QTNA: Can Raiders’ offense, Waller, present Cowboys problems sans Ruggs?

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The Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders both have offense problems. Over the last three games, the teams have only combined to surpass 20 points once, leading to a combined 1-5 record. The circumstances as to the malaise are decidedly different, however. The Raiders have lost their head coach and their big deep threat forever. Dallas is dealing with temporary absences due to COVID and injury.

On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage sit defenses charged with continuing the negative trends for the guys with the ball. How will it all shake out? We tapped Raiders Wire managing editor (and rumored Cowboys fan) Marcus Mosher to have a quick chat behind enemy lines about Thursday’s big game. As Dallas looks for their eighth win on the season and avoid a bona fide slump, here’s what to expect.

Raiders Wire: All 3 AFC West teams have held Dallas under 21 points. What have they done to slow them down?

Cowboys Wire:

The Cowboys would like us to believe some of the difficulty was related to unfamiliarity. Honestly I don’t think there’s much correlation between the Chargers game and the last two against Denver and Kansas City. In Week 2, the low scoring affair seemed more deliberate. Dallas ran the ball 18 times in the first half and 41 times for the game. Their strategy was to take the air out of the Chargers offense and bludgeon them.

Context matters and Dallas led the entire contest and executed their plan to a large degree.

The other two contests were more about failures to be able to execute their game plan and that seems to be centered around the loss of Tyron Smith. Terence Steele is not Smith and Dallas lost their ability to run in those two contests. In addition, Ezekiel Elliott has been hobbled for the last month and Dallas hasn’t really shifted their snap allotment between their backs and failed to get Tony Pollard more heavily involved.

Cowboys Wire: The Raiders offense hasn't done much scoring since Henry Ruggs was removed from the league. How is his absence impacting Derek Carr?

Raiders Wire:

It’s huge. He was the team’s leading receiver before his release and the Raiders just haven’t been able to create any chunk plays on offense. Not only has his absence impacted the passing game, but teams are now loading up against the run with no fear of being beaten with speed.

It’s worth mentioning that the Raiders did sign DeSean Jackson two weeks ago, but he hasn’t played a ton of snaps. The Raiders are hoping that he can have a bigger role in Week 12, but it’s still an offense that just doesn’t create enough big plays.

Raiders Wire: Who is an under-the-radar player to watch in this game?

Cowboys Wire:

Dorance Armstrong may soon be returning to a lesser role in the next few weeks (he shouldn’t, he should outsnap Tarell Basham moving forward which he did for the first time in Week 11) but he has two sacks in his last two games. I’m very interested to see how Jourdan Lewis matches up in the slot against Hunter Renfrow who is reminiscent to Cowboys fans of Cole Beasley.

Finally, all eyes will need to be on Connor McGovern, who is the new left guard and he has a chance now to play next to Smith’s experience as opposed to Steele last week. That should make a ton of difference and see if the staff was right in replacing Connor Williams, who led the league in both called penalties and shouldn’t-have-been-called penalties.

Cowboys Wire: How much of a problem can the Raiders cause with their defensive personnel?

Raiders Wire:

The Raiders are a nickel-heavy team and they love nothing more than to drop seven in coverage and let their front four rush the passer. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue have been the league’s best EDGE duo this season and Crosby leads the NFL in pressures.

They also have two outstanding cornerbacks in Casey Hayward and Nate Hobbs, who love nothing more than to be physical and to play man-to-man coverage. Their secondary combined with their pass rush can do a lot of damage against offenses that try to drop back and throw the ball a ton.

Raiders Wire: How will the Cowboys try to match up with Darren Waller?

Cowboys Wire:

The word is that there will be a bracket coverage approach to slowing down the last remaining passing game weapon for Derek Carr. It will be interesting to see how often Dallas chooses to play Trevon Diggs on Waller though, as he’s of the newer mold of tight end body, wide receiver skill set. It may be in their best interest to keep Diggs on Bryan Edwards who seems a bit similar to the Cowboys’ Michael Gallup in that he’s not a burner but is a certified deep threat.

The Cowboys’ secondary should be up to the task, but all eyes will be on containing Waller. Dallas has done a really good job against star tight ends, containing Travis Kelce, Kyle Pitts and Hunter Henry to a combined 11 catches for 159 yards and one score over three contests.

Cowboys Wire: What do you think the outcome of the game will be?

Raiders Wire:

I think this game is going to be really close for a variety of reasons, but mostly due to the pass rush of the Raiders. Their defensive line has done an excellent job of making quarterbacks feel uncomfortable and that leads to dangerous throws underneath. The Raiders have not had much success on offense over the last few weeks, but look for them to run the ball early and often and challenge the linebackers of Dallas with Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and Hunter Renfrow.

However, the Cowboys have been excellent on defense this season and have found ways to create turnovers. With Dallas clearly being the better team, look for turnovers to be the deciding factor in this contest. Expect a lower-scoring game with the margin of victory being under a touchdown. Give me the Cowboys 24-23 in a close game on Thanksgiving.

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