Fade 4- The secondary
Nothing worries me more than the Dallas Cowboys secondary, because they just seem to be the Achilles’ heel for this team every season. When the game is close or its a shootout, it’s almost impossible to count on the Cowboys secondary to hold up, and they have already had issues in pass coverage this season. While Brandon Carr is as solid as they come and Orlando Scandrick isn’t a problem, Morris Claiborne just isn’t catching on right now. It’s tough to start projecting a full season of data based on two games of struggling, but Claiborne has yet to put together that massive talent that got him taken off the board with the sixth pick in the draft. Claiborne had a rough rookie year but showed some flashes, and he should be able to break out by his third season in the league at the latest. But as of right now, Claiborne is a liability in this secondary, as he was burned like crazy against the New York Giants. He calmed down with a better display against the Chiefs, and Claiborne is the guy who could really make-or-break this secondary. He has the talent to “make” it, and he should be a good corner by the end of the year.
Safety is the real question mark for the Cowboys, as they lost their only dependable safety in Gerald Sensabaugh this offseason (they had to cut him loose due to cap issues). Will Allen and Barry Church are the new starting duo at safety in Dallas, and you can color me unimpressed by Allen thus far. I fully expected him to be bad, and the Cowboys have been getting burned like crazy. On six deep throws by the opposition, the Cowboys have allowed a whopping five of those six to be completed for 172 yards and two touchdowns. That’s absolutely horrendous, and the Cowboys will need to tighten that up if they want to be a playoff team. This is a team that has all the pieces to be a legitimate playoff team, but they have issues at positions like DB and OL that need to be answered.
The Cowboys have allowed 7.4 net yards per pass attempt (net yards includes sacks), and that’s despite a pass rush that has put consistent pressure on the quarterback and has put up seven sacks in total this year. It’s too early to draw any major conclusions and the Cowboys did a solid job against the Chiefs passing offense, but they need to tighten up on deep throws and still have issues in the secondary. A breakout year from Claiborne could really quell some of those concerns, but it’s tough to bank on breakout seasons.
Fade 5- Tony Romo
What Cowboys piece would be complete without taking a look at Tony Romo? I find it interesting that Romo has averaged just 8.5 yards per completion so far this season, because his career average is 12.2. Beyond that, 8.5 is an incredibly low total, and Romo has never been known as a checkdown quarterback. He has thrown the fourth-lowest percentage of passes beyond 15 yards this season, with only Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, and Matt Ryan throwing less. Of course, the less number of deep throws also means that Romo is hitting a high completion percentage, and he is actually the league leader in completion percentage at 72.5%. So why is he throwing less deep balls this season? Is it a legitimate trend going forward? Is it merely a statistical quirk? Or is it even because Romo has injured ribs and likely needs another pain-killer shot this week? I think it’s something worth monitoring as the season continues.
I won’t go on another pro-Romo rant, because I know I’ve defended him as hard as anyone throughout his career (Philip Rivers is another quarterback I constantly defend, because he also faces unnecessary criticism). Romo has looked decent this season, but I don’t think throwing it shorter is doing him any favors. It’s best for the Cowboys to let Romo do what he does best; cut it loose and go deep. The Cowboys offense may have less turnovers with Romo throwing it shorter, but the offense is less efficient (career yards per attempt of 7.9 compared to 6.2 this season, and an advanced statistic that adjusts for interceptions and touchdowns still has that at 7.7 to 6.3, so the Cowboys are losing over a yard of efficiency per passing play) when they constrain Romo. I highly doubt this is a trend from the Cowboys, and, again, it’s foolish to draw conclusions after two games, but it is always worth being vigilant and monitoring a situation closely.