Coming off a hard-fought overtime loss to the Houston Texans Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys now turn their attention to their next opponent the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the theme of “4 Downs” here are four things to watch in this weeks matchup and who has the edge in each.
- Cowboys offensive line vs Jags defensive front
The Jags come in boasting the second-ranked defense in the league allowing just 292.2 ypg. They have 11 sacks in the first five games led by defensive end Calais Campbell who has three on the season while seven others have at least one sack. An offensive line that has allowed 16 sacks so far will be tested once again. Stalwarts Tyron Smith and Zach Martin both struggled against a solid Texans front and while the Jags don’t have J.J. Watt or Jadaveon Clowney they have a more than capable pass rush. The duo of Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue is up there with anybody in the league.
2. Affecting Blake Bortles
It’s no secret that Bortles is at best an average quarterback. It’s also no secret that when there’s a hint of a pass rush he panics evident by his 8-7 ratio. Last week in a 30-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Bortles was 33-61 for 430 yards and a 1-4 ratio including a pick 6. He was sacked five times. The Cowboys come in with 15 sacks on the season and should be in line for more on Sunday. Sack leader Demarcus Lawrence, who has 5.5, is in line for a big day as well as Jaylon Smith who has three sacks.
3. Defense, Defense, Defense
The Cowboys could be in for another low scoring game and will need another strong defensive performance. They quietly have on of the best defenses in the league ranking sixth in scoring, eighth in total yards, twelfth in passing and eleventh in rushing. Not bad for a unit on the field for more than 30 minutes a game. While the Jags come in ranked ninth in yards they only average 20.4 ppg good for 26th. I like the Cowboys odds in this area as long as the secondary is up to the task. Despite a solid game last week they let DeAndre Hopkins break loose to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. While there is no Hopkins on the roster Dede Westbrook, who has 24 catches for 249 yards, and Donte Moncrief, 18 catches for 249 yards, are a solid duo.
4. Offense Please
It’s no secret the Cowboys offense has been dismal but looking at the numbers hammer that fact home.
30th in scoring with 16.6 ppg
28th in yards with 307.8 ypg
30th in passing with 172 ypg
The lone bright spot is the Ezekiel Elliott led ground game that averages 135.8 ypg good enough for sixth. Speaking of Elliott he had 93 carries for 480 yards and two touchdowns averaging 5.2 ypc while also leading in receiving with 22 catches for 155 yards and one touchdown. The fact that your running back leads in receiving through five games is concerning. Dak Prescott receives a lot of heat but I think it speaks volumes of his supporting cast when you look at the numbers. Despite all of this he has a 61.8 percent completion rating and will need every bit of it against the Jags. Points will be at a premium and they will need more than the 1.4 touchdowns they score a game especially against a stout Jags defense.