DALLAS — Week 1 was an ugly debut for the Dallas Cowboys, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and looking moribund while scoring just three points in defeat. To make matters worse, the team lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott to a right thumb fracture that will keep him out 6 to 8 weeks.
That’s what you call a bad night and a disappointing beginning to the new NFL season. Very few things went right for the Cowboys in Week 1 and now they must go back to the drawing board and figure out how to salvage the season. That’s a difficult task without their leader, and when upper management failed to properly prepare the roster for this year.
Before moving forward to the rest of the season, let’s look at what we learned about the Cowboys in the Week 1 loss:
The offense isn’t ready
The Cowboys opted against playing the majority of their starters in the preseason and it showed. After finishing 2021 as the top offense in the league, the Cowboys looked out of sync and rusty. The numerous injuries at wide receiver all offseason had the team shuffling options in and out, and when Week 1 came around the offense didn’t have the skill players to win.
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is a heralded first-round pick, but he lined up with seventh-round pick Noah Brown, fifth-round pick Simi Fehoko and undrafted free agent Dennis Houston as the top receivers. That’s not enough ammunition to scare defenses, and the Cowboys saw how inept their receivers were on opening night.
The running game was sound with running back Ezekiel Elliott getting off to a good start, but the Buccaneers were allowing the Cowboys to run the ball for small gains rather than beat them down the field. Without any game breakers at receiver, the defense for Tampa Bay just flooded passing zones to make life difficult for Prescott and the offense.
CeeDee Lamb isn’t a top WR yet
One of the offseason plans revolved around making Lamb the true No. 1 wide receiver threat for Prescott. After two good seasons with Amari Cooper lining up opposite of him, the thought was Lamb was ready to take his game to the next level. That wasn’t the case against the Buccaneers.
Lamb didn’t answer the call, catching just two passes for 29 yards while dropping a first down catch that could’ve settled down the offense. The third-year breakout candidate did see double and triple teams as the focus of the defense, but Lamb had trouble making space to earn big plays.
Erasing Lamb will be the goal of every defense that the Cowboys play, and they will aim to make someone other than Lamb beat them. Lamb has to be able to find the open spaces or get separation when he gets his opportunities. That didn’t happen in Week 1.
The offensive line is problematic
A thin group got even thinner when starting left guard Connor McGovern went down with an ankle injury. It was expected that the unit would struggle some due to the Buccaneers’ quality on the defensive line, and that was the case. Prescott and backup quarterback Cooper Rush were hurried all night long and weren’t afforded the time to find open receivers. The offensive line gave up four sacks on the night.
There were also pre-snap penalties that included four false starts, an ineligible man downfield, and a hold that cost the offense. Right tackle Terence Steele was the biggest offender with four penalties. Steele was taking over for La’el Collins, who was released by the team. That doesn’t look like a smart decision after one game. On a positive note, rookie first-rounder Tyler Smith acquitted himself well in his debut at left tackle.
It’s just one week, but Dallas’ offensive line still has work to do, just as many feared before the season began.
Micah Parsons has the Defensive Player of the Year look
This isn’t a surprise to anyone who watched him last year, but Parsons is incredible. If anyone was expecting a second-year slump, they were mistaken.
Parsons was the best defensive player on the field last for the Cowboys, picking up two sacks and the linebacker's speed showed up again in pursuit.
The defense didn’t have much of an impact, but Parsons saved points on his two takedowns of Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady in the red zone. Parsons is already one of the best defensive players in the game and the start to his sophomore season suggests he’ll be in the mix for the DPOY.
What lessons do you hope the Cowboys learn from their Week 1 defeat? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.
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