ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys will try for the Texas two-step against another New York team on Sunday in their first game at AT&T Stadium in 2023. After clobbering the New York Giants, Week 2 sees the Jets land to Arlington.
Despite now preparing for the Jets without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a win won’t come as simply as just showing up, so if the Cowboys want to complete the Gotham sweep, they’ll still need to bring their A-game against a stout defense from the New Jersey-based squad.
In fact, it’s been 16 years since the Cowboys have beaten the Jets, a game which took place on Thanksgiving in 2007. The team also hasn’t begun a season at 2-0 since before the Mike McCarthy era in 2019, so it would be nice to start the year on a high note.
No Rodgers doesn’t mean no chance for the Jets, as they do have some pieces to make it a tight game and even won without Rodgers for all but four snaps in their opener against the favored Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys were in a similar position last year when they beat the Cincinnati Bengals at home with backup quarterback Cooper Rush. If the Cowboys take the lessons learned from that contest, they should be well-prepared.
Here are the keys for the Cowboys to beat another New York team in Week 2:
Give Prescott time
The blowout Week 1 win against the Giants was a clean game for quarterback Dak Prescott, who didn’t get sacked against one of the league’s best fronts. This Jets defense, however, is a better group on the defensive line, and better overall defensively, so they do present a threat to Dallas’ offense.
Quinnen Williams is one of the top five defensive linemen in the NFL and he can wreck a game plan single handedly. The stud DT had a career-high 12 sacks last year on his way to becoming an All-Pro and he has help on the edges with young pass rushers Jermaine Johnson, rookie Will McDonald, and veteran DE John Franklin-Meyers. Lining up next to Williams is Quinton Jefferson, who picked up two sacks in Week 1.
The Jets defense had five sacks of Bills QB Josh Allen last week, who is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the league, so they’ll put pressure on Prescott. If the Cowboys offensive line can hold up and keep Prescott upright for most of the game, it will go a long way to helping Dallas come away victorious.
Stop the dynamic RB duo
The Jets won’t have their future Hall of Fame quarterback, but they do have a great tandem at running back. Veteran Dalvin Cook and second-year RB Breece Hall will challenge the Cowboys’ rushing defense that has been one of their weaknesses in recent years.
In Week 1, Dallas did struggle early at keeping Saquon Barkley in check before settling in, and the Jets have a duo better than the Giants. Hall is coming off an ACL injury suffered last year but showed no ill-effects by running for 127 yards on just 10 carries against the Bills. Despite returning from missing most of last season, Hall demonstrated that he still has his burst, breaking off two long runs in his first action back. Hall had runs of 26 and 83-yards in Week 1, so the Cowboys will need to limit the explosive plays on the ground.
Cook, meanwhile, led the team in carries last week but didn’t have the same success. However, the former Minnesota Vikings standout is coming off four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is averaging over 4.4 yards per carry throughout his career.
With the Jets leaning more on the running game without Rodgers, the Dallas defense will need to slow down a dangerous rushing attack.
Limit Garrett Wilson
The Jets don’t sport a deep group at wide receiver, but they do have one of the best young wideouts in the game in Wilson. The second-year WR is the biggest threat to the passing game and he’s the only receiver with much of a connection to reinserted QB Zach Wilson.
Wilson had 83 catches for 1,103 yards as a rookie, most of which came with Wilson under center, so he has the most experience with the current signal caller. The rest of the New York WR room doesn’t have a regular season catch with Wilson throwing them the ball, so the chemistry might not be there yet.
The Jets have capable veteran receivers including former Cowboy Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, and Mecole Hardman, but none have played with Wilson, while Cobb and Lazard specifically had a history with Rodgers.
The biggest threat in the passing game for the Jets is Wilson, who is on his way to becoming an elite WR. Cornerbacks DaRon Bland, Stephone Gilmore, and Trevon Diggs will need to limit the output from the young, talented receiver and stop Zach Wilson from having a security blanket.
Pressure Zach Wilson
Dan Quinn’s defense made it difficult for Daniel Jones to play quarterback in last week’s season opener, sacking him seven times. This week, Dallas gets the chance to continue the rough start to Wilson’s career after New York made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2021.
Wilson has a losing record through 2+ seasons and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns through his first 23 games. That’s a perfect combination for a defense that takes the ball away at the best rate in the league. The Cowboys led by the dynamic pass rusher Micah Parsons must be licking their chops to attack a QB who routinely makes bad decisions and has taken 69 sacks throughout his career.
If the Cowboys’ defense can pressure Wilson, it’ll be tough to see the Jets winning this game, as the former BYU standout has shown no ability to handle the heat.
Do you foresee the Cowboys claiming their Week 1 clash against New York? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.