“Challenge accepted” echoed across both locker rooms last week in Prescott’s response to Giants Landon Collins’ on how they need to approach the Cowboys for a victory. From a bravado-like “Put the ball into Dak’s hands and I think we have a better shot at winning” statement to the humbling “He controlled the offense” post-game interview, New York fell to a doubtful 0-2 start on the season.
Now, would most people disagree with Collins on how to beat Dallas? Surely not. Prescott struggles with accuracy and pocket management at times, typically only doing well when Ezekiel Elliott is present. Averaging only 165 yards per game & 6.1 per pass, Prescott leads a passing attack that is in desperate need of a vast improvement. Removing any type of blame on specific individuals, the Cowboys will only go so far as Dak can take them. Opposing teams do not mind coming out in man alignments in their secondary or cheating a safety closer to the box, because the threat has not been enabled from within the pocket for the Cowboys.
Going from the Panthers to Giants defense in weeks 1-2, the Cowboys have dealt with both ends of the spectrum. One contains a ferocious front seven that can cause problems against any team, as the other seems to care more for social media disputes among its teammates. The Seahawks defense should show no more than what New York did, if even that. They rank 20th or worse in PPG, YPG, PassYPG, and RushYPG allowed.
A year that could spell if the Cowboys are going to take a quarterback in 2019 draft or not, Prescott must get going immediately. An interesting stat that has been debated this week, is that “Since Prescott became the starter in 2016, the Cowboys are 9-2 when he carries five or more times. They are 4-0 when he gets at least seven carries”. Although the Seahawks have never lost a home-opener since 2002, the talent speaks in Dallas favor and Prescott has to be the leader come Sunday.
Finally stepping into the star people expected coming out of Boise State, Demarcus Lawrence has no sights of stopping anytime soon. Tying second in the league last season with 14.5 sacks, Lawrence has already taken Eli Manning & Cam Newton victim with a sack in each of the first two weeks. Not only that, Tank is doing everything exceptionally to be labeled a premier pass-rusher in this league:
Demarcus Lawrence and Khalil Mack are tied for the most total pressures among edge defenders through two weeks. pic.twitter.com/zx26WRUklh
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 21, 2018
NFL DL/EDGEs, tackles at or behind the line:
7: Demarcus Lawrence
6: T.J. Watt, Jurrell Casey and Robert Nkemdiche (!)
5.5: DeForest Buckner
5: Miller, Ogunjobi, Atkins, Hunt, Garrett, Short and Guy
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) September 20, 2018
Looking at Lawrence’s matchup this weekend, just about no one would think Seahawks OT George Ifedi would cause any problems from Tank getting into the backfield. However, even though his OL is mainly responsible for allowing back to back 6 sack weeks, Russell Wilson is a top tier QB for a reason. A maestro in extending plays and throwing on the run, pressure against him is a necessity no matter how bad his supporting cast may be.
3-1 against in the Cowboys in his career, Wilson averages 145 passing yards per game along with 25 per game on the ground, and 1.25 touchdowns. For Dallas, they have found their way to Wilson with 2 or more sacks in three of the four times they have met. Even then, that still was not enough as the Seahawks managed to average 21 points per game.
Despite all of this, the identity of Seattle that the league and fans everywhere have to come known is all but gone. From cleaning house with their coaches to the once-savage LOB now standing on its last leg, Seattle has entered rebuild mode aggressively. Lawrence needs to be active. Lawrence needs to be dominating. Then just possibly, the Hot Boyz chief-of-attack can head the group towards increasing Seattle’s allowed sack total.
In relation to what was being explained with Dak Prescott earlier, the offensive woes have seem to be a cause of concern dating back to last year. In the Cowboys last 10 games, they have accounted for 200+ passing yards only twice and are currently ranked 30th in pass YPG. An abysmal display of any type of air attack, blame has been pointed in nearly every direction at this offense. However, Cowboys executive Vice President Stephen Jones thought otherwise:
“It’s unfair right now to point fingers at anything specific, whether it’s play-calling whether it’s Dak [Prescott] or our receivers. I just think we got to do a better overall job of executing and this thing will come together”
If execution is the issue, that falls in line with preparation from the previous five-six days. In an attempt to defend Linehan, the responsibility comes around asking, so what is the doing offense in practice to perform better than the week before? Issues have played their part in the past few years as to why the production slows down, but in the meantime of having the offensive identity present, it seems to get worse and worse. Bully-ball can work, but a full-game’s worth of claiming “my offense is stronger than your defense” has manifested an out-dated playbook, resulting in one of the league’s worst statistically.
In Linehan’s case, there a low of new elements being played in this offense. No Dez Bryant, no Jason Witten, an injured Travis Frederick, and a supposed revamped WR core. Plus, a new WR coach in Sanjay Lal and Frank Pollack over the OL, just about everything is different. Although, as fellow Cowboys FPC writer Will Steele details, a slow Cowboys offensive start is something that usually has happened in the Linehan era:
A trend I noticed during the Linehan era is this team typically gets off to rocky starts the first 2 weeks then picks it up. This isn't to say this group will perform the exact same. But usually takes time for them to get rolling. Still worried about the OC tho. #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/KgQZ2LjKzn
— Sticky McChickens (@BecauseCowboys) September 19, 2018
As the Seahawks currently sit 0-2, they expect to come out and continue the trend of never losing three games in a row with Russell Wilson as QB. The 12th man crowd will boast a raucous demeanor, still making CenturyLink one of the toughest places to win at. Linehan has the chance to begin calling a continuous, successful offense and will need too, hoping to leave Seattle with a win.
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