“We’re not a good team right now,” Jones said.
The Cowboys are fresh off of their third brutal loss in a row. Dak Prescott’s having the worst stretch of his career, and the team is desperately missing suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas has been outscored 92-22 during this skid. Jones doesn’t think all is lost.
“We can be a good team,” the Cowboys owner said.
But several factors are standing in the way of the Cowboys bouncing back.
Some fans are calling for the team to bench Prescott and give backup Cooper Rush a look. Prescott is far from the only reason the Cowboys can’t seem to get on track, but he’s looked like a different player without the full complement of his supporting cast around him.
Dallas can’t win without Ezekiel Elliott
Prescott hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards or a single touchdown over the past three games. He’s also taken 14 sacks over that span. He took just 10 sacks over the previous eight games.
Left tackle Tyron Smith is arguably the best in the league at that position, and he was sidelined for the Cowboys’ games against the Falcons in Week 10 and the Eagles in Week 11 with back and groin injuries. Any replacement would be a downgrade, but it was disastrous for Prescott to have Smith out for two games. Making matters worse, the Cowboys lost right guard Zack Martin in the second quarter of Thursday’s game with a concussion. But the absence of Ezekiel Elliott is an even bigger factor for Dallas.
Elliott is three games into the six-game suspension handed down by the NFL over domestic violence allegations made against him by a former girlfriend. It’s no wonder Jerry Jones is angry with the NFL about this outcome.
In 8 games with Ezekiel Elliott: 28.2 points; 370.5 yards; 148.1 rushing yards; 21.2 first downs; 1 turnover— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 24, 2017
In 3 games w/out Ezekiel Elliott: 7.3 points; 235 yards; 99.3 rushing yards; 15.3 first downs; 2.6 turnovers
The Cowboys have averaged 134.5 yards per game on the ground this season. But they’re averaging 102.7 yards per game with Elliott out of the lineup. Removing the threat of Elliott on the ground makes it easier for defenses to pressure and attack Prescott. It’s limiting his ability to create scores and forcing him into more mistakes.
Dak needs more from his defense
Prescott needs some help from his defense, especially with Elliott off the field for the next three games.
The Cowboys gave up 434 yards and three touchdowns to Philip Rivers on Thursday. A pass rush that started out the season looking like one of the league’s best didn’t land a single sack on Rivers all day.
Last year, with a dominant line and Elliott getting things done on the ground, the Cowboys were able to control the clock and rely on the defense to do just enough. That’s changed. The Chargers had the ball for over 36 minutes in Thursday’s win.
With Elliott out especially, the Cowboys need much more from the defense than they’re getting.
The Cowboys came into this season fresh off of a 13-3 finish in 2016 and favored to win the NFC East and make some noise in the playoffs. Now they’re sitting at 5-6 and trailing the 9-1 Eagles in the division. And Jones isn’t happy.
"Candidly, I'm really not shaken," Jones said. "I'm disappointed, but there's no shake."
But he’s still optimistic that the team can turn it around.
The Cowboys aren’t out of the postseason hunt, but those odds get longer with each loss. The playoff race in the NFC is a tight one. The Cowboys are currently behind the 6-4 Seahawks, the 6-5 Lions, and the 5-5 Packers, all of whom are on the outside looking in for the postseason at this time.
Elliott can’t return until Week 16 against the Seahawks. And unless the defense can slow down opponents and give Prescott a chance to get ahead, the playoffs are a pipe dream for the Cowboys this year.