This week’s Chargers-Cowboys game is likely to be the most-watched of the week two slate due to the combination of high-flying offenses, each of which is led by their own young and dynamic quarterback.
The Cowboys barely lost to the defending Super Bowl champs by a score of 31-29 in the season opener one week ago thanks in part to their explosive passing game and opportunistic defense.
The Chargers’ revamped offensive line played up to expectations against one of the best defensive fronts in the league and will have a much easier time against the Cowboys due to the recent injury to star defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.
Like we do every week, we reached out to our sister site, Blogging the Boys, to gain some insight into this week’s matchup. A big thank you to David Halprin for answering our questions.
Let’s get into it.
1.) The Cowboys were so close to knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs in week one. Despite the outcome, Cowboys fans have to be impressed with their team this early in the season. Where does the fan base land in terms of hype and expectations regarding this team for the rest of the season?
Immediately coming off of the Bucs game, the fanbase was pretty hyped. The Cowboys hung with the champs the whole game and basically could have won it if not for some very sloppy special teams play and a missed offensive pass interference call by the refs at the end of the game. It really felt like things looked promising for the season. Then this week happened. Wide receiver Micahel Gallup got put on IR. Right tackle La’el Collins got suspended for five games. Defensive end Randy Gregory got COVID and will likely miss this upcoming game. And now DeMarcus Lawrence hurt his foot, and at the time I am writing this answer there is concern about his availability this week, if not longer. So what was a very positive feeling has been deflated by a bunch of negative news.
Still, the Cowboys are obviously going to be a very good offensive team. They were able to put up 29 points on a very good Bucs defense and they should have had more if not for a few miscues and bad special teams. Defense is the huge question mark, and injuries/suspensions are already starting to be a factor. So it’s hard to say where the team is headed. There is still some confidence, but this week has definitely rocked that a bit.
2.) The Cowboys will be without receiver MIchael Gallup against the Chargers this Sunday. However, CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper are still one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. If you were Brandon Staley, how would you go about defending this Cowboys offense?
I would press the receivers and find out what the Cowboys offense can do when Dak Prescott can’t find quick outlets in the passing game. Against the Bucs, the Cowboys took what the defense was giving them in the short passing game and Prescott wasn’t holding on to the ball. The pass blocking of Dallas was okay only because of the fact that Prescott was unloading the ball quickly. If he had to hold on to it, there was definitely pressure coming. So I would see if I could press up the coverage on the receivers and see if my pass rush could get home, especially with La’el Collins not playing. You can’t let Prescott hit his receivers so easily because they can make yards after the catch. I would only back off if Dallas hit some deeper shots after the pass blocking proved it could hold up. On top of that, Gallup is definitely their best deep threat, so that just adds into the strategy.
3.) Similar to question two, if you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about attacking this Dallas defense? Where are they the weakest? Which position groups should the Chargers refrain from targeting in their game plan?
They should target the Cowboys secondary, more specifically they should target cornerback Anthony Brown. He was exposed as a liability in the Bucs game and should be targeted early and often. If you can get Keenan Allen (or Mike Williams) isolated on him without safety help, you can probably pick up chunk plays. The other corner Trevon Diggs is pretty dang good, so probably avoid him and go after Brown and slot corner Jourdan Lewis. The Cowboys did a lot of work on fixing their run defense in the offseason, picking up rookie Micah Parsons at linebacker and adding various other pieces. The run defense held up pretty well against the Bucs, but much like Dallas in that game, they didn’t use the run much and just relied on the passing game. So it’s hard to say just how effective the Cowboys run defense will be this season, but in the first game they looked decent.
4.) Dak Prescott threw for over 400 yards in week one. Despite the high total, Prescott didn’t necessarily look 100 percent healthy to the well-trained eye. What are your thoughts on Dak’s health and is he poised to only get better as the season goes on?
I didn’t see anything in the game that indicated Prescott wasn’t at 100%. He moved around the pocket when he needed to, he wasn’t worried about players at his feet near his ankle, and he was able to make every throw asked of him, so the lat muscle didn’t seem to be an issue. Some have mentioned he didn’t go deep much in the game as an indication of a health issue, but that was more a function of the play-calls and the fact that the Cowboys pass blocking was suspect, so he needed to dump the ball quickly. It really felt that was more the game plan than anything that indicated Prescott was limited. Honestly, Prescott played just about as well and you could possibly hope for in that game. He shredded a Bucs defense that was highly rated. If that is how he is going to play every week, the Cowboys should win a lot of games.
5.) Let’s finish this with a final score prediction and how you believe the game will play out on Sunday afternoon.
I’m going to be an optimist even with some of the dark clouds around the Cowboys this week and say they will end up winning the game 27-23. The Cowboys defense showed some improvement in the Bucs game and actually collected four turnovers, even though some were fortunate bounces or in peculiar situations like a Hail Mary. Obviously if DeMarcus Lawrence can’t play that could change things, but for now let’s say the Cowboys defense gets a little better after Week 1 with a little more experience in Dan Quinn’s scheme. I would expect Dak Prescott to continue his high level of play and the Cowboys have a ton of weapons on offense, even with Gallup missing. It will be a see-saw game, but the Cowboys prevail when they get a turnover on a final drive by the Chargers.