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The 2018 Dallas Cowboys: Flawed contenders

Ezekiel Elliott

One of the dominant stories in the first quarter of the NFL season has been the Dallas Cowboys and their issues on offense. The Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in the sport, they get talked about a lot, but people have spent too much time talking about their issues as of late. Yes, Dallas is a flawed football team, but they suddenly find themselves right in the thick of the NFC East and playoff pictures.

This is not college football, winning ugly is fine:

The Cowboys’ offensive line is not what it once was. Also, heading into Sunday, they ranked 30th in total offense and 31st in receiving yardage. There just are not many players that scare opponents regularly on the Dallas offense. Still, the Cowboys sit at .500. Moreover, no one in the NFC East will have more than two wins come Monday morning.

The other thing that makes Dallas somewhat unique is they seem to be more aware of their limitations than most NFL teams. Much maligned head coach Jason Garrett and his staff deserve a ton of credit for slowly realizing two things this year. First, Jerry Jones has given them a roster with absolutely no consistent pass-catching threats.

Secondly, now that the talent around him has slowly eroded, Dak Prescott is clearly not the kind of quarterback that can carry a flawed roster to the promised land like Tom Brady or Russell Wilson. Prescott’s only 200-yard passing game on the young season was Sunday. He falls into the mold of guys like Case Keenum who need the right circumstances to lead a team and win games. Prescott’s situation is far from ideal, but he is on a team that knows where its bread is buttered.

Dak Prescott

So… What are the Cowboys good at?
In short, the answer to this question is running the ball and playing defense. Those things will never go out of style in the NFL. Dallas ranks second in sacks and third in total defense this year. All of this is without David Irving who had seven sacks last year. He will be reinstated Monday.

The best thing about the Cowboys is a refreshingly simple concept, they force feed their best player. Ezekiel Elliott had 240 of 414 total Cowboys yards Sunday. Would a little more balance be nice? Of course. Is that level of Elliott dependency sustainable? Probably not. Still, it shows that the team knows that it will go as far as Elliott takes it.

Teams must play to your strengths in this league and Dallas does that as well as anyone. The team’s style of play also accentuates what Prescott has always done best as a quarterback, take care of the football. He has 49 touchdown passes to 19 interceptions for his career. As long as the Cowboys stick to a similar model to what we saw on Sunday, it is time to stop talking about what they are not and start talking about what they are, contenders.

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