With your New York Giants having a quick turnaround this week as they face the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, our week is also compressed. That means it is already time for our ‘5 questions’ segment. Dave Halprin of Blogging the Boys, my partner on many of these Q&A sessions over the years, answers this week’s queries.
Ed: Dallas has scored 40 or more points in two of its last three games, and exceeded 400 yards in total offense each time. Has that been mostly about the return of Dak Prescott, or is it more than that?
Dave: A lot of it does have to do with the return of Dak Prescott. Under Cooper Rush, there was very little downfield passing and the Cowboys were very conservative. They knew the formula to win under Rush was to run the ball, rely on their defense, and have Rush make as few mistakes as possible. So that offense was definitely limited in what it could do. Since Prescott is back, the Cowboys are much more likely to break off chunk plays in the passing game, and that’s really when you get the points explosion.
The Cowboys also benefited from playing teams like the Lions and the Bears, where you could exploit certain vulnerabilities, and the Vikings secondary was kind of beat up for the game and Dallas continuously picked on a backup corner. There are other elements too like the offensive line playing pretty well, some players getting healthy, etc. But in the end, much of it is about Prescott’s ability to get hot, and his ability to throw deeper than under Rush.
Ed: I will be frank. I don’t believe Odell Beckham Jr. is signing with the Giants. Do you believe he will sign with the Cowboys? Do you think it’s a good idea for Dallas to add Beckham?
Dave: I am actually starting to believe that it is going to happen. Usually the Cowboys shy away from big moves like that, over the past decade they have been very much focused on their own players and rarely venture into the “name” free agent market. But this time feels different, Jerry and Stephen Jones have been open about their desire to add Beckham. Many of the players have too. It definitely feels like they are going to make a big push to get him signed.
As to the question of should they, the answer is yes. The Cowboys offense lacks one thing and that is the deep threat. Michael Gallup used to fill that role but he is recovering from his own ACL injury and has yet to find his form. Now that might be a red flag that Beckham is not going to be the deep threat they perceive him to be coming off his own ACL injury. So there is definitely risk there. But if Beckham is ready, he fills out the one thing Dallas really needs to stretch defenses and open things up underneath.
Ed: You asked me about the Giants’ rookie class, so let me return serve. How has the Dallas rookie class done thus far?
Dave: Very, very good. The Cowboys hit on some really great picks. First-round pick Tyler Smith was forced to play left tackle as a rookie when Tyron Smith went down instead of the planned left guard, and while he’s not perfect, he is playing much better than anticipated. His pass blocking is a work in progress but he certainly holds his own out there. But his run blocking is high quality, he is a real mauler in the run game. Defensive end Sam Williams is described as a poor man’s Micha Parsons. He’s nowhere near Parsons’ level, but he already has three sacks this season and plenty of disruptive plays behind the line of scrimmage, and that is in very limited snaps. Those two are the crown jewels of the draft class.
Tight end Jake Ferguson is a run-blocker that really helps the Cowboys in the ground game. He can catch the ball, but blocking is his main thing about him this year. Corner DaRon Bland has taken over for the injured Jourdan Lewis at the slot position, and while he’s been up and down, he shows potential as a rookie. Linebacker Damone Clark just got back from a season-long injury these past few weeks, and has been very competent. The Cowboys are getting a lot out of the rookie class
Ed: Not really a Cowboys question, but I looked at the NFC playoff picture and as of Monday all four NFC East teams would be in the playoffs. Are you enjoying the return to prominence of the division, which used to be considered the NFL’s best?
Dave: Most definitely. It’s really great to have the NFC East back. It was kind of tiresome to hear all the barbs and jokes about the division for a while. Now we have real quality football across the board in the division, like it should be. Obviously that makes it harder to win games in the division and those losses could cost someone a playoff spot down the line, but there’s nothing better than the NFC East being back on top.
Ed: Last I looked, Dallas was favored by nine points. The Cowboys are coming off a huge victory. The Giants are coming off a disappointing loss, their worst game of the season. How do you see this game? Have you already got it posted in the win column for the Cowboys?
Dave: I feel good about the game, but we should never put anything in the win column ahead of time. We kind of did that a couple of weeks ago and dropped a very winnable game against the Packers. In the NFL, on any given Sunday (or Thursday) and all of that jazz. But honestly, the Cowboys are at home, they seem to be getting things worked out on their offense, and their defense is just a beast to deal with. If they don’t do stupid things, and sometimes they do stupid things, I think they should win this game, pulling away in the second half. I respect what the Giants are accomplishing under Brian Daboll, and once you guys have another year or two under him, watch out. But I’m going to pick the Cowboys this week.