Another yr, one other Dallas Cowboys thud within the playoffs in opposition to the San Francisco 49ers following their 19-12 highway loss within the NFC divisional spherical on Sunday. Dallas has as soon as once more banged its head up in opposition to the divisional spherical wall as its loss to conclude the 2022 season marked the franchise’s twelfth consecutive playoff look with out reaching the convention championship spherical, essentially the most consecutive such playoff journeys in NFL historical past. The theme from the postgame feedback by head coach Mike McCarthy, proprietor and normal supervisor Jerry Jones, quarterback Dak Prescott, and linebacker Micah Parsons was unanimous: disappointment.
“I believed defensively we did a extremely nice job for essentially the most half, however would we’ve got appreciated to have had a pair extra stops?” McCarthy stated after the loss on Sunday. “Yes. Did we’d like extra third-down conversions on offense? Yes, we may have that too. Red zone manufacturing. Extremely disenchanted. This has been an unbelievable journey with this group of males. We got here up brief tonight to an excellent soccer crew.”
“I believed we had been well-suited to win this factor,” Jones stated Sunday. “Frankly, I would not say stunned, I might say actual disenchanted we could not make one thing occur proper all the way down to the final strong sequence.”
“Disappointed. … For us to solely put up the factors that we did , that is unacceptable and that begins with me,” Prescott stated Sunday. “I’ve acquired to be higher. No different technique to sugarcoat it.”
“There’s no feeling like this,” Parsons stated. “I harm for the blokes, I harm for the followers, I harm for myself and the way a lot I pushed by way of this yr to try to get this title. It’s simply not sufficient. I give my all each week for these guys and so they give it again to me, however it simply wasn’t sufficient.”
With that in thoughts, listed below are three issues the Cowboys may repair or enhance upon in an effort to recover from the divisional spherical hump and even nearer to their first Super Bowl title for the reason that 1995 season. It’s not all doom and gloom: the Cowboys did simply have consecutive 12-win seasons for the primary time since their Nineteen Nineties glory years.
All strikes instructed beneath include the idea that Dallas brings again operating again Tony Pollard on a team-friendly deal following his grotesque fibula harm and proceeds to launch Ezekiel Elliott. The 27-year-old former top-five draft decide had career-lows in carries (231), yards per carry (3.8), and dashing yards (876) in 2022. The Cowboys would save slightly below $5 million in cap house this season and would keep away from Elliott’s cap hits which can be throughout $14 million per yr throughout the subsequent three seasons.
1. Acquire one other Pro Bowl-caliber receiver
Even although his head coach described ball safety as a spotlight, Prescott appeared to lack that degree of focus for lots of the season, forcing the ball to Pro Bowl large receiver CeeDee Lamb time and again. Prescott’s 15 interceptions made him the NFL’s co-leader together with Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills regardless of the Cowboys quarterback lacking 5 video games with a thumb harm. That made him the one quarterback to ever lead or co-lead the league in picks regardless of lacking 5 or extra video games.
Many of his interceptions had been on throws that he tried to squeeze towards Lamb, together with a back-breaker within the crimson zone in opposition to the 49ers. Late within the first half, with the Cowboys driving to attempt to take a lead, he pressured a cross supposed for Lamb into double protection. Lamb was not fairly open, and on second-and-2, solely 18 yards away from scoring a landing, Prescott didn’t should drive the throw. He threw it anyway. It hit San Francisco security Jimmie Ward within the chest, then popped into the air earlier than touchdown within the arms of 49ers linebacker Fred Warner. The 49ers turned the interception into three factors of their very own and took a 9-6 lead into halftime. Had the Cowboys scored a landing there as a substitute, they might have gained the sport.
“On the second, the nickel squeezed, tried to throw it low to CeeDee [Lamb], however he was capable of make a play on it and tip it up within the air to the linebacker [Fred Warner],” Prescott stated. “Just two throws [interceptions] that I can not have, that you would be able to’t have within the playoffs. You cannot have while you’re making an attempt to beat a crew [the San Francisco 49ers] like that. You cannot have it on the highway. No excuses for that, these two are 100% on me.”
However, one may argue a second-half incompletion that was pressured in Lamb’s course within the second half was simply as pricey. Facing third-and-5 from the 49ers’ 40, Prescott took a deep shot down the center supposed for Lamb who lined up within the slot to the best of the offensive line. Warner, an All-Pro this season, anticipated the throw as he dropped again into deep zone protection and knocked the ball away. Dallas then took a delay-of-game penalty and punted the soccer away. The 49ers scored their solely landing of the night time on their ensuing possession.
The downside with this play is that Cowboys large receiver T.Y. Hilton, who lined up within the slot on the left facet of the formation, was WIDE OPEN. As in, no one was in Hilton’s zip code because the 49ers dropped again into zone protection with Hilton blowing previous his defender to the place a security hadn’t rotated over. Had Prescott seen this, Hilton would’ve had one of many best receiving touchdowns of his 11-year profession.
Lamb had a game-high 13 targets on Sunday whereas no different large receiver had greater than Michael Gallup’s three. Tight finish Dalton Schultz had 10 targets, and he hauled in 5 of them for 27 yards and a landing. However, the Cowboys could have come out on prime had he checked out different receivers.
