Cowboys Blitz staff writers Jonah Tuls and Cami Griffin have started a new series of JAM sessions (Jonah and Cam combined. . . get it?) to deliver each week. In the second JAM session below, we discuss the upcoming NFC East battle in Week 8, along with which players are deserving of midseason awards up to this point.
Cami: It seems as if everyone outside of the Dallas Cowboys organization is gossiping over which quarterback to start and why. Since we know the players nor coaches are entertaining that until Tony Romo is fully healthy, lets take a look ahead to Week 8 where the Cowboys will take on the 4-2 Philadelphia Eagles for the first time this season. In a resurging NFC East division that now leaves minimal room for error, what worries you the most about this new Philadelphia defense?
Jonah: Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers. That’s easily what worries me most about this new Jim Schwartz defense. One of the reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday is because they forced four turnovers. Although Dallas has been one of the league leaders in limiting their number of turnovers on offense, I have a feeling Dak Prescott is going to hit the ‘rookie wall’ in this game. In fact, we started to see some of those mistakes from Prescott last week against Green Bay. If the Packers were able to capitalize on those turnovers, the Cowboys may be looking at a 4-2 record today. With that being said, just how important is it for this Cowboys defense to force turnovers on the Eagles offense led by Carson Wentz?
Cami: I believe every game is important in terms of forcing turnovers, but this matchup with the Eagles is crucial considering what’s at stake for the NFC East standings. When you’re up against a rookie quarterback, you obviously want to bring the pressure and make them uncomfortable in the pocket. However, the Cowboys aren’t known for that so far this season so i’m interested to see how Marinelli plans to contain Wentz. If Wentz can take off running, Dallas may be in trouble. Up to this point, they’ve sat back and covered extremely well in the secondary and have simply hoped for the best with their few under-the-radar defensive lineman up front. Dallas was able to force Eli Manning into throwing an interception in Week 1, but still lost by one point. Wentz now has three interceptions on the season and has thrown into quadruple coverage at times. Even with the two interception performance from Wentz in Week 7, they were still able to defeat the Vikings. This is a well-coached Eagles team. I believe the Cowboys secondary can continue their success with an interception or two on Sunday, I’m just worried about the Cowboys offense protecting the ball on the flip side. Now that we’re nearly halfway through the season, who are your Cowboys offensive and defensive MVP’s of the season thus far?
Jonah: The offensive MVP has to be Ezekiel Elliott. He was drafted to help this team win now, and he has done just that by leading the league with 703 rushing yards. The only other player in history to rush for more yards in their first six games is Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson. Beyond just carrying the football, Elliott’s play has allowed Dallas to control the game flow and keep their defense off of the field as much as possible. Elliott makes Prescott and the players around him look better because of how much attention he gets on a weekly basis, and without him, this team is not even close to a 5-1 record. On the defensive side of the ball, my vote is for Morris Claiborne. This has been the first healthy season of Claiborne’s scrutinized career up to this point, and he is finally delivering on the lofty investment Dallas made when they drafted him sixth overall in the 2012 NFL draft. Midway through the season, I cannot name five cornerbacks who are playing better football than “Airplane Mo.” He has emerged as a legitimate shutdown corner in 2016, and if he can sustain this clean bill of health, he will get paid like one in the offseason. Team MVP’s are recognized for their spectacular play each week, but who are the unsung heroes who play a major role on this team, but may not receive the attention they deserve?
Cami: I have to go with the wide receivers group as a whole. Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys dominant offensive line have all received their fair share of credit, but what the receivers have done without Dez Bryant on the field for several weeks has been impressive. In particular, Terrance Williams deserves a lot more credit than what he’s getting. Many only remember Williams this season due to the mistake of not getting out of bounds in Week 1, but everything about his play has since improved. His route running looks better, but his blocking has been phenomenal. Brice Butler has come down with some game-changing receptions while filling in for Bryant when it mattered, and Cole Beasley is set to have the best season of his career while currently on pace for over 1,000 receiving yards. That’s not even to mention Lucky Whitehead, whose sweeps have been extremely successful thus far. Other than the wide receivers, a close second would be safety Byron Jones on the defensive side of the ball.