The Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game kicks off on Christmas Eve, so we decided to get in the holiday spirit.
Just five games ago, the Cowboys demolished the Minnesota Vikings 40-3. In that game, Kirk Cousins was sacked seven times, Vikings rushers combined for 73 yards and Justin Jefferson was limited to 33 yards.
The offense had a day, too. Dak Prescott completed 88% of his passes, and Tony Pollard had 109 receiving yards. Ezekiel Elliott found the endzone twice in the impressive road victory.
But a lot has changed in the four games since.
The Cowboys needed a heroic game-winning drive from Dak to narrowly escape defeat from the Houston Texans. Prescott couldn’t recreate that magic in last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If you’d asked for a Cowboys wish list after the Vikings game, it wouldn’t have been long. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
So here’s what we’re hoping Santa can deliver for the Cowboys this Christmas:
The Cowboys defense isn’t treating fans to dominant performances anymore. Much of this is due to injury, which may be viewed as a cop out. By Week 16, every team deals with injuries. But Dallas’ luck has been especially bad this year.
For starters, the Cowboys run defense has taken huge hits in the last two games. First, Jonathan Hankins injured his pectoral and is likely out until the playoffs. Hankins is a 6’3, 340-pound run stuffing DT. With Leighton Vander Esch ruled out vs. the Eagles with a shoulder injury, a Cowboys run defense that was improving now needs others to pick up the slack.
Injuries have plagued the secondary, too. Jourdan Lewis’ season ended in Week 7 when he hurt his foot, and Anthony Brown’s torn achilles will cut his year short, too. It was reported this week that Dallas is running an open competition for CB2 duties; not an ideal situation with just three regular season games remaining.
The last major injury came vs. the Texans when Terence Steele tore his ACL, ending his 2022 campaign. Luckily, Tyron Smith returned to action in Week 15 and filled in nicely for Steele at RT.
The Cowboys can’t afford to lose more players to injury, especially on the defense. So health topping our wish list is a no-brainer.
The pass rushers are the heartbeat of Dan Quinn’s defense. When Micah Parsons and Co. are sacking the QB, the defense runs at peak efficiency. The Cowboys 49 sacks are the second-most in football.
But in the last two games, Dallas has recorded just one sack. It makes sense that in those games, the Cowboys snuck out a win over the Texans and lost to the Jaguars.
With Gardner Minshew filling in for an injured Jalen Hurts, Dallas’ defensive line has an excellent opportunity to get its mojo back against a less mobile QB. But it won’t be easy considering the Eagles boast one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
The Cowboys pass rushers getting back on track would also go a long way in masking the depth issues in the secondary.
Prescott has been bitten by the turnover bug this season. Dak has only played in nine games, but has thrown 11 interceptions. That ties him for the third-most in football.
But that interception total is a bit deceiving. Pro Football Focus has deemed six of Prescott’s interceptions to have come on plays not considered turnover worthy; meaning the pick wasn’t Dak’s fault. The most egregious example came in the OT loss to Jacksonville when Dak placed a perfect pass to Noah Brown that was mishandled and returned for a game-losing pick-six.
We’re not excusing Prescott for his interceptions, nor are we putting all the blame on his pass catchers. The offense as a whole needs to limit turnovers for the team to reach its full potential.