The Cowboys have completed their much-needed bye week and now focus on returning to face the Vikings this weekend.
Let's dive into some pressing questions that surround this team and the final seven games of the schedule.
Today, we continue the five-part series with a focus on players who need to step up their play for the final stretch of the season.
Cowboys Need More From This Guy ...
David Helman: There are a lot of possible answers here, but it's going to be a big eight weeks for Chidobe Awuzie. He was activated off injured reserve last week, and man do this defense need him. Trevon Diggs broke a bone in his foot, and obviously the secondary has struggled at times even when the rookie was healthy. But it's not just the Cowboys that need Chido's production – he needs to put out some good tape. Awuzie has seven games remaining on his rookie contract, and he hasn't been able to play since Week 2. These seven games could have a big impact on his future.
Nick Eatman: Take your pick. I literally wrote down a few names for this list. Guys like Zeke, Jaylon, D-Law are so obvious, mainly because of their contracts, but still true for this category. But what about Xavier Woods? At his position, you don't want to give up big plays and lately we haven't seen a lot of that. But we really haven't seen him make a big difference either. He's second on the team in tackles with 56, but not really any impact plays. No interceptions. No pass breakups. No sacks. No forced fumbles or fumble recoveries. And just one tackle for loss. The more dynamic player at safety has been Donovan Wilson. So it's not that Woods has been bad, but for a defense that is desperately needing playmakers, he could make a few more plays.
Mickey Spagnola: To get more from this guy they need to play him more, and that's linebacker Sean Lee. If he's ready to take on a bigger role since having the core muscle surgery, then it's time. The Cowboys need to incorporate him into base defense, especially when teams want to line up in two-tight end offenses. Also, just question when the Cowboys employ their dime formation, using just one linebacker, why that linebacker is Jaylon Smith. Normally you are playing dime when teams of either using more wide receivers or are in definite passing situations, and sure seems you would want to employ a linebacker more adept in pass coverage.
Rob Phillips: Picking Neville Gallimore here might seem unfair, considering the rookie defensive tackle is just starting to crack the rotation on a consistent basis. It's not meant as criticism. It means he's shown the ability to help the interior defensive line, and they need more of it. Gallimore played very well against the Steelers' stout front at a position that has struggled overall this season. With Trysten Hill injured and Dontari Poe no longer on the roster, the snaps are there for the third-round draft pick. Solidifying the middle has been the biggest factor in the run defense, and the run defense is the biggest factor in the defense's performance week to week. They need Gallimore to continue taking steps, and from everything you hear, his approach is really good.
Kyle Youmans: This may not be the most popular answer, but how about Jourdan Lewis? For a guy who was known for making the spectacular play during his first couple years in the league, he's been extremely quiet. He has one pass breakup, and no pressures this season after having four sacks and four PBUs a year ago. One positive of his game this season is that the QB rating (85.2) and average yards per catch (8.6) have each at career lows for receivers he covers. But with Trevon Diggs out, this defense needs a play maker to step in in crunch time moments and make their presence felt. Maybe that's Chidobe Awuzie? But I think it's Jourdan Lewis.