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Week 16 BTB mailbag: Problems on defense and in the passing game

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Week 16 BTB mailbag: Problems on defense and in the passing game
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

People have questions about the Cowboys as they prepare for the Eagles, and we strive to provide answers.

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter about the upcoming Dallas Cowboys game and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

@MartinBryan: Why is Gallup getting 1 catch for 2 yards and only 2 targets when he’s supposed to be our number 2 WR?

Brandon: I think the answer can be as simple as Kellen Moore isn’t getting him involved enough. We’ve seen over a few weeks now that plays are not going in his direction. The Thanksgiving game was great because he was able to catch balls over the middle whether that was from a slant or Dak Prescott would throw him a quick screen to the outside. I think Michael Gallup is the type of player where he needs a lot of touches to build up his confidence. He is coming back from an ACL surgery so there still might be some physical limitations he’s working through. Gallup is a talented receiver and just needs to find ways to separate from his defenders and create opportunities for Prescott to throw him the ball, if the play-calling won’t go in his favor.

Mike: This is a tough one. Gallup in the last two games only accounts for 42 receiving yards and three receptions. After the Jacksonville loss, Kellen Moore stated he should have gotten Gallup more touches. But this isn’t the first time this season we’re heard that statement. The concern for Gallup going forward though is now T.Y. Hilton is getting ready to be put in the mix, how much of the share will Gallup lose even more so?

@WilsonBone: Obvious one, but why has the defence seemingly dropped off a cliff this passed couple of weeks?

Brandon: Injuries. I’m sure Mike will touch on this as well. The Cowboys have lost three starters on defense three weeks in a row. Anthony Brown, Johnathan Hankins, and Leighton Vander Esch. Brown wasn’t playing as well as the other two, but there is a clear drop-off between Brown and Kelvin Joseph stepping into his place. Luckily for Dallas, they still have three regular season games to figure things out. The pass rush hid a lot of deficiencies on defense, like stopping the run and eliminating mobile quarterbacks because they were able to collect sacks. The defense has just one sack in two weeks of play, which will expose inexperienced players like Joseph on the back end. Just like the Cowboys have a few weeks left to figure it out, they have proven not to waste time when making adjustments. When the defense was getting gashed in the run game, they trade for Hankins. When Joseph starts allowing touchdowns to Jacksonville, he gets benched. Mike McCarthy doesn’t have time to waste and puts his players in the best position possible when there’s a problem.

Mike: Injuries is the simple answer. When Leighton Vander Esch left the game, which thankfully wasn’t a neck injury, the defense had even more of a struggle. That struggle was certainly seen in stopping the run. Anthony Barr can be seen as not having the athletic traits he once had. Kelvin Joseph officially checked out of football half way through the game. But also the overuse of twists on the defensive line has become something opposing coordinators have become ready to face against Dallas. Jacksonville knew this and knew how overaggressive the defense plays, so went heavy on misdirection plays to compensate and Dallas paid the price. The fatigue this defense is displaying is the biggest concern. They just look exhausted right now, and that’s not good heading to the postseason schedule.

@DavidBradford: Do we need to draft another pass rusher or look at free agency?

Brandon: Sam Williams, Dorance Armstrong, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Micah Parsons are under contract for next season. There have been enough flashes from Williams to see the potential for growth in 2023. Armstrong has become the best version of himself while Parsons and Lawrence are having Pro Bowl seasons. If the Cowboys can draft a defensive end in the fourth round for traits, I would be okay with that. There are many more positions of need in free agency that need addressing before the pass rush. If anything, Dallas will do what is now a tradition of theirs—wait until the free agency bubble has burst and sign someone to a one-year prove-it deal like Dante Fowler Jr. this season.

Mike: Having more pass rushers is never a bad thing. The defensive line though isn’t missing pass rushers, it’s missing pressure from inside. Last week against Jacksonville the defensive tackle group – which had snaps from Odighizuwa, Gallimore, Bohanna, Watkins and Golston- had a total of three pressures between them all. The expectation each week can’t be how many sacks will Parsons get. More pass rushers for sure, but from the inside would be the way forward come draft season.

@GordonKinnear: What was behind the call to pass on 3rd down on our last possession in regular time?

Brandon: The ball should not be going to Noah Brown in that situation. I love Brown and what he’s meant to the team this season, but there are other playmakers Kellen Moore needs to force the ball to in that moment. The pecking order should be CeeDee Lamb, Gallup, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz, Ezekiel Elliott, then Brown. The Cowboys have a lot of weapons on offense to create a better play than a deep shot. I agreed with the aggressive nature of going for it, but if the play wasn’t there, burn the Jaguars’ final timeout and punt the ball deep in their own territory.

Mike: I wasn’t a fan of the call either. I don’t mind the idea of throwing on the play, but not a deep pass. If it was a screen or underneath throw and failed, that would be more understandable. Of course, if that catch was made, we’re all talking about how clutch that play was. But playing the safe game and running the ball, if nothing else and the team fails to get the first down, they would of at least forced the Jaguars to use up a precious timeout.

Be sure to check @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter for the weekly post, asking you for your questions for the weekly mailbag

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