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5 Bucks: Dak on Track; CeeDee's Rise & More 


Dak needs to get back on track

The Cowboys' franchise quarterback has played at a top-5 level in recent years, but the veteran is struggling with turnovers since his return to the starting lineup in Week 7 following an injury in the season opener.

In the eight games, he has started his return, Prescott has thrown ten interceptions, including multiple picks in four contests. For a quarterback who has traditionally taken care of the ball (interception percentage has been 1.9% or lower in five of six seasons before posting a 3.9% rate in 2022), the uptick in turnovers is problematic for a team that has attempted to avoid the self-inflicted errors (turnovers, pre-snap penalties, big plays allowed and kicking game mistakes) that diminish their chances of winning.

While some of No.4's interceptions can be attributed to drops, bobbles, and poor execution from his pass catchers and offensive line, the veteran quarterback can attempt to force the ball into tight windows and congested areas. The "hero" throws have cost led to turnovers that have flipped the game's momentum and changed outcomes.

Given how the Cowboys essentially gave the game away against the Jaguars, Prescott needs to curb his turnovers or he could single-handedly derail the team's chances in the playoffs.

It is time for DQ to fix the run defense

If the Cowboys are going to make a run in the post-season, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will need to shore up the run defense in a hurry. The Jaguars were the latest team to jam the ball down the Cowboys' throats, and others will follow suit when the tape circulates the league.

Reviewing the game tape, it is hard to ignore the gaping holes that Jaguars' running back Travis Etienne found between the tackles. The second-year pro scooted and skipped past defenders while posting a 100-yard game. In addition, the Jaguars could gain chunk yardage on an assortment of end-around designed to attack the perimeter.

Considering the Cowboys' personnel and overall team speed, it is surprising to see opponents turn the corner on the defense. The soft edges from the defensive ends are part of the problem with offensive tackles, tight ends and wideouts reach blocking or cracking the defensive end or outside linebacker.

In addition, the Cowboys' frontline has not controlled their assigned gaps, and the vacated holes have resulted in big runs from opponents. The lack of discipline shows up against cutback runners with the vision and agility to spot and shoot through creases on the backside. With the linebackers overrunning the ball and leaving seams in the middle of the defense, the Cowboys are giving up big plays due to alignment and assignment errors.

To clean up the issue, Quinn might consider scaling back on some defensive calls to ensure everyone knows exactly what to do on each play. By simplifying the call sheet and making the game about effort and tackling, the savvy defensive play caller could help his defense play fast and physically against the run.

CeeDee Lamb is killing it as a WR1

When the Cowboys elevated Lamb to the No.1 position, the jury was still unsure whether the third-year pro was ready to handle the responsibility of anchoring the passing game as a lead receiver.

Through 14 games, Lamb has already notched the second 1,000-yard season of his career, surpassed his career-high in catches (81), and tied his career-high in touchdowns (6). He has been productive as the Cowboys' No.1 target despite facing double coverage and bracket tactics designed to minimize his touches.

Against the Jaguars, No.88 was cooking on the outside against an overmatched set of corners. Lamb has his way of twisting Jaguars' defenders around, as he totaled seven catches for 126 yards. Considering he finished the game with a 100% catch rate and was seemingly open on a handful of passing plays that did not go to him, the Cowboys could have padded his stat total against the Jaguars and taken advantage of a defense that did not have an answer for his talent or skills.

With some critical games on the horizon against some vulnerable defensive backfields (SEE: Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders), the Cowboys' new WR1 could validate his promotion with numbers and splash plays that result in an all-star nomination.

The reshuffled O-Line could give the Cowboys' running game more pop

The last-minute lineup change that resulted in Tyron Smith logging a start at right tackle could help the Cowboys become a more dominant rush offense heading into the playoffs. The pairing of Smith and Zach Martin on the right side gives the Cowboys a definitive strong side based on the individual and collective talents of the perennial Pro Bowlers.

In addition, the insertion of Smith at right tackle while leaving the left side untouched enables Conner McGovern and Tyler Smith to continue to develop the chemistry that will serve the frontline well down the road. As an offensive line in which five players operate like one, the trust and accountability developed through game and practice repetitions are priceless.

In addition, the opportunity to put the "best five" blockers on the field will upgrade a rush attack that is already feared around the league. With the elder Smith knocking off the rust while playing alongside Martin, the Cowboys are creating a "bully" at the line of scrimmage that could enable them to utilize a ground-and-pound approach in the post-season to bloody some of the heavyweights in the NFC.

It might take a few more weeks for the unit to get on the same page, but the debut performance against the Jaguars (41 rushes for 154 yards) suggests the Cowboys are prepping for an offensive transformation that could make them a more dangerous opponent down the road.

How will the Cowboys bounce back?

After dropping a game to the Jaguars that likely cost the team a chance at winning the division, the football world is closely watching the Cowboys this weekend to see how the squad bounces back against their division rival.

Although the Eagles could be without their star quarterback (Jalen Hurts) due to an injury, the opportunity to take down the NFL's top team could bolster the Cowboys' confidence heading into the postseason.

Whether Mike McCarthy admits it or not, this is a measuring stick game for the Cowboys to see how they stack up against the NFL's elite. The Eagles have been the league's top team from wire to wire, and they are considered the most complete team in the league due to their rock-solid offensive and defensive units. And they are one of the most physical teams in football due to their edgy, ground-and-pound playing style.

If the Cowboys can go toe to toe with NFC leaders, they will silence some critics questioning their maturity and toughness as a squad. Moreover, they will chalk up a win that could create a little doubt in the minds of the Eagles heading into a potential rubber match in the playoffs.

Given the stakes on the line this weekend, the Cowboys should view this as a "must-win" game and act accordingly.

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