Behind Enemy Lines: Week 5 Q&A with Cowboys Wire

The New York Giants (0-4) and Dallas Cowboys (1-3) will square off on Sunday afternoon in a Week 5 matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Giants opened the week as 9.5-point road underdogs, but the spread has improved a bit with New York now at +7.5.

With this matchup on tap, Giants Wire took the opportunity to hold a Q&A with Cowboys Wire managing editor K.D. Drummond.

Ezekiel Elliott in on pace for a career low in yards per carry, yards per game, fumbles, drops and drop percentage. What is contributing to his struggles so far this season?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Drummond: I have a few working theories on this. For one, the Cowboys are working in a new offensive scheme. Yes, they retained Kellen Moore and the verbiage, but Mike McCarthy has had an influence on what calls are available in the playbook and after four years in Jason Garrett’s system, it is new. He also has different pass pro responsibilities and keys now.

The primary factor though is that the game script has changed. Elliott is now a complimentary piece, no longer getting the ball all the time when accustomed and it seems to be throwing off his rhythm. He isn’t dominating the opening of games or the early downs. The latter is a good thing; pass on early downs is proven as the right method. But he needs to establish a rhythm early in games.

The final factor is the offensive line shifts. He doesn’t trust the lesser talent in front of him on runs, guys are missing blocks in both phases and this is the result of it all.

The Cowboys have an exceptionally talented OL, but losing Tyron Smith obviously hurts. Who do you expect to fill in for him and how significant is the drop off in talent?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, it’s not just losing Tyron Smith. They lost Travis Frederick in the offseason to retirement. La’el Collins — who had surpassed Smith as the best Cowboys tackle hasn’t played all year and won’t. That’s 3/5th of the line missing. The swing tackle they felt upgraded from Cam Fleming, Cam Erving didn’t win the swing tackle job and then got hurt before they needed OT4.

Joe Looney was really bad at center and Connor Williams — the weak link on the line — played like it at LG. 2019 UDFA Brandon Knight was actually pretty good replacing Smith the first time, but needing two long-term solutions for the year could mean a shuffle that sees All-Pro guard Zack Martin take his talents to Tackle Beach and moving around the interior guys as well. It’s not good, any of it and likely it’s a season wrecker.

As dynamic and high-powered as the Dallas offense is, their defense is the polar opposite. Why is that unit drastically under-performing and do you have faith they will turn it around?

James D. Smith via USA TODAY Sports

Wasn’t a fan of the hiring of Mike Nolan in the first place. His record is spotty and I think his time as a DC in the league had passed, but here we are. He wanted to implement a hybrid scheme mixing 40- and 30-front responsibilities. Then the pandemic hit and the club lost the chance to actually implement this over an offseason and in preseason games. Instead of adjusting and simplifying it, he held firm and the players didn’t catch on. Then, everyone fell injured. Top 2 corners out, best defender in MLB Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee didn’t even make it through training camp without needing surgery.

Starting 3T Gerald McCoy out for year in training camp. It came to a head in Week 4 when the players started playing outside the scheme and freelancing. They are reading keys differently than each other in the secondary. It’s a chaotic mess.

Dak Prescott is having a historic season, but how much have his numbers been padded by constantly playing from behind? And did Jerry Jones slight him earlier this year or were those comments taken out of context?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s first put this into context. Dak Prescott has 1,690 passing yards through four games. That’s a pace for 6,760 yards on the season. The NFL record is 5,477 yards by Peyton Manning. That’s a pace nearly 1,300 yards above the all-time greatest passing season of all time in 2013. So yeah, being behind does add to the situation, of course it does. So knock 1,000 yards off his pace then. Still awesome.

As for Jerry Jones, his comments were taken out of context. He was saying that Prescott is in the category of QBs like Patrick Mahomes or Tony Romo, that could escape the pressure and still put his team in a position where a TD was possible. Jones is to blame for many things, like refusing to give Prescott his long-term deal either of the last two offseasons; even as Prescott’s final request why he wouldn’t take Jones’ mandatory five-year deal was insisting in a no franchise-tag clause after 2024, but this one slight is made-up media trash.

Giants offense, Cowboys defense… Does one unit give way to the other or do the two terrible units just meet somewhere in the middle?

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They’ll meet in the middle. Somehow, the Giants are going to score three touchdowns in a game, but they won’t approach what the last three dynamic offenses have in the first four games. The quarterback just isn’t good enough for that, though I expect the Jason Garrett Revenge Tour to pull out every trick he has in his bag for his return to AT&T Stadium and to face playoff-foil Mike McCarthy again. If the Giants go 1-15, they want this to be the 1; but it won’t be.

Make sure you check out K.D. Drummond for all of your Cowboys needs over at Cowboys Wire.

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