The Lions and Cowboys are both 1-2 as they prepare to face off this weekend in Dallas. In anticipation of Sunday’s matchup, I caught up with my old pal Tony Iosso, the editor of our Dallas Cowboys section here at Full Press Coverage.
Tony was kind enough to answer a few questions about the struggling Cowboys as well as what to expect in this Week 4 showdown.
Matt: After a frustrating 1-2 start, how would you describe the current state of Cowboys Nation?
Tony: In the words of the esteemed Charles Barkley. Turrible. The fanbase is tired of hearing the same recycled sound bites from the front office on down through the coaching staff and now starting quarterback. Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By that definition, this Cowboys staff is without a doubt insane.
Matt: Why has Dak Prescott struggled so much this season and can he turn it around?
Tony: There are so many theories as to why Dak has struggled, really dating back to the end of last season. Some think he has never recovered from the Atlanta game, where he was sacked a record number of times. Others think he is not being put into a position to succeed by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. The eye in the sky never lies and through three games this year, it appears to be a combination of the two. Linehan’s play calling has been questionable at best, however, when receivers do get open down the field, Prescott has missed them way more often than not.
Matt: Do you believe the team regrets cutting Dez Bryant given the passing game’s futility?
Tony: I know Jerry Jones does. As for the rest of the front office, I think it is split. I figure the same guys that never wanted Dez gone in the first place still feel that way and vice versa. Personally, I am disappointed Bryant never got the opportunity to work with new receivers coach Sanjay Lal. He has a fantastic reputation around the league, and despite the lack of passing game success, the receivers are getting open down the field. I think he would have breathed some life back into #88’s game.
Matt: Which rookies have caught your eye thus far?
Tony: Leighton Vander Esch has been impressive in his limited action thus far. However, with Sean Lee being sidelined, LVE will have his first real shot at extended playing time this Sunday.
Leighton Vander Esch leads the NFL in fewest snaps per solo tackle (minimum 15 solo tackles, 39 league qualifiers): pic.twitter.com/F5f6W8nD9N
— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) September 24, 2018
— PFF DAL Cowboys (@PFF_Cowboys) September 28, 2018
If Vander Esch can project this type of play over a full game, he will more than justify his first-round draft selection.
Matt: Do you believe this is an early slump or a potentially disastrous season for the Cowboys?
Tony: After three games this season the Cowboys offense looks woefully similar to the one that struggled to close out 2017. In a pass happy, high-scoring league, I fear the Cowboys are simply being left in the dust. While the defense has been outstanding, even an elite defense will have a hard time propping up an offense this inept. Perhaps a disastrous season is exactly what is needed to force the Jones family to make the necessary changes to the coaching staff. The absolute worse case scenario is for Dallas to finish 8-8, 9-7 and try to do the exact same thing in 2019.
Matt: The Cowboys beat the Lions if…?
Tony: The Lions commit an early turnover or two that leads to Dallas jumping out to a double-digit lead. From there the offense can really lean on Ezekiel Elliott and shorten the game, keeping Matt Stafford on the sideline.
Matt: Your prediction?
Tony: I feel like the Lions have many more avenues to victory than the Cowboys. Detroit can pass the ball to a deadly trio of receivers, pound the ball with LeGarrette Blount, or attack the edge with Kerryon Johnson. Dallas is much more one dimensional, and against the top-rated pass defense of the Lions, I don’t expect that to change much. The home crowd may keep the Cowboys in this game through the first half, but Stafford and company prove to be too much, leaving Dallas with a 27-17 victory.
Make sure to check out Tony’s interview with Full Press Lions tomorrow and to follow @FPC_Cowboys on Twitter!