Dallas Cowboys vs Giants W2: What we just learned

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16: Jaylon Smith #54 of the Dallas Cowboys hits Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16: Jaylon Smith #54 of the Dallas Cowboys hits Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys pulled to 1-1 with a win over the New York Giants. Here’s what we learned from the game…

The offensive line bounced back this week. Granted, the New York D-line is a far cry from Carolina’s, but the Dallas Cowboys’ backbone stepped up in a big way nonetheless. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 4.6 yards per carry and Dak Prescott averaged 6.4. Those are numbers we can work with.

The Dallas Cowboys defense again showed us how dominant they can be. Take away the garbage time points, and Dallas shut every part of the Giants down. Barkley only collected 28 yards on the ground and Eli was turned into a checkdown machine dinking and dunking 14 times to his star running back.

Besides Jaylon Smith and the defensive line continue their impressive rise to stardom, here are seven other things we just learned on Sunday:

  1. The Dallas Cowboys struck early in the most surprising way possible – the big play. How did Tavon Austin get so darn open? It wasn’t just that Janoris Jenkins whiffed on the jam, it’s that Janoris Jenkins was expecting Tavon to run a short route inside (like a slant). Jenkins does his homework and knows Dallas likes to run slants considerably more than go routes. The diminutive Austin, who’s been a short-route receiver his entire career, shocked the Giants defense when he turned on the juice up-field. Dak Prescott did the rest, floating a ball and allowing Austin to run underneath it in stride. A thing of beauty.
  2. It was great seeing Dak Prescott run the ball with read-option. Last week, we saw first-hand how frustrating it can be to defend and as I pointed out  – it was the only difference between the Cowboys offense and the Panthers offense. Mixed in with a steady amount of run-pass option and shots down field, it makes the Dallas Cowboys offense unpredictable. Which is exactly what the notoriously predictable Scott Linehan needs to do to get this offense off the ground.
  3. Speaking of RPO, don’t listen to Chris Collinsworth. He thinks substituting apple slices for French fries in an extra value meal is an RPO. What makes an RPO and actual RPO is the option element. The QB must have an actual option or else it’s just a play-fake (play-action). All we can do is guess what is a real RPO because we don’t know what the real play-call is. What helps us make educated guesses is judging the intent on the QB (did it look like he was really considering something else) and watching the offensive line (they should all be run-blocking).
  4. The Dallas Cowboys have, in a sense, built their defense to deal with players like Saquon Barkley. Conventional wisdom says if a defense wants to stop a dominant rushing attack they need to have girth on their defensive line. But in an age of explosive game-breaking running backs (like Barkley), speed and technique are more important than girth. Watching the defensive line operate you can see they place a premium on hand work (keeping blockers from locking them up) and flow (happy to move horizontally where most running backs like to go). The Cowboys are going to lose on those short-yardage, but ultimately win on regular down and distance situations.
  5. Along those same lines, it’s curious why Dallas doesn’t try to avoid Snacks Harrison on the Giants interior. The Cowboys don’t invest in a plugger 1-tech DT because they know all an offense needs to do is run away from him and he’s been made completely ineffective (since he usually has no pass rush impact). Yet, Dallas repeatedly ran Zeke into the middle to take on Snacks.
  6. After the first couple drives, we saw the offense bog down again. After going 4/4 for 88 yards, Dak only completed 3/10 for 17 yards the rest of the first half. He finished the day 16/25 160 yards but looked infinitely better this week than he did last week. The All-22 will need to confirm but this game restored some hope in the passing offense even though it didn’t light up the score board.
  7. When the Dallas Cowboys took over in Giants territory early in the 3rd, they had a great opportunity to capitalize when Rico Gathers broke open in the back of the endzone. Even though Dak failed to connect with the open TE, we need to reserve judgment until we see the All-22. Gathers was tangled up in coverage for a second, and Dak was feeling pressure and had to let it fly. The timing of the play is critical. The Gathers/Prescott connection is in its infancy so it’s very possible Prescott threw the ball exactly where he wanted to, he just didn’t expect Gathers to take so long to get to that place. It’s also entirely possible Prescott just screwed up. The point is, we need to see the All-22.

Next. What the Cowboys offense needs. dark

I have no idea why the Dallas Cowboys, after seeing the success of the RPO and steady doses of Tavon Austin, decided to abandon what was working. I’m not one to complain incessantly about play-calling but the Scott Linehan seems undisciplined in his game plan and falls into bad tendencies all too often.

  • Published on 09/17/2018 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 09/17/2018 at 11:41 AM