Are the Cowboys Destined for 8-8?
Writer: Anthony Aleman
Maybe, and here are some fixes to stop that.
The Dallas Cowboys came into this season as one of the top teams in the whole league, with many predicting a Super Bowl matchup against a powerhouse Patriots team. With the suspension of star running back Ezekiel Elliott on hold while legal proceedings take place, the team seemed destined for another division title through the play of duos Dak Prescott and Ezekiel while working behind one of, if not the best, offensive lines in football. However, the Jason Garrett lead team has had a rather poor start to this season, beginning the year 2-2 heading into what could be a critical game in the long run against the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys played like the team who won 13 games in 2016 in the season opener against the Giants, but ever since then the team has seen struggles on both sides of the ball while dropping two of the last three games they have played. The offense cannot seem to gather a rhythm and the offensive line has been having issues integrating La’El Collins and Chaz Green to the starting rotation, which in turn has been affecting the run game ability of Zeke Elliot and Alfred Morris. Without a solid run game Dak Prescott has seen increased pressure on his ability to be a playmaker, something he has not been amazing yet this year. The defensive issues are another big thing the cowboys have been dealing with since the start of the season. The emergence of defensive end Taco Charlton has yet to arrive and it is quite possible we could see him inactive soon with David Irving returning to the lineup. Along with that we have seen injuries to the secondary and linebackers which are causing players such as Jaylon Smith and Jourdan Lewis to play larger roles on the team than what was expected. The defensive issues were highlighted on Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams came to Dallas and overpowered the boys in blue 35-30 via the tandem of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Cooper Kupp. This perfect mix of imperfection seems to add up to something many Cowboys fans are used to: A season record ending in 8-8. The reality for Jerry's team is that the team has one of the most difficult schedules of any NFL team for the remainder of the season. Looking at the schedule, it is difficult to see the Cowboys being favorites in more than about five or six of the remaining games the team plays. The team struggles on offense look very fixable, however the defense could be a season long issue that could be fixed by continuing to add pieces in the off season. Teams will look to block Tank Lawrence with more priority and once that occurs the team will have to have other players step up and make plays, there are not many playmakers on that defense who could potentially do anything close to what Lawrence has done at the beginning of this season. The Cowboys also must hope for Anthony Hitchens to come back 100% from the injury without losing a step, as he will need to play key snaps over Jaylon Smith if this team wants to see a playoff opportunity soon. Jaylon Smith looks to be the answer for this team in the long run, but for now the cowboys must pair Hitchens and Sean Lee together once possible to get the best defensive unit out there possible. Another player I believe should see more snaps is Xavier Woods, rookie free safety out of Louisiana Tech who has impressed in the secondary and become a huge playmaker for this team. Offensively I see a potential fix for the line by switching Collins and Green back to the original positions they played at their respective colleges. Trying Collins out at left guard and Green at right tackle could generate better line play which would help the run game regain its form from last year, which then in turn will allow Dak Prescott to open up the field passing wise through Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. While talking about receivers, the idea that the cowboys have yet to thrown the ball towards Ryan Switzer is terrible. Switzer was seen as a piece who could come in and help Cole Beasley open up the field in the slot, but so far none of that has happened and Beasley has been shut down via double coverage. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan must use Switzer to open up the field and force the double coverage off Beasley to open him up as well. This Cowboys team has the ability to go 12-4 or 8-8, and they must make adjustments to ensure they win the division and make the playoffs for a second season in a row.