Changes The Cowboys Need to Make Sooner Rather than Later

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 11, 2020

Dallas Cowboys' Garrett Gilbert (3) and Dalton Schultz (86) walk to the sideline after a pass by Gilbert was intercepted by Pittsburgh Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatrick in the end zone in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys have not shown much improvement on a week-by-week basis during the 2020 NFL season.

Week 9 marked the first time the NFC East franchise was truly competitive in a game since Week 2, but it failed to close out a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. 

Dallas heads into its Week 10 bye with a four-game losing streak and a 2-7 record. 

If the 3-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants on Sunday, the slim possibility of Dallas surging in the second half of the season to win the NFC East will become much smaller. 

To even be competitive during its stretch of three of four games on the road out of the bye, the Cowboys may have to make some significant changes. 


Changes The Cowboys Need to Make

Fire Mike Nolan

Even though Dallas' defensive performance improved a bit in the last two weeks, the unit still ranks near the bottom of most categories. 

Only Atlanta, Seattle and the New York Jets allowed more total yards than the Cowboys, who have been gashed for 300 yards in all but one game. 

Mike Nolan's defense has conceded the most rushing yards in the NFL with 1,413. Dallas could remain last in that category going into Week 11 since Houston's second-worst total is 1,276. 

The rushing yard concession could get worse in the coming weeks with Dalvin Cook, Lamar Jackson and Joe Mixon on the schedule. 

Dallas ranks in the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed, but it let up the second-most passing touchdowns behind the Falcons

The good news, if there is any with this team, is that the defense held Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to 25 points or fewer in the last three games. 

However, that is not a total that can be celebrated much when the defense has to hold an opponent to a point total in the teens for its offense to attempt to win a game. 

Firing Nolan may seem like an extreme decision, but the bye week could be the perfect time to let him go before the numbers get worse and it leads to him losing the title in the offseason.


Allow Tony Pollard To Receive More Touches

Ezekiel Elliott has not been as effective as he typically is in the Dallas backfield. 

In each of the last three games, Elliott averaged below four yards per carry. That total drifted down to 2.83 in Week 9.

Elliott does not have a 100-yard rushing performance in nine games and failed to eclipse the 60-yard mark on five occasions. 

For now, it seems like Elliott fixed the fumbling problem that showed up from Weeks 2-6, when he dropped the ball on five occasions. 

Since Elliott has not been his typical dominant self and a division title looks more unlikely by the week, it may be time to give Tony Pollard an extended amount of touches in the backfield. 

Pollard outgained Elliott by seven yards on nine fewer carries against the Steelers, and he could be effective enough to support whichever quarterback the team starts in Week 11 and beyond. 

Pollard proved in two 100-yard performances in 2019 that he is capable of thriving with a heavier workload. 

Handing Pollard more carries would allow the Cowboys to do two things to benefit their backfield for the future when Dak Prescott is healthy.

First, it would give Pollard more experience so the team could run with a two-pronged attack. Second, and maybe more importantly, it would take some of the pressure off Elliott and allow him to preserve his legs for the 2021 season. 

If the Cowboys split the carries, or give Pollard more work in some games, it could keep Elliott fresh for a 2021 season, in which they could have a much better chance to qualify for the postseason with Prescott back in the lineup.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference


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