3 Ways the Cowboys Offense Can Still Shine vs. Raiders on Thanksgiving

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2021

3 Ways the Cowboys Offense Can Still Shine vs. Raiders on Thanksgiving

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    There's no way around it, the Dallas Cowboys are beat up heading into their Thanksgiving game against the Las Vegas Raiders

    The fact was evident in the team's display against the Chiefs. The Cowboys moved their record against the AFC West to 1-2 on the year with a 19-9 loss to Kansas City. 

    Defensively, there isn't too much to complain about. To hold Patrick Mahomes and that offense to 19 points is not a bad outing, and it should be enough to win the game. 

    The offense, on the other hand, didn't perform up to expectations. Part of that is due to injuries. CeeDee Lamb left the game with a head injury, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott are dealing with ailments that have limited them in practice and Amari Cooper was out after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

    It's a list of injuries that would deflate any offensive unit, but the Cowboys are in a better position than most to deal with it. Here are three ways they can right the ship with everyone watching on Turkey Day. 

Feature Tony Pollard

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Tony Pollard is one of the most talented backup running backs in the league. Once again he is averaging more yards per carry and target than Ezekiel Elliott. 

    Some of that is because the quality of touches that backup running backs get. They are often coming in fresh against a defense that is tired. But much of that is because Pollard is a talented back in his own right. According to PFF, 44 of Pollard's 50 rushing yards against the Chiefs came after contact. 

    Now the offense goes into a matchup against the Raiders who are one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. The Vegas defense is 29th in rushing yards allowed per game, 25th in yards allowed per carry and only 22nd in opponent rushing play percentage. 

    Translation: Teams aren't even pounding the run at the Raiders and still having success on the ground. 

    The Raiders just lost 32-13 to the Bengals and gave up 159 yards on the ground led by Joe Mixon with 123 and two touchdowns. If the Cowboys rest Elliott and give Pollard the opportunity to go off they could get a dominant performance out of their back while getting Elliott healthy. 

Target Dalton Schultz Early and Often

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    With Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb both out of the lineup against the Chiefs, Michael Gallup saw the lion's share of the targets. 

    He saw a season-high of 10 targets, pulling down five for 44 yards in an unremarkable outing. Gallup is capable of more, and it was only his second game back from an injury that had held him out since Week 1 so there's some leeway there as he gets his legs back. 

    But this matchup should be all about Dalton Schultz. 

    The Raiders have struggled against some of the better tight ends they have faced this season. Here are some of the notable performances. 

    • Week 3: Mike Gesicki, 10 catches, 86 yards
    • Week 4: Jared Cook, six catches, 70 yards, one touchdown
    • Week 6: Noah Fant, nine catches, 97 yards, one touchdown
    • Week 7: Dallas Goedert, three catches, 70 yards
    • Week 10: Travis Kelce, eight catches, 119 yards

    Schultz is seventh among all tight ends in yards and sixth in receptions. He should see both of those ranks go up against this Raiders defense without the top two receiving options in the lineup for the Cowboys. 

Pick on Johnathan Abram

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Most secondaries have a weak link, and it's not hard to find the culprit on the Raiders. Safety Johnathan Abram has struggled in coverage all season.

    The Raiders can't seem to slow down tight ends for a reason. Their linebackers aren't that great in coverage, and Johnathan Abram may be worse. On the season, Abram is giving up a passer rating of 119.1 when targeted. 

    Nobody has given up more touchdowns through the air on the Raiders roster with four. 

    The Raiders defense has some strengths. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue are tough matchups coming off the edge. The secondary held the Bengals passing game in check overall. Burrow had just 148 yards passing with one touchdown. 

    Whatever Kellen Moore and the offense can do to force Abram into tricky coverage situations the better.