Dallas Cowboys: Can the Cowboys bounce back this season?

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Darren McFadden
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Darren McFadden /

With the Dallas Cowboys sitting at 2-3 and in third place in the NFC East, can they make a run and come back in 2017?

The way the NFL season is going for the Dallas Cowboys, there is doubt among fans if they can make the playoffs. Sure, there is a lot of football left in the season, but with the performance of the Dallas Cowboys thus far, and a pending Ezekiel Elliott suspension, 2017 is looking like a lost season for the Cowboys.

Then again, maybe not all is lost.

We won’t even discuss if Zeke will play, so assuming he doesn’t, the trio of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, and Rod Smith should be able to fill the gap. But that isn’t the worry with the running game. The issue is the guard play, which has been marginal at best. The glimmer of hope is they won’t face defenses quite like they have against the run game.

The offense should come together well as the season progresses, but the real issue isn’t the offense at all, it’s the defense. Sure, the Dallas Cowboys could use more production from the wide receiver position, but when the team is scoring more than 30 points, the offense isn’t the real worry.

The defense, on the other hand, has been the biggest issue with the Dallas Cowboys for almost the entire season. As we saw, the run defense without Sean Lee is almost nonexistent. Jaylon Smith has been out of position and played way too many snaps for where he is in his recovery.

The defensive line has been better than expected, even if Taco Charlton has pretty much been a non-factor. Taco could improve as the season goes on as long as he is used in situational roles and adds a little size to him. With the front seven, health is the major issue.

The huge problem with the Dallas Cowboys is the secondary. Without a lot of experience in the secondary, and a defensive scheme that relies on zones and cushions, the secondary could be the issue for the rest of 2017. There are some things that can help, but with eleven games left, they need to start now.

First, replacing Jeff Heath at safety is one of the first things that must happen. Heath is not a starting quality safety, plain and simple. He does better with limited plays and focusing on situational defense. Until Chidobe Awuzie, Kavon Frazier, or Xavier Woods takes over, the secondary will continue to struggle in the back end. I think replacing Heath will also help Byron Jones, as he won’t have to try to cover the extra mistakes.

The corners are going to be what they are going to be. Orlando Scandrick is still the best corner on this team, but Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown have shown some really good flashes. If they can improve weekly, by the end of the season they should be in good position. Again, they have to start now if they want to make the playoffs.

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The elephant in the room is Rod Marinelli. Marinelli has to improve his defense and allow players to play to their strengths. Far too often is Marinelli not putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and allowing other teams to pick apart his cover two defense. He needs to reinvent himself a little and start hiding his defense better. The last time he really did that was about 2014.

So is it too late for the Dallas Cowboys?

Well, with games against the 49ers, Falcons, and Chargers on the horizon they should be able to get some confidence in their defense. If they can make changes starting this week, then they should be okay. Only a collapse from the Eagles can help the Cowboys win the NFC, but with the way some teams have looked this season, there is no reason to think they can’t make the wildcard.

It all starts this week against the 49ers. If they come out and make a statement on defense they can carry that into the Redskins and Chiefs games. Win two of those and you are back at .500 with the Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins following that.

Next: Looking at the schedule ahead, what's the Cowboys' over/under?

Another two out of three, now you are on track for a 9-7 season and a playoff spot. The next three weeks will tell everyone whether the Dallas Cowboys have hope, or they are set at looking toward 2018. It all starts with defensive improvements at it starts this Sunday.