With the Seahawks set to face the Dallas Cowboys this week, we reached out to DallasCowboys.com reporter Lindsay Cash Draper with five questions on Seattle's Week 3 opponent.
Q. Maybe this is obvious, but how important is it for Dallas' offense to get Ezekiel Elliott going, particularly in a hostile environment?
Draper: It's obvious, but tricky! Although most people think this offense is predicated on the success of Ezekiel Elliott, we saw in Week 1 it's the other way around. In order for Zeke to succeed, the entire offense needs to be clicking. In their first game at Carolina, Dallas only scored eight points. Because the offensive line had costly penalties, they were repeatedly behind the chains in second and third and longs, and the offense looked immobile. So although his numbers were similar from Week 1 to Week 2, the difference for Zeke's success was relying on Dak Prescott stretching the field, Dak getting mobile, and better offensive line play. It's extremely important for this offense to get Zeke going, but we've seen first-hand how it takes every part of the offense to do so.
Q. Dallas currently ranks 30th in passing offense, is that the result of leaning on the running game, or are there issues in the passing game to be worked out? And along those lines, how has Dak Prescott progressed in his third season/is he missing old go-to targets like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten?
Draper: If there are any definites for this team, you just found one. And the coaching staff let us know that this week. I don't know if I'd call them issues as much as mysteries. Jason Garrett told us this week he's really just trying to figure out what each guy is really good at—whether it be blocking, route running, catching, creating space for others, and so on. Mysteries, I say, because reaching out and re-signing Brice Butler as a seventh receiver on the roster was a head scratcher this week. But his signing leads you to believe they want to add speed and size to the mix. In 13 games last year, Butler had 15 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns.
As far as Dak missing Witten and Bryant, I'd say time was on his side in this situation. He had the entire offseason to prepare with his new receivers. Cole Beasley has stepped into the third-down security blanket role that Witten was so solid at. Beasley leads the team in receptions through two weeks.
Q. Seattle won in Dallas last year in large part due to three takeaways, including a pick-six, how big of a focus in ball security this week facing a Seahawks defense that already has five interceptions?
Draper: Playing Seattle is never a given. I've been here since 2014, and every time Dallas faces Seattle—even when the Seahawks are 0-2—the outlook on the potential danger of that team is the same. Prescott said this week, "I've only played a half of football there, and it was in the preseason and it was still so loud." Ball security is going to be incredibly important against those Seattle safeties. Dallas is 18-1 when Dak doesn't commit any turnovers, and 20-4 when he doesn't throw an interception.
Q: What has been the key to the Cowboys having so much success with their pass rush? I'm sure Demarcus Lawrence helps, but it looks like a lot of pressure is coming from elsewhere too.
Draper: You may be shocked to hear about this guy who's making waves in Dallas. His name is Kris Richard, and he's pumping life into this secondary, and the entire defense as a whole. Working with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has given the Cowboys' defense quick and dynamic success in these first two weeks. Richard is calling the defensive plays. I spoke with Cowboys safety Kavon Frazier this week about his first sack as a safety (something you don't see much of around here) and he told me, "These blitzes aren't new, they're just working well because of how well the defensive line is playing now." Something magical is happening with the combination of these coaches, and fans are loving it.
Q. Dallas's defensive numbers look pretty impressive across the board, if there is an area of concern when it comes to facing the Seahawks offense, what would it be?
Draper: Dallas coaching staff is focused on keeping Russell Wilson contained. At the end of the day, it seems that he's the heart and soul of the offense, even when running for his life. Wilson has been sacked 12 times through two weeks, so that's the blueprint. Get home, or he'll get in the end zone. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said to 'build a well' around Wilson, and make him play from there.
The Seahawks and Cowboys face off for the 21st time during Week 3 of the 2020 season on Sunday, September 27 at 1:25 p.m. Take a look back at photos from previous games played between the two teams.