Big plays a concern as Dallas shuffles secondary

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones (7) hauls in a reception for a run and score against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph (1) during the third quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jaguars edged the Dallas Cowboys 40-34 in overtime. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] Jki 121822 Cowboys Jags Cp 66

Big plays a concern as Dallas shuffles secondary

For the first time this season, the Cowboys’ defense was overrun in the second half.

The Cowboys lost a 17-point lead while allowing the Jaguars’ offense to score three touchdowns and kick two field goals on just seven second-half possessions.

That included the game-tying 48-yard triple after allowing the Jags to move the ball 41 yards on seven plays in 61 seconds.

“They pushed us further than you want to go,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “When you lose a lead, for a team that really prides itself on the end of the game moments and to allow a game-tying field goal at the end, those one’s sting. That’s part of the game that we really do pride ourself in, and it’s been one of the strong parts that we’ve had. So, to allow a field goal at the end, when we got our chance to go nail it and close the door, those ones are the hardest. And you have to learn from them. It sucks when you’re going through it, but you do learn from them, and we certainly will from ours.”

It is the first time the Cowboys have given up more than 14 points in the second half, They surrendered 14 in another late meltdown at Lambeau Field, and just the fourth time this year they have allowed double-digit points in the final 30 minutes of regulation.

“We didn’t make enough plays,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Cowboys’ pass rush, which had just one sack in the game, allowed Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence time to sit in the pocket and pick apart a suspect secondary to the tune of 318 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jags seemed to hit on a big play every time the situation called for it, as well as several times when it didn’t. They ended with nine plays of 15 yards or more, including four of the five longest plays on the day – 59, 30, 30, and 27 yards.

“In that game (Sunday) that had a lot, a lot of big plays,” McCarthy said. “When we look at big plays, we chart them all throughout the game. (It’s) something I talk about at halftime every game. So, you are normally about 32ish big plays a game. History will tell you that there are more big plays in December for some reason. There were 42 big plays in that game (Sunday); that’s the highest of the year. And they made more than we did.”

In doing so, the Jaguars scored 27 points in the second half, including a pair of touchdown passes that torched Cowboys corner Kelvin Joseph, who was playing significant minutes after Anthony Brown was recently lost to a season-ending Achilles injury. Those two touchdowns helped the Jags to go from down two scores to up one in less than nine minutes.

Now, with Philadelphia up next on a short week, McCarthy and Quinn will have just a few days to find a solution for a defensive secondary that lacks a playmaker opposite Trevon Diggs.

They can either stay with Joseph, turn to 2021 third-round pick Nahshon Wright, or call up one of the three in-season signees – Trayvon Mullen, Kendall Sheffield, or Mackensie Alexander, from the practice squad.

“We have added some guys into that space,” Quinn said about the recent additions to the secondary. “And now, as we are moving on to train them into it, we could see some of that take place here over the next few weeks as we’re digging in to find that next space for everybody. But we’ve added Mullen, added Alexander, added Sheffield into it. We already had Nahshon here. So, finding ways, with K.J. already here, into that group of finding the best fit of how we want to do it. That’s really what this week is going to be about.”

Mullen has four interceptions in 31 starts in the NFL, all for the Raiders.

Alexander has three picks in 25 starts over six seasons for the Vikings and Bengals and is familiar with Cowboys Senior Defensive Assistant George Edwards from their days in Minnesota together.

Sheffield has no interceptions in 20 NFL starts, all with the Falcons, including 10 in 2019 when Quinn was the head coach.

Joseph, who has played the most snaps of the five this season with 164, was benched after 37 snaps on Sunday. Wright, who has played just 21 snaps on defense, came in and played 19 of those against Jacksonville. Mullen, Alexander, and Sheffield have yet to take a snap for the Cowboys.

“We have put in a lot of time to develop these guys and you really want to see them nail it,” Quinn said. “So, it is kind of an exciting time, too.”

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *