Coming into the season, there were a myriad of storylines centering around the Dallas Cowboys. There was the alleged regression of quarterback Dak Prescott. Many claimed he had been surpassed by Daniel Jones and foresaw him struggling against the New York Jets defense. There were questions stemming from head coach Mike McCarthy taking over playcalling duties and about the defense’s need to improve against the run and of course the lack of a good kicking option. Across all three phases, Dallas was going to have issues on the football field.
Yet here are those same Cowboys, starting the season 2-0, crushing the two New York teams by a total score of 70-10. They look like the most complete and dominant team in the NFL, attacking opponents in all three phases of the game. Offensively, they’ve used a conservative approach that includes heavy doses of CeeDee Lamb and the running backs. Defensively, they’ve been suffocating following the lead of Micah Parsons, and they’ve also sported a playmaking special teams unit with an incredible rookie kicker.
Mike McCarthy has a game plan that is working incredibly well
The Cowboys have forged the league’s top offense when Prescott is under center since 2019 and moving on from Kellen Moore caused a lot of consternation. Through two weeks, McCarthy has had a nearly perfect game plan of playcalling that his team is executing beautifully.
McCarthy wanted to run the ball more, and he is getting that done by getting big leads that allow the offense to run out the clock by handing it to their running backs. He currently has a 60% run rate for the season. In Week 1, the team had 25 pass attempts and 30 rushes; in Week 2, they had 38 passes and 44 runs.
This has allowed Dallas to control the clock and keep their dominant defense fresh. The Giants had a competitive 26 minutes 32 seconds of possession, compared to over 33 minutes for the Cowboys. They kicked that advantage up against the Jets with over 42 minutes on offense. That is a 30-minute advantage over two games.
The last thing McCarthy made clear was that the turnovers had to come down, and after two games, Dallas hasn’t turned the ball over once yet. Tyler Biadasz recovered the only two fumbles the offense has had, and Prescott has yet to throw a single pick and has just one turnover-worthy play on 65 dropbacks this season.
McCarthy has his team humming at 2-0 and is doing so with his style of play. He has to be a way-too-early coach of the year candidate.
The Cowboys defense is the most dominant in the league so far
The doomsday defense has returned in Dallas and spelled doom for their opponents through two games in the 2023 season.
The defense’s presumed weakness going into the year was the run defense, but it has been stellar despite playing two good rushing teams with a couple of the best running back rooms in the league. Dan Quinn’s squad is averaging under four yards per attempt allowed, and they held the combo of Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook to an incredible 16 yards on eight attempts. Great defenses have no weaknesses, and the Cowboys appear to have fixed theirs thus far.
The pass defense is even more unbelievable. Dallas only allowed 1.7 yards per pass and 63 net passing yards in their matchup with the Giants. In Week 2 they held the Jets offense to only 151 yards passing, and 68 of those came from one pass.
The third-down defense also has impressed, allowing only a 23% conversion rate, improving from an impressive 5-of-16 in Week 1 to a near-perfect 1-of-10 in Week 2. Overall, the team allowed only 26 first downs, a dominant performance.
The sexy numbers the fans look at for defenses are sacks and turnovers.
Dallas is no disappointment there either, averaging five sacks per game and 3.5 forced turnovers. Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa are tied with three sacks each, and all five starting defensive backs, Stephon Gilmore, Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker have interceptions. This defense is the season’s main storyline so far, and they have earned that with their play.
The Cowboys look to have found their kicker.
From the final game of the 2022 regular season through the playoffs everyone was concerned about the Cowboys’ kicker situation. Brett Maher had a great 2022 season before a mental block completely blew up the Dallas special teams unit going into the postseason.
That put a ton of pressure on Brandon Aubrey, who then missed his first-ever kick in a regular season game, coming in rainy conditions at Met Life Stadium amidst the stunned excitement of the blocked field goal.
From there on, though, Aubrey has been perfect. He hit field goals from 21 and 38 yards in the Giants game and made his other four extra points. Against the Jets, he hit kicks from 35, 21, 55, 26, and 30, along with another extra point. He became the first Cowboys rookie to go five for five in field goals since Dan Bailey in 2011. In addition he’s booted touchbacks on every kickoff.
If this is how Aubrey is going to perform going forward, then Dallas has officially found their kicker for now and into the future. Only time will tell if he continues to perform at an excellent level.