Justin Fields Could Exploit Rare Weakness On Cowboys’ Defense

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On paper, the Dallas Cowboys have a favorable matchup this weekend against the Chicago Bears. But could Bears QB Justin Fields’ rushing abilities help the Monsters of the Midway steal a win at AT&T Stadium?

The Cowboys have been superb defensively through seven games this season. But they do have a chink in the armor, and that’s stopping the run. Dallas has allowed 120 rushing yards per game this season which ranks 20th in the NFL.

This plays right into the Bears’ strength. Chicago’s 181 rushing yards per game are the most in the league. RB Khalil Herbert leads the team with 464 yards followed by Fields at 354 yards.

The Cowboys have played a few dual-threat QBs this season, so let’s rewind the tape and see if Fields could cause problems in Dallas on Sunday:

Daniel Jones gashed Dallas in Week 3

The Cowboys bested the New York Giants 23-16 earlier this season. But QB Daniel Jones had his second-highest rushing total of the season in the loss.

The former Duke Blue Devil ran nine times for 79 yards, and a majority of his carries were designed runs. Jones and the Giants offensive line took advantage of the Cowboys’ aggressive pass rush by calling QB draws that regularly went for positive yardage in Week 3.

Ultimately, Dallas had Jones under duress as he was sacked five times. The Cowboys got the win and that’s all that matters, but it’s likely the Bears deploy a similar game plan this week.

Cowboys held Jalen Hurts in check

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts has averaged 48 rushing yards per game this season, but Dallas held him to just 27 yards in the 26-17 loss in Week 6.

Cowboys defenders focused lots of attention on limiting Hurts as a rusher. The Eagles were prepared for this and on a handful of plays targeted Micah Parsons by calling for RPOs:

Dallas’ defense adjusted in the second half and stopped plays like this from happening. But the damage was already done. At halftime, Philadelphia was up 20-3 and it proved to be an insurmountable lead.

How the Cowboys should handle Fields

Part of the reason the Eagles beat the Cowboys despite low rushing numbers from Hurts was thanks to Philadelphia’s strong receiving core. 

A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith combined for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas. While the combined yardage isn’t jaw-dropping, each receiver was able to make big plays when it mattered the most and it was enough to get the win.

None of the Bears receivers have playmaking abilities comparable to Brown or Smith. Chicago’s pass catchers are averaging 149 yards per game, the lowest total in the NFL. That’s nearly 20 yards less than the 31st-ranked Atlanta Falcons.

When the Bears travel to Dallas Sunday, expect the Cowboys to deploy a similar game plan to what we saw against the Eagles. Eliminate Fields as a rusher and force him to win the game by throwing to his receivers.

The Bears’ pass catchers have proven to be far below league average. If the Cowboys force them to carry the torch offensively, it will be a recipe for success.

Cowboys add a run-stopper

On Tuesday, the Las Vegas Raiders sent DT Johnathan Hankins to Dallas in exchange for the Cowboys’ 2023 sixth-round draft pick and 2024 seventh-round draft pick.

At 6’3, 340 pounds, Hankins strength is stopping the run. Pro Football Focus has graded the former second round draft selection at 53.2 in run defense. The only Cowboys interior defenders with higher grades in that area are Carlos Watkins and Trysten Hill.

Hankins has only taken 37% of the Raiders defensive snaps this season. He’s recorded 10 tackles and one QB in that time.

While Hankins hasn’t posted gaudy numbers, he’s certainly a worthy investment to help Dallas’ run defense if it only costs a pair of late-round draft picks.