Cowboys season appears to be hitting rock bottom with loss to Washington

Cowboys / NFL / Top Headlines / November 1, 2020

The Scoop:

Things only seem to be getting worse for the Dallas Cowboys, as they now sit at 2-5 following their 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team last Sunday. Not only did Dallas not look competitive on either side of the ball, but Andy Dalton suffered a concussion on a hit that saw Jon Bostic get ejected from the game.

At this point, it seems as if nothing is falling in the Cowboys’ favor, and no matter what we try, it’s destined only to make matters worse. I’d say Dallas has hit rock bottom, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that things can always get worse.

The Cowboys still have to go to Philadelphia next week and host the last remaining undefeated team in Pittsburgh the following week before we can limp into our bye week. I’d love to be optimistic and tell fans the bye week will be an excellent time for Dallas to regroup.

Still, the last few weeks have left Dallas looking like they may not win another game this season, and if we are 2-7 going into that break, you have to question where we go from there. What I don’t question is that this team looked awful on Sunday, and even worse, they looked like they had zero fight in them in a game that got chippy at times.

Whether it was Mike McCarthy calling out his players for the lack of response to the dirty hit on Dalton, or the visual of watching Trevon Diggs getting into it with Terry McLaurin, only to see him get burned by him on the following snap for a 52-yard touchdown. This team doesn’t seem to have any pride or fight in them at this moment, and that might be the worst thing you can say about a professional football team.

What went wrong:

Run defense seems beyond repair

For the second time in three weeks, the Cowboys played a team that was statistically the worst in the NFL at running the football, and both times those teams had career days running the ball. It’s hard to imagine this getting better at this point.

I have to point the finger at the front office and Mike McCarthy here. I’m sorry, but Mike Nolan has gotten a lot of unfair criticism to this point. Maybe he’s not doing the best job, but he was brought in to run his scheme on defense, and we had neither the personnel nor the offseason for that to be a reasonable task.

It was apparent, early on, that guys like Trysten Hill and Antwaun Woods were not a good fit in this scheme. At that time, they could have found players to bring in that did. I’m not talking about making the addition of an All-Pro. I just mean players that give the scheme a chance to have success.

I can’t remember a time where Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch shot into a running lane to meet the running back in the backfield. For those fans that are putting that blame on the two of them, it’s not their fault linemen are releasing straight to them.

That falls on the shoulders of the guys in front of them. It’s also not Woods or the injured-Hill’s fault that they don’t have the arm length or size to hold up in this scheme. The effort has been there, but they just don’t fit the scheme.

Could have put a halt to jumping into this scheme when we realized we wouldn’t have an offseason or preseason games, but McCarthy didn’t. Could have talked to some of the veterans that were still on the street when Gerald McCoy went down, but the front office didn’t.

What we have seen over the course of eight games is the result of those decisions. It’s not like we are playing top rushing powerhouses. The guys that are having career days against are players like Malcolm Brown, D’Ernest Johnson, Kenyon Drake, and Antonio Gibson.

Guys on the downhill of their careers like Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman are temporarily rediscovering the days of healthier legs. Offensive lines that have more questions than answers are looking forward to us on the schedule. That’s a reality that is not likely to change until after the season.

So does the secondary

I’m not sure what is left to say about this secondary. They are inconsistent and not the most talented bunch. Still, it’s getting frustrating watching this bunch struggle, especially on third downs.

I continue to preach patience with Trevon Diggs, but I’m not sure what he was doing on the touchdown to Terry McLaurin. Not sure if he let his emotions cloud his focus or just really thought McLaurin was going to break the route off.

However, that has to be a long walk back to the sideline. One play, you are talking trash to the guy, and the next, he’s running by you for a score. It was humbling, to say the least, and against a division rival no less.

I also wish I could come up with an excuse for Xavier Woods’ embarrassing performance. He’s been one of the more consistent, albeit not spectacular, players on this unit, but I wasn’t pleased with the game he had either.

I don’t how many more times we will see a quarterback beat the pass rush by floating a comeback route to the sideline long before the receiver is out of his break, but we’ve seen it several times this season, and it’s been infuriating. This time, it was Anthony Brown that was victimized.

It’s a throw with disastrous potential if the defensive back turns his head, but our defensive backs rarely show the ability to do that. Much like the defensive tackles, this is a situation that had the potential to be addressed more than just the addition of Daryl Worley, but it wasn’t.

We saw several defensive backs moved in the weeks leading up to the season, and unlike the deal for Jamal Adams, they were extremely reasonable. Again, we didn’t have to make blockbuster moves, but it’s hard to imagine that there weren’t affordable options that could have been made to help this group.

Void of leadership

Look, I’m like every Cowboys fan who was waiting for Jon Bostic to get what was coming to him immediately after that shot to Dalton. Even Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio have spoken out against it.

Still, my question to everyone criticizing why no one on the field leveled Bostic is which player on the field at that time did you expect it from? Of course, someone should have stepped up but let’s look at who we had on the field.

Let’s start with the offensive line. Two rookie offensive linemen in Terrence Steele and Tyler Biadasz, a second-year player in Connor McGovern who was making his first start after missing his rookie year, a third-year player in Connor Williams and Cameron Fleming who was seeing his first action as a Cowboy, outside of a snap or two in the first game before he got injured.

There is no real leader in that bunch. No Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, or even a Joe Looney. I would have loved to see Fleming step in considering he was the veteran of the group, or Biadasz because he has leadership qualities. Still, I’m not sure either of them currently has that kind of confidence with their role in this offense.

If Fleming makes a move and gets suspended a game, he likely never gets that job back, considering Brandon Knight is expected back soon. How does that benefit him this offseason when he is a free agent? These snaps are vital for his off-season value.

