Here are again, another NFL week and another hope that the New Orleans Saints can get back to winning ways. The Saints’ next challenge will come in the form of the Dallas Cowboys. New Orleans is currently riding a four-game winning streak and almost certainly need a victory Thursday if they want to foresee any path of control towards a wildcard playoff position.
The Saints hope to get healthier already welcoming back Mark Ingram, but they also hope Alvin Kamara will join him after getting in multiple limited practices throughout the week. With Taysom Hill back in the fold as a starter the Saints will look to find their groove offensively against a Cowboys defense who has struggled as of late, and will be missing a plethora of key figures, including head coach Mike McCarthy due to COVID protocol.
With more on the Cowboys we connected with David Halprin from SB Nation’s “Blogging The Boys”. We hope you enjoy the latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective.
1. After a hot start, the Cowboys have run into some inconsistencies as of late. Are we complicating their struggles by not just chalking them up to unfortunate health as of late?
Maybe, as many of the problems the Cowboys have run into lately seem to be somewhat related to health issues. For instance, Dak Prescott was on fire through the first seven games of the season, but then he tweaked his calf, had to miss some time, and has been inconsistent coming back from it. And losing Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb at the same time certainly hurt all aspects of the offense, including the running game because teams were less afraid to attack the line.
Tyron Smith being out has always been an issue for the Cowboys, even in previous seasons. DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have both been out at different times, including the last few weeks. That’s a lot of injured star power.
On the other hand, they still should be playing better than they are. They might have been believing their own press clippings to some extent, and the defense was poor against the Raiders in the sense of points, yards and penalties. But the defense was great against the Chiefs when the offense bombed. So they haven’t been playing complementary football between offense and defense. The injuries obviously have a lot to do with the mini-slump, but you can’t excuse the inconsistent play by the guys who are lining up.
2. It’s looking very probable that Taysom Hill will be the complete starter for the Saints Thursday. How much does he change your concern level towards how the Cowboys’ defense can contain New Orleans?
It definitely changes because the Cowboys over recent history have been susceptible to quarterbacks who can run the ball. It really means a different mindset on defense where guys have to be super-disciplined and stay in their lanes, and keep contain on the edges, but the Cowboys fail at that a lot. So, Hill’s ability to run the ball is a big concern.
But really, the thing I am most scared about is the Saints getting Alvin Kamara back. He is a matchup nightmare and the kind of player that can take over a game. That’s where most of my concern is for the Saints offense.
3. One weapon that isn’t talked about enough for Dallas is running back Tony Pollard. Can you explain to folks what makes him so essential for the Cowboys even if it doesn’t show up on the box score every week?
Pollard is a triple-threat: he can run the ball, he can catch the ball, and he can return kicks on special teams. Because of the way he is built and his running style it is often assumed he can’t do the dirty work of running between the tackles, but he can do that. But obviously where he really shines is when he gets out in space.
He is so elusive and hard to bring down, and is a big-play threat at all times. There is a school of thought that the Cowboys don’t utilize him enough and should be giving him more touches. And as an added bonus, he leads the league in kickoff return average for guys with over 10 attempts and took one to the house 100 yards recently. His one big issue is he doesn’t have the pass protection skills like Ezekiel Elliott.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Dallas Cowboys right now?
Really hard to answer that because it’s hard to know what people are thinking about the Cowboys outside the bubble. But the narrative has always been that the Cowboys defense is the problem, but that is not really the case this year. They get a lot of turnovers and have turned in some really solid games, including against the Chiefs at Arrowhead recently.
Micah Parsons has helped revive the unit along with Trevon Diggs, and they can definitely win games even without getting turnovers. Dan Quinn, someone you guys are familiar with, has brought a scheme that is working on defense. Now they should be getting DeMarcus Lawrence back, and in a few weeks Randy Gregory. The Cowboys defense looked awful on Thanksgiving thanks to some horrendous penalties, but that’s not the way they usually play.
5. Your outside perspective on the Saints?
It’s tough when you don’t have talents like the retired Drew Brees and the injured Michael Thomas on the field. That’s a huge blow in a passing league. Then you lose Jameis Winston who was putting together a good year.
Anytime you are down to your backup quarterback for any length of time in the NFL, you are probably in trouble. Dallas learned that lesson last year. Plus, with Kamara missing time and key injuries on the offensive line, it just feels like this is a snake-bitten year for you guys. It’s hard to overcome that stuff, no matter how good Sean Payton is as a coach. So basically, my perspective is that it’s key injuries, especially at quarterback, that are the major issue.
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