The Dallas Cowboys head into their Week 4 matchup with the San Diego Chargers as the only team in the NFC East with a winning record. They’ll be looking for a great game from one of their many under-the-radar players this week to help lead them to a 3-1 record.
Sometimes star players aren’t the only guys a team can rely on during a weekly basis. For instance, Dez Bryant has been slowed down significantly in both of Dallas’ victories because the opposition has schemes in place to do so. This just means there are opportunities for others to step up and make plays instead.
After a dominating home win against St. Louis, Dallas has to feel confident heading into their showdown with the Chargers. For the first time in awhile, the Cowboys were able to run the football and DeMarco Murray reminded us all why we have confidence in his ability. The former Oklahoma Sooner carried it 26 times for 175 yards and a score.
San Diego enters the game coming off a heartbreaking defeat in Tennessee where it lost in the final minutes. The Chargers now sit at 1-2.
Dallas has one of the most star-studded rosters in the NFL, but it will need breakout performances from certain X-factors in order to continue its winning ways.
Gavin Escobar, TE
Gavin Escobar was the Cowboys’ second-round draft pick this year. The tight end had done just about nothing until he caught a 24-yard touchdown this past week.
Despite the touchdown being his only catch of the game, Escobar has the talent and potential to be the next big-play Cowboy. He’s extremely athletic and a tough matchup for any linebacker or safety.
After Sunday’s victory, Escobar has now recorded one catch in each of the first three games. Although these statistics won’t have people adding him to their fantasy squads, look for these numbers to improve over the course of the season.
James Hanna was projected to contend with Escobar for the No. 2 tight end spot this season. However, Hanna had zero targets in Week 3 and it appears that Escobar is above him in the pecking order. With less people fighting for looks from quarterback Tony Romo, Escobar will be able to actually have an impact.
Rookies tend to only get better as their first year continues. Now that Romo has seen Escobar can make quality plays, watch out for him to contribute even more and have a solid week against San Diego.
J.J Wilcox, S
Wilcox got an opportunity to start because veteran Will Allen looked shaky during the first two weeks of the season. Now that the rookie has tasted the starting role, he will be hard-pressed to give it back.
The former Georgia Southern player is still fine-tuning his talents at the safety position, but he brings a different skill set to the table compared to Allen. Wilcox seems much more lively on the field and is always around the action.
The Cowboys defense seems to be improving every week and is stronger than it’s been in several years. With outstanding play coming from players like DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee, Wilcox will be able to play center field and make plays.
If Dallas continues to shut down opponents’ running games and can generate pressure on the quarterback, Wilcox will have a great performance.
Miles Austin, WR
Miles Austin is one of the better known Cowboys in the league despite not playing particularly well of late. After a big showing Week 1 against New York, he’s only recorded five catches over the last two games.
With Bryant not being 100 percent healthy because of a lingering back issue, Austin must raise his level of play and return to looking like a No. 1 option. Even with Bryant feeling good, defenses have shown thus far this season they’re paying extra attention to the dynamic receiver.
Every time Austin lines up opposite of Bryant, he should be thinking touchdown. The amount of attention Dez is creating should be enough to free up Austin for four quarters every week to make game-changing plays.
Although Cowboys fans probably hung their heads in disappointment when Austin exited the game with a hamstring issue, it seems the injury is not serious.
Austin is one of the best playmaking receivers in the league when he’s healthy and playing right. If the hamstring is ready to go, look for him to have a monster week in San Diego and help lead Dallas to another W.
All statistics via Pro-Football-Reference.com unless indicated otherwise.