“I’m probably not certain actually, I’ve to return and take a look at the tape,” Prescott stated when requested about his incapacity to search out different large receivers apart from Lamb in opposition to the 49ers. “Not actual certain. CeeDee is the man you need to get the ball too, I can let you know that. He did actually good issues with it. He’s a younger participant simply scratching the floor. Unfortunately, I wasn’t capable of get these different guys the ball. Obviously, we’ve got different playmakers apart from CeeDee, and it is on me to get it to them to permit them to make performs. I simply wasn’t in a position to do this.”
Prescott’s incapacity to see different receivers apart from No. 88 highlighted how a lot he felt the departure of four-time Pro Bowl large receiver Amari Cooper this previous offseason. The 28-year-old totaled 1,160 receiving yards, the second-most of his profession, and 9 receiving touchdowns, a career-high, in Year One with the Cleveland Browns whereas catching passes from Jacoby Brissett, a profession backup, and a Deshuan Watson who hadn’t performed NFL soccer in a year-and-a-half.
With one other risk on the surface, Prescott may return to his 2021 heights when he threw a franchise-record 37 touchdowns. Dallas has a couple of completely different avenues to go about carrying out this treatment. One route is thru the primary couple rounds of the NFL Draft, and large receiver could possibly be a necessity that warrants that top of choice between Prescott’s incapacity to belief different choices and a few of these different choices, Hilton and Noah Brown, hitting free company.
Another outlet could possibly be by way of free company the place New England Patriots large receiver Jakobi Meyers and Kansas City Chiefs wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, each 26 years previous, comprise the highest choices. Odell Beckham Jr., the 30-year-old three-time Pro Bowler the Cowboys recruited closely in December, may even be obtainable. The final lever Jones may pull is thru the commerce market the place a former three-time All-Pro, Cardinals large receiver DeAndre Hopkins, could possibly be obtainable with Arizona beginning over with a brand new normal supervisor and head coach.
Regardless, Jones must do one thing so as to add a critical expertise to his receiving corps in an effort to forestall Prescott from turning into a very predictable turnover machine as soon as once more in 2023.
2. Acquire one other strong participant at LB, CB reverse Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs
Since the NFL started formally monitoring pressured fumbles in 1993, just one participant in all the NFL in that span has racked up at the very least 13 sacks and at the very least three fumbles in every of his first two seasons: Parsons.
The two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl choice was capable of accomplish this for 2 causes. The first is he’s a freak of nature. The second is the Cowboys having Leighton Vander Esch, in 2021 and 2022, and in addition Anthony Barr, simply this previous season, line up within the conventional inside linebacker spots on most snaps, permitting Parsons the power to line up in quite a lot of completely different alignments throughout the defensive formation. With the addition of the four-time Pro Bowler Barr, Parsons lined up as a defensive finish primarily seeking to cross rush a big quantity of the time (81.1%) of his snaps, in keeping with Pro Football Focus. He lined up as a standard inside linebacker 18.1% of the time and as a cornerback on eight snaps (0.8%).
“You need to just be sure you’re not in a single location lengthy sufficient for groups to say ‘that is the place he is [Parsons] going to be, so that is how we’ll go,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn stated previous to Dallas’ Week 13 matchup in opposition to the Indianapolis Colts. “He’ll transfer off the ball generally, left facet, proper facet, so you may transfer him round. … When you’ve gotten that sort of versatility, not each participant can try this. The undeniable fact that Micah can transfer from inside linebacker to outdoors linebacker to proper defensive finish to left defensive finish to standing over the middle. Putting him in several spots is among the actual components of not permitting somebody to know, ‘Hey, at all times put a good finish to the offensive left [side] to chip Lawrence Taylor’ not that it labored in opposition to him or anybody else. I feel being able to maneuver is a giant piece of that.”
Whether it is bringing again the 26-year-old Vand Esch, drafting a linebacker within the first three rounds, or signing somebody like Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush, a former top-10 decide, to a one-year, prove-it deal, a transfer must be made at that spot.
The identical goes for the cornerback place reverse Diggs, 2021’s interceptions chief, with Anthony Brown hitting free company and Jourdan Lewis coming off a season-ending, Lisfranc foot harm. If not within the first two days of the commerce, among the notable names on the free agent market are projected to be Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters, New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones, and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Defensive sort out subsequent to Osa Odighizuwa may additionally stand to be addressed with Johnathan Hankins hitting free company and an absence of belief in third year-pro Neville Gallimore – who was inactive in opposition to the Buccaneers within the wild- card spherical – however that is seemingly a Day Three draft decide want.
3. Draft one other offensive lineman within the first three rounds
Cowboys left sort out Tyron Smith is among the better of his era at place — as evidenced by the 2010’s All-Decade Team nod plus eight Pro Bowl alternatives and two All-Pro spots. However, he has missed 33 of a doable 50 regular-season video games since 2020, together with 13 video games this season, which is a ginormous deal for a mountain of a person who stands 6-foot-5 whereas carrying round 320 kilos.
Jones hit on Smith’s seemingly long-term substitute at left sort out, rookie Tyler Smith, with the twenty fourth total decide within the 2022 NFL Draft, however he’ll want to come back away with one other starting-caliber lineman within the first three rounds as soon as once more between the getting older Smith and the crew’s proper sort out Terence Steele, who suffered a season-ending ACL harm again in Week 14. Those accidents could have additionally contributed to Prescott’s league-leading interceptions whole. Prescott was pressured on 31.4% of his dropbacks in 2022, which was Thirteenth-fewest in NFL, however he seemingly must be inside the highest 10 fewest pressured passers in 2023 in an effort to minimize down on the turnovers.
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