Dallas Cowboys: Progress Report Headed into Week 7
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones continues to indicate he's not panicking and on the verge of doing something drastic, but the fans are once again losing hope. The Dallas Cowboys haven't played a good game since Week 1, dropping into dead last in the NFC East and causing many to believe that this season is just as doomed as the last two.
But they do have the talent and 11 games to turn it around.
Here's a breakdown of where the 'Boys stand six weeks into the season.
What They Should be Thinking
After a strong start to the season, our defense has now surrendered more than 30 points in back-to-back games. Part of the problem is that only one team has fewer defensive takeaways than we do, but we're also starting to see some serious lapses in pass coverage.
This was a problem that was supposed to go away with a revamped secondary this year, but Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both struggled against the Baltimore Ravens, and now Mike Jenkins is hurt again.
Also hurt is DeMarco Murray, who might be our most dangerous offensive weapon. Murray was finally starting to find a groove before suffering a foot injury in the first half in Baltimore, and he's already been ruled out for this week's game in Carolina.
Our offensive line has struggled to open up holes thus far, so not having our No. 1 back could be problematic for us as we attempt to exploit a mediocre Carolina Panthers defensive front.
Tony Romo threw another terrible interception against the Ravens and did a poor job on what could have been a game-winning drive late. Dez Bryant's drop problem reared its head on a crucial two-point conversion. We took 13 more penalties in that game and have been penalized more on a per-game basis than every other team in the league...and it's not even close.
These issues have plagued us four weeks in a row. Can we really correct them at this point, or are major changes needed after the season?
Few gave us a chance to win that game in Baltimore, and despite all of those mistakes, we fell just short in a tough road matchup with a very good team. Some might see that as a step in the right direction as we work ourselves out of that rut.
The running game got back on track against the Ravens, as we put forth our best offensive effort of the season thus far. Believe it or not, Phil Costa's return to the lineup helped. Pro Football Focus rated Costa as our best offensive lineman Sunday, as he did a great job at opening up holes for whichever back was behind him.
We continue to rock in run defense with Sean Lee and Co. taking care of Ray Rice in Week 6. Eventually, that'll begin to pay off as one-dimensional offensive attacks force things against our secondary. The expected return of Anthony Spencer should help, too, as the pass rush picks up steam.
You never want to lose, but if you're going to, it might as well be against strong, non-conference foes on the road. We have to keep in mind that we're still only 1.5 games out of first place with the tiebreaker advantage over the New York Giants.
Maybe we endured the rough part of our season early, and the arrow's pointing upward from here.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (Offense): Phil Costa
Seeing his first action since Week 1, Costa earned high praise from Jerry Jones (per KRLD-FM, h/t MySanAntonio.com). The highly criticized center didn't give up a single pressure in pass protection (per PFF), didn't botch a single snap and helped pave the way for a running game that averaged a ridiculous 5.4 yards per carry on 42 attempts.
If he's finally putting things together, it could change the entire outlook of this line.
Stock Rising (Defense): Alex Albright
The second-year outside linebacker got his first kick at real snaps on Sunday and outplayed Victor Butler. It was a small sample size, and Spencer's return will likely send Albright back to special teams full time, but now Dallas knows it has another quality backup in the front seven.
Stock Dropping (Offense): Mackenzy Bernadeau
This is already a penny stock. Bernadeau is by far the weakest link on the offensive line.
He gave up the only sack Dallas allowed in Baltimore and drew a negative PFF rating as a run-blocker. Overall, PFF ranks him 67th out of 72 qualifying guards. At some point, the 'Boys might want to consider giving Derrick Dockery a shot in the right guard spot.
Stock Dropping (Defense): Brandon Carr
Claiborne was in this spot last week, but both starting cornerbacks struggled against the Ravens. After a very promising summer, Carr has lacked consistency through the first five weeks of his tenure in Dallas.
The $50 million man was beaten on five of the six throws that came his way on Sunday, and opposing quarterbacks have now posted a 107.1 passer rating against him this season.
If they're going to compete this year, we'll all know by Week 10. After this next game with Carolina, the Cowboys have two big divisional games with the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles sandwiching a matchup with the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.
Again, they have the talent to win all four of those games, but at this point, I just don't know if they have the discipline and focus. Remember when that was the key problem under Wade Phillips? The more things change...
View last week's progress report here.
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