Game preview: Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars

Sep 8, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) and running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) in action during the game between the Cowboys and the Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game preview: Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars


Dallas Cowboys (10-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8)

Game time: Sunday, noon CST

TV/radio: FOX / SiriusXM 382, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande

What’s at stake: The Cowboys continue to chase the Eagles for the NFC East crown. So, a loss to Jacksonville with only four games left would probably end all hopes Dallas has of winning a second straight division title. However, a win and the Cowboys clinch a playoff berth and stay within at least two games of the Eagles, with a showdown against Philadelphia in Dallas on Christmas Eve still on the schedule.

When the Cowboys have the ball: While the Jaguars’ defense is middle of the road at best, they do have the league’s top tackler in linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. The Cowboys will be attacking the Jacksonville defense with a revamped offensive line, with the possible return of left tackle Tyron Smith and the loss of right tackle Terrence Steele. Dallas will just have to decide whether Smith checks back into the lineup at left tackle, where rookie Tyler Smith has started every game this season. Smith could slot in at right tackle for Steele, or the Cowboys could elect to move Tyler Smith or veteran Jason Peters into the right tackle spot. They will need to find a combination that works to keep one of the NFL’s best offenses running smoothly.

When the Jaguars have the ball: Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence is one of the game’s young stars. After a year lost in the abyss of the Urban Meyer disaster, Lawrence has found his game under the leadership of first-year Jags head coach Doug Pederson. Lawrence has completed 303 of 458 passes for 3,202 yards, with 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Christian Kirk leads all receivers with 874 yards on 67 catches and seven touchdowns. In the ground game, it is Travis Etienne Jr. and nobody else. Etienne has rushed for 814 yards on 163 carries this season but has only found the end zone four times. He is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, which could give the Cowboys run defense, which ranks 23rd in the NFL and just lost DT Jonathan Hankins last week some troubles.  

Key Cowboys to watch:

CB Trayvon Mullen – After losing Anthony Brown for the rest of the season and watching Trevon Diggs get banged up last week, the Cowboys opted to sign the veteran Mullen after he was released by the Cardinals. He played in eight games for Arizona this season, where he recorded just 13 tackles, one quarterback hit, one pass defensed, and one forced fumble. Mullen was a second-round pick out of Clemson by the Raiders in 2019. He went on to start 31 games in three seasons in Oakland/Las Vegas before moving to the desert this season. Mullen gives the Cowboys veteran depth after the losses of starters Brown and Jourdan Lewis earlier in the season.

WR T.Y. Hilton – After flirting with Odell Beckham Jr. for a couple of weeks, the Cowboys signed Hilton, who is ready to help immediately. Hilton’s career, all with the Indianapolis Colts, spanned 10 seasons, 143 games, 631 catches, 9,691 yards, 53 touchdowns, and 42 40-plus yard catches. He is the exact veteran presence the Cowboys need at the wide receiver position. Hilton can stretch the field, which is something that has been lacking all season. Hilton’s addition was perfect timing, as the former Colt has played 19 times against the Jags, with 81 catches for 1,279 yards and five touchdowns.

OL Jason Peters – The Cowboys signed Peters in September, and since, the 19-year veteran has gotten into just six games playing 127 snaps, mostly at left tackle and left guard. But with the injury to right tackle Terrence Steele, Peters finds himself in a mix, along with Tyron Smith and Josh Ball, to take the snaps at right tackle. While averaging just 15 snaps in his six games, Peters got a season-high 27 snaps in the win over Indianapolis. After spelling left tackle Tyler Smith for a few plays early in the game, Peters took over for Ball at right tackle for the Cowboys’ game-winning 12-play drive.

OL Tyron Smith – Smith will be suited up for the first time this season when the Cowboys kickoff in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon. However, the question remains just where will the Cowboys’ all-pro left tackle line up? With Tyler Smith playing so well this season at left tackle, the Cowboys could choose to leave him there and insert Tyron Smith into the lineup at right tackle, where they have an immediate need. But, if they want to put Tyron Smith back at the only position he has played as a professional, then Tyler Smith could move to left guard and Connor McGovern would come out of the lineup, and the Cowboys would solve the right tackle issue with Josh Ball or Jason Peters. One way or the other, Tyron Smith will be back on the field Sunday.

The bottom line: No time for letdowns; the Cowboys are trying to chase down the Philadelphia Eagles for a second-straight NFC East title. Jacksonville, with its improved offense, which is loaded with young weapons, including running back Travis Etienne Jr., will be a real test for a Cowboys defense that has had trouble stopping the run this season. If the Cowboys’ new additions mesh with the players they have been relying on all season, anything less than a victory will sting, with a showdown against Philly next on the schedule.

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