Dallas Cowboys: The pass-rush could struggle in week two

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Right when the Dallas Cowboys got guard Zack Martin back from the RESERVE/COVID-19 list, they found out they lost defensive end Randy Gregory to the same heinous list. After testing positive for COVID, the vaccinated Gregory will exit stage right.

Reportedly asymptomatic, Gregory isn’t required to sit out the full five days before return, he simply must show two negative tests 24 hours apart from each other. It stands to reason that should be plenty of time for the breakout-player-to-be to get cleared for Sunday’s contest against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Bullet dodged?

Not quite…

The Dallas Cowboys could struggle against the Los Angeles O-line with or without Randy Gregory

In week one, the Chargers, widely considered one of the best O-lines in the league, faced Washington, one of the best D-lines in football. The result? The Chargers only gave up five pressures in 49 drop-backs.

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a game where they themselves faced a fairly stout offensive line. Against the defending Super Bowl champs, Dallas notched nine pressures but failed to record any sacks or hits.

The Cowboys used a variety of looks to generate pressure but found the most success from DeMarcus Lawrence (five pressures) who rushed primarily from his usual left edge spot. But joining Tank and Randy Gregory on the edge was also the rookie Micah Parsons.

Parsons, not just your standard off-ball linebacker, was used as a pass-rusher 13 times, a number that should increase in week two. Parsons struggled in coverage against Tampa, giving up six catches on eight targets (three were first downs). Using him in simpler roles early could be best for the budding superstar.

This all means it’s not going to be easy to pressure Justin Herbert on Sunday. The secondary will need to do a better job of locking things down in order to give the pass-rush enough time to get home.

Show of hands, who feels optimistic about that?

One thing we could see is less of a dedication to stopping the run, and more focus on the coverage. Dan Quinn’s single high defense inevitably packs the box against the run. After seeing Anthony Brown get torched outside last week, I’m not sure Quinn’s priorities are well placed. Getting help to Brown should be objective No. 1 for this defense, even if it means alternating linebacker support underneath and safety protection over the top.

What we can’t bank on is the Dallas pass-rush making a big impact. If Washington couldn’t, Dallas probably can’t either. Quinn may need to get creative with some looks and some blitzes to keep Herbert on his toes. Herbert was a beast on third downs last week and consistently made plays when he needed to.

Step one is clearly to get Randy Gregory back from the RESERVE/COVID-19 list. But even then Dallas is going to have a tough time creating pressure. The Chargers O-line is a very solid bunch and they should be every bit as challenging as Tampa.

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We knew these first two games were going to be tough. The Chargers are chronically underrated by most fans will likely enter Sunday as the favorites to win. Dallas will have to get creative in coverage because that Dallas pass-rush probably won’t be doing them any favors