The Dallas Cowboys kicked off the season with an absolutely abysmal performance, resulting in a 16-8 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. The good news is it was just one game and there is nowhere from here but up. So how does Dallas turn things around and get a win in their home opener against the New York Giants? Here are my five keys to victory.
1. Offensive creativity
All offseason Cowboys nation was told this year would be different. This year the offense was going to be “Dak friendly.” However, in week one it looked like the same old offense. Dak Prescott is not a prototypical pocket passer. Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett must get Dak on the move more. Run some RPO’s, or some zone reads. Handing the ball to Zeke on every first down to run into a stacked defensive box is not going to cut it. The offense must be better on Sunday, but the offensive coaches must put the players in a better position to succeed.
2. Dak Prescott must earn the Giants respect
The Giants defense doesn’t respect Dak Prescott. They have said their game plan is to stop Zeke and make Dak beat them. That was Carolina’s plan as well and it worked perfectly for them. If Dak doesn’t make some big plays in the passing game the Giants, along with every future opponent on the Cowboys schedule will continue to stack the box and the Cowboys’ offense will continue to struggle.
3. Feed Zeke
Ezekiel Elliott only touched the ball 18 times last Sunday. That’s not nearly enough. If the game plan doesn’t include Zeke touching the ball at least 25 times, then your game plan belongs in the trash can. It doesn’t have to be 25 handoffs up the middle. You can utilize Zeke in the passing game as well. Give him a screen or swing pass. Line him up in the slot. Zeke is Dallas’ most explosive weapon. The more he touches the ball, the better your chances of winning.
4. Stop Saquon Barkley
The Cowboys defensive game plan should be the same as the Giants. Dallas should focus on shutting down rookie running back Saquon Barkley and making Eli Manning beat them. If you force Eli to pass a lot he is going to make a mistake or two. If Dallas stops the running game and forces Eli to throw, he will throw at least two interceptions.
5. Demarcus Lawrence must take advantage
Demarcus Lawrence is Dallas’ best pass rusher and he just happens to be going up against Ereck Flowers, who is arguably the worst lineman in the NFL. For an elite pass rusher like Lawrence, going up against Flowers is like having the defensive player of the week award served up on a silver platter. Eli should be under pressure all game long and when Eli is pressured he usually makes a lot of mistakes. If Dallas takes advantage of those mistakes, they can get a win and get their season back on track.
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