It’s Week 4 of the NFL season and the 1-2 Washington Commanders will be facing a 2-1 Cowboys team in Dallas.
Despite having lost Dak Prescott with a thumb injury in Week 1, the Cowboys have been able to win their next two games on the steady play of Cooper Rush and the backs of one of the better defenses in the NFL. Prescott is likely to miss this game as well, but that doesn’t look like the disadvantage that it did shortly after he went down.
The Eagles currently sit atop the NFC East at 3-0, but this game will have significant implications for the NFC East race going forward. A Cowboys’ win helps them keep pace with the frontrunner, and sets the Commanders back at 0-2 in the division. A Washington victory keeps them very much in the hunt and gives them a key head-to-head advantage against a once reviled divisional foe.
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked David Halprin of Blogging the Boys five questions about the state of the Cowboys and what to look for in this game.
1) Many people, myself included, thought the Cowboys were in deep trouble once Dak Prescott went down. Cooper Rush has performed very ably in his absence. What are the things Rush has done best so far?
You weren’t alone in wondering if the Cowboys season was going to circle the drain when Prescott went down. Plenty of people on this side of the fence had the same reaction. But as we’ve seen it hasn’t happened and Cooper Rush is a big part of it. Rush has been with Dallas for years, so one advantage was he knew the playbook inside and out. The biggest thing about Rush is his composure and his ability to get the ball out quickly. He never seems rattled before a play when trying to get the Cowboys into the proper play, or when he drops back and starts reading the routes. He also keeps that same level of calm when the game is on the line.
He also avoids the big mistake. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he doesn’t hold it too long and create sacks. He gets the ball out quickly, and accurately. He’s not much of a runner so you don’t have to worry about him scrambling, and he doesn’t have an all-world arm. He is just a very efficient game manager.
2) Against the Giants, Tony Pollard looked much more explosive and dangerous than Zeke Elliott did. Is there any frustration among the Dallas faithful that Pollard isn’t getting more touches this season? What do Zeke’s longer term prospects look like in Dallas?
There has been frustration among Cowboys fans about Pollard’s touches for a few seasons now. It is something that is constantly brought up but it never seems to change. The funny thing is this year Pollard is getting more involved in the offense than ever. So as Cowboys fans we are at least thankful for what we’re getting now, even though we’d like to see even more. But Pollard’s role is growing so we may finally get what we want by later this season.
As for Zeke, he is still a great pile-driver with the ability to get the tough yards, and he is far superior than Pollard in pass protection/blitz pickup. But unless Zeke is willing to restructure his contract in the offseason, this looks like it could be his final year in Dallas since the team can get out of the deal after the season is over
3) The Cowboys’ defense has undergone dramatic improvement over the course of the past few years. How much of that is due to the addition of new talent (e.g., Micah Parsons), and how much can be attributed to Dan Quinn? What doesn’t this defense do well?
Adding Dan Quinn and adding Micah Parsons are the two elements that have changed this defense. Quinn has done an excellent job of revamping the Cowboys defense into mainly a pressure defense that is always moving players around on the line of scrimmage looking for mismatches. The secondary has been helped by the development of Trevon Diggs, and Quinn has overhauled the safety group to give Dallas playmakers at all levels.
But I don’t think this dramatic improvement would be possible without Parsons. He is just an elite player that has ‘all-time great’ written all over him. He is unbelievably quick and strong, with refined pass-rushing moves. If you don’t double team him when he is a pass rushing you are making a mistake. You have to chip him with a back or tight end. And you have to account for where he is on every play because Quinn will move him all around the defense.
4) When it comes to meddling owners, these two franchises have two of the worst in the league, historically speaking. To Jerry’s credit, he’s been incredibly successful at the business side of operations, even if it hasn’t translated on the field in a long time. Do fans believe the team will be better served once Stephen Jones eventually takes over?
Not really, the younger Jones might be a little less bombastic when it comes to speaking with the media, but he retains a lot of his father’s traits. They run the Cowboys like a family business, they tend to think they always know best and they are slow to change their ways.
The younger Jones is also the Cowboys cap and contracts guy, and Dallas rarely makes splashes anymore in free agency, much to the fanbase’s frustration. It’s hard to see the franchise changing dramatically once Stephen takes over.
5) What are you expecting the final score of the game to be this week? DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under set at 41.5. How many points do you expect to be scored overall?
I don’t think this will be a high-scoring game. The Cowboys defense doesn’t give up a lot of points, and the Cowboys offense doesn’t really score a lot of points. I don’t see either team breaking 30 points on the scoreboard and one of them could possibly end up in the teens. I’ll go with Cowboys 24, Commanders 14.
Thanks again to David Halprin for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Cowboys.
As of right now, Vegas has Dallas as 3.5 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Dallas wins by 4 points or more.
Dallas wins by 3 points or less, or it’s a tie
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 42.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
43 or more total points are scored.
Fewer than 43 total points are scored.