Dallas Cowboys: Why the pass-rush will be the determining factor

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys take on the Houston Texans today and the winner will likely depend on which team can apply the most pressure.

The 2-2 Dallas Cowboys take on the 1-3 Houston Texans tonight. As exciting as some of the match-ups are going to be, the determining factor will likely come down to who can apply the most pressure, and who best deals with said pressure.

Some may think second year quarterback, Deshaun Watson, is having a down year. The reality is he’s playing just as well as last season, he’s just being abused by opposing pass-rush more often.  Watson has been either sacked or hit a whopping 22 times this season (the third most in the NFL).

As per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), rookie left tackle Martinas Rankin, specifically, has allowed a staggering 27 pressure just himself (worst in the NFL and single-handedly worse than six entire offensive lines have allowed). Unless he’s given TE help on every passing down, he may pave the way to Randy Gregory’s coming out party.

Gregory has been slow to make an impact in the stat column this season. Watching the film you can see the explosion is there and technique has improved. Joining Gregory on that right defensive end side is Taco Charlton. Charlton (5 pressures and 8 stops this season) has quietly been having a solid sophomore campaign and may take advantage of this situation against Houston’s fledgling edge protectors.

The Cowboys pass-rush, led by DeMarcus Lawrence, will need to pressure Watson in order to stop him. Outsiders see Watson struggling this season, but a quick glance at the tape shows he’s every bit as dangerous as he was last season, and if given the time, he’ll carve up a defense.

His primary weapon will be DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans do an excellent job moving No. 10 in and out of the slot position, so it will take a team effort to stop him – not just the duty of the NFL’s top rated cornerback, Byron Jones.

On the flip side, Houston claims one of the most feared pass-rushes in the NFL. Lead by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, Houston’s pass-rush ranks 9th in sacks this season. Left tackle Tyron Smith is off to a great start this year and is currently ranked by PFF as the second best LT in pass-blocking. Sadly, it will be La’el Collins, not Tyron, who will be facing the incomparable Watt. And Collins has been giving up the most pressure on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.

It’s no secret Dak Prescott and the Dallas passing attack have been struggling this season. And while they broke out a bit last week against Detroit, they still have not alleviated concerns in Cowboys Nation.

When given the time to pass, Prescott has been one of the most successful downfield passers in the league. The problem is those downfield passes don’t happen often enough. Ranked 28th in the NFL in yards per attempt (6.6), Dallas needs to get more big plays downfield if they hope to open up the box for Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys running game.

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The Dallas Cowboys will have their work cut out for them against the Houston Texans tonight. But if given the time, Dak Prescott should be able to exploit the Houston secondary and make some big plays with his committee of receivers. Just don’t sleep on Watson here because he’s every bit as good as he was last year, he just hasn’t been given much time to statistically prove it.

  • Published on 10/07/2018 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 10/07/2018 at 11:36 AM