is fair to say the Dallas Cowboys have slightly underperformed their preseason expectations.
After starting with three straight wins, things seemed to be going in a great direction. Unfortunately, the Cowboys followed that up with three straight losses before getting back on track with a win last week over Philadelphia.
As Dallas heads into the break, a semi-tough schedule awaits them. Four of their next six games will be against teams .500 or better. Two of those games will come against the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings and the (at press time) undefeated New England Patriots.
The win over Philadelphia was huge for the Dallas Cowboys as it put them in the driver’s seat for the NFC East divisional race. That is especially important after losing games to both New Orleans and Green Bay. With three teams (Carolina, Seattle, and Minnesota) all currently owning better records than Dallas, winning the division seems to be the best route for Dallas to make the playoffs.
Can the Cowboys get into the postseason? That remains to be seen but likely will be determined by one of two factors.
The most likely scenario is this offense continues to do what is expected of them. Whichever quarterback statistic moves you most, Dak Prescott is at or near the top of it. Currently, Prescott is in the NFC’s top five of completion percentage, yards, passing touchdowns, and quarterback rating. If Dallas is to continue to succeed, Prescott will need to keep up his stellar play.
That will be helped out most by his receiving corps staying healthy. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb give Prescott a stellar three-man rotation. Cooper is emerging as a lethal weapon for Dak who is seemingly uncoverable. Cobb provides the Cowboys with the best slot receiver they’ve had in quite some time while Gallup is starting to become a solid second banana.
Of course, the strength of this team will still be the running game. Last week’s demolition of Philadelphia was led by the return of the Ezekiel Elliott fans expect. Although it was his third 100+-yard game, it was his most impressive game of 2019. The Cowboys will need a few more of those to get where they want to be at season’s end.
The Cowboys will have to lean on their offense heavily if the defense continues to underwhelm. The Eagles game aside, Dallas has struggled to cobble together a consistent pass rush or create turnovers.
Part of the problem concerning the pass rush has been having a third guy show up. Both DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn have played well however, both guys routinely see double teams. Will the acquisition of Michael Bennett help this problem? Dallas is sure hoping it will but seeing is believing.
Another problem has been how long it has taken linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to match their output from late 2018. Neither has played particularly well nor have they have done so in the same game. That seemed to change last week, but then Vander Esch got injured.
The secondary play has been up and down as well. The cornerbacks have played well for the most part, but the safeties, primarily Jeff Heath, have been not-so-good. For this team to truly prosper, Dallas may need to see what they have in rookie Donovan Wilson.
The Jekyll and Hyde kicking game will also need to be more reliable. Kicker Brett Maher just became the first kicker in NFL history to make three 60+-yard field goals. He has also missed his only kick from 40-49 yards, two more from 50+ and what should be a chip shot from inside of forty yards.
The Cowboys have the talent to make some noise in 2019. The offense may need to carry this team if the defense doesn’t improve. If it does, however, this could be a dangerous team.
Ten wins are still feasible, however, nine is more realistic. The best news for Dallas is probably that the Eagles will likely not win seven more times this season, making their final matchup three days before Christmas uber important.