FRISCO, Texas – The bye week brings time for reflection, projections, and most importantly, a little more sleep. After digesting these see-saw first seven games, I've got three players with varying roles who will be pivotal to the Cowboys' stretch run.
Michael Gallup got more comfortable as his rookie season wore on, and Tony Pollard looks headed that way, too.
Different positions, I know. And Pollard's role is somewhat tied to score and circumstance behind star running back Ezekiel Elliott, particularly as a rusher.
Pollard played 20 offensive snaps last Sunday, his highest total since the Cowboys' last blowout win. Nearly half were carries (8 for 28 yards) spelling Elliott, just as he did in the 31-6 win over Miami.
But we also saw Elliott and Pollard on the field at the same time for five snaps (by my count) against the Eagles. Pollard lined up out wide and in the backfield, posing a threat as a receiver or jet-sweep runner. And when Elliott's not in the game, the rookie has debunked his college tag as a gadget rusher, willingly pounding the ball between the tackles.
The Cowboys love how Pollard has handled all his assignments since camp, including pass protection and special teams. And he adds another layer of versatility for offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
"He's growing every week," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He's got a chance to be a really good player for us."
Randall Cobb is on the verge of a breakout game.
Cobb currently ranks fifth on the team with 19 catches for 239 yards and one touchdown. (A sore back kept him out of the Cowboys' loss to the Jets.) That's a 43-catch season pace, slightly higher than his 38-catch season for the Packers last year in nine appearances.
But, with so many options on offense, Cobb doesn't have to be a high-volume receiver here. And, as always, stats are a little misleading. He and quarterback Dak Prescott have just missed on a few big plays: a would-be touchdown in the first quarter against the Saints; a would-be key third down conversion driving near midfield later that game; a 74-yard touchdown catch nullified by penalty against the Dolphins. He also got stopped just before the goal line on a 15-yard catch Sunday – the offense scored a play later.
Cobb has brought a strong veteran presence to the locker room. He's still a dangerous player working from the slot. And he's also quite familiar with three of the Cowboys' nine remaining opponents, having played the Vikings, Lions and Bears twice a year in the past. The best could be yet to come.
I Have No Idea…
if there's a better locker room interview in the league than DeMarcus Lawrence, but he was the best defensive player on the field against the Eagles.
Last Friday, Lawrence made headlines when he took exception to Doug Pederson's quasi-guarantee earlier in the week. Then he went out and won his matchup against the Eagles' talented right tackle Lane Johnson.
Philly mostly left Johnson alone against Lawrence, using a tight end as an extra blocker on only five plays (by my count) and keeping a running back in to protect for a series in the second half. Lawrence's strip-sack swung momentum for good in the first quarter, but he routinely reached the backfield and had two tackles for loss.
Much was made of his sack total through the first six games (2.5 compared to 5.5 last year). No one has higher expectations than Lawrence does. Few players are doubled, or screened against, more than he is. And, as he referenced early in the season, it's taken him a little time to refine his pad level and technique after missing basically the entire offseason and training camp due to shoulder surgery.
The effort is always there. And the Eagles game reinforced that the Pro Bowl pass rusher is very much a force up front.