Biadasz is just getting comfortable at center, to the point where he is expected to remain as the starter when Looney returns. A possible suspension opens the door for that to change. Once you’ve earned a job, the last thing you want to do is give it back, even for a game.

I just don’t know if it’s fair to expect that kind of action from anyone on that front. Now Ezekiel Elliott is a veteran that was on the field and could have stepped in. The tough thing about that is Elliott’s career in Dallas has been filled with people in the organization, stressing to him how important it is to make good decisions for himself.
Obviously, this is a different situation, but I can understand why he’d be hesitant. I also don’t expect Dalton Schultz, another player that is just getting his career on track, to handle it as Jason Witten would have during his time here.

Cedrick Wilson falls into that category of a player just recently establishing a role. That leaves Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper. Cooper’s nonchalant demeanor has been well established since his days in Oakland, and Michael Gallup was literally the furthest person from the play.

Having said all this, yes, they are a bunch of excuses, but they are understandable ones. What I take away from the fact that no one stepped up to the plate on this is that the Cowboys’ lack of leadership is serious on the offense.

We have no leadership, and it’s a big part of why we have progressively gotten worse through the season. Elliott is not a leader, and after another turnover that was centered around a lack of focus on his part, I don’t want him to be.

Still, someone has to step on that offense. The defense has been pathetic this year, but at least they have leaders on that side of the ball fighting against their mediocrity. I just don’t know who is going to do that for Dallas.

Martin is expected to be back this week, but that doesn’t mean others don’t need to step up. On a side note, I’d really like to see Dak Prescott on the sidelines, and I think this team would benefit from it. His presence could bring some emotion back to a team that is currently playing with very little.

Turnover issues continue

Once again, the defense couldn’t get their hands on the ball, and the offense didn’t take care of it. Sure, Dallas was only credited with one turnover, but the fumble into the end zone was as costly as a turnover.

It resulted in two points for Washington because of the safety, and it gave them possession, which resulted in seven more points. Washington layered a blitz on the play, which resulted in the second player getting home.

What’s more frustrating is that Dalton identified prior to the snap and felt the pressure but still held on to the ball too long. After gaining a slight bit of momentum with the fourth-down stop at the goal line, our offense did nothing to help sustain it, and it resulted in a very familiar disappointment for this roster.

Dallas would go on to fall behind 22-3, but with a chance to cut into the deficit before halftime, poor accuracy on Dalton’s part, as well as poor focus by Ezekiel Elliott, turned into an interception inside the ten-yard line.

If the Cowboys score there, they get the ball back to start the second half with a chance to seize some momentum, but once again, an opportunity to get back in the game was squandered because of a turnover.

We can point out the scheme, the talent, or the leadership of this team, but none of which will matter if this offense continues to put the defense in bad situations, as well as the defense not coming up with some big plays of their own.

It’s that simple. The focus has to get better. By the way, that is the correct answer to the question Ezekiel Elliott was asked during the week. He was asked if there was a common denominator in the fumbles that he has suffered this year, in which he said nothing specific on the plays themselves and that he just needs to lock in.

There you have it. The common denominator is a lack of focus. That’s what he needs to change. That is what our offense needs to change. That’s what our team needs to change.

Receivers starting to join the party

When Michael Gallup dropped that touchdown pass against Arizona on Monday night, Cowboys fans should have been worried. One area on this team has been consistently good before the last two losses, which is the play of the receivers.

That drop was our first significant hiccup for them. Despite other areas of this team that have not looked competitive, there has always been a confidence that we can score quickly if these receivers get involved.

Still, against Washington, CeeDee Lamb had multiple drops while he and Gallup went without a catch for the first time this season. If they start struggling, that’s when this season is truly without hope. That is a lot of pressure to put on one unit, but we need Amari Cooper, Lamb, and Gallup, as well as Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown, to a lesser extent, to be consistent.

Otherwise, I’m not sure if I can find another win on our schedule.

What went right:

Nothing. Absolutely Nothing

This ws just a trainwreck. After having very little to be happy with against Arizona, the Cowboys surpassed even that disappoinotment. Yes, the defense had a goal line stop, but the worst offense in football did march down the field against them prior to it.

Sure, Tony Pollard finally justified why he has been taking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs, although they’ve usually been poor decisions. He broke a big return off, and Dallas followed up by going three and out, and kicking a field goal for their only points.

That’s it. Not sure how much more there was to be impressed with. It was aa dreadful performance against one of the NFL’s worst teams, and one I don’t believe this group of players can back bounce from. I could be wrong, but only time will tell.

Where do we go from here?

Veterans returning may be last hope, but let’s see some young players

Zack Martin will be returning to the lineup, as will Chidobe Awuzie. Awuzie will be welcomed back, and Martin could return to right guard, or possibly left tackle if Dallas wants to squeeze Joe Looney in to give us more experience up front.

This should provide a boost, but with Andy Dalton out and seventh-round pick, Ben DiNucci stepping in, I’m not sure how much that boost will make aa difference. I’m certainly hoping to see some good things from DiNucci as well as more of our young players.

Bradlee Anae is likely to see some more time with the trade of Everson Griffin, and we could see another trade or two.

Neville Gallimore is getting more time, and I’d like to see Dallas mix in Francis Bernard and Luke Gifford more. With much Dallas’ depth at linebacker hitting free agency, it would be nice to know what we have in those guys.

Not sure how much worse Reggie Robinson could be than our current group of safeties and sub-package defensive backs. I get wanting to protect his confidence, but let’s find a role for him. I also want to see more of Rico Dowdle and Sean McKeon.

This team is searching for answers, but they don’t have to limit themselves to this season. Dallas has a long list of free agents, and some of their potential replacements could be on the roster already. I’m not talking about abandoning the season, but how much worse could it get?

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Austin Smith

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