Dallas has a knack for giving home fans plenty to cheer for so far this season.
Although the Cowboys have been a punching bag on the road, they’ve been difficult to beat inside AT&T Stadium, where they return for a 3:25 CT kickoff against the Jaguars on Sunday.
Two weeks ago, Dallas tallied season highs with 26 points and 414 yards in a victory over the Lions. But the Cowboys haven’t been anywhere near that effective on offense on the road.
Dallas right guard Zack Martin and wide receiver Allen Hurns each indicated in locker room interviews on Tuesday that communication and cohesiveness need to get better for the whole offense, especially on the road.
However, Martin also said there’s time for the Cowboys to raise their level.
“The season is still early,” Martin said. “We have a long way to go, a really long way to go. We know how this thing works, and it’s a long season. So you can’t dwell on the past.”
SERIES HISTORY: 7th regular-season meeting. Series tied 3-3. The Jaguars come into the league the same season that the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl — 1995. But Dallas didn’t face Jacksonville for the first time until 1997, when the Cowboys claimed a 26-22 victory in Dallas.
BY THE NUMBERS: 356 – The Cowboys’ average yards in two home wins this season. That’s more than 75 yards per game more than Dallas has managed in three road losses. The Cowboys rank 25th in the NFL at 307.8 total yards per game.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TE Geoff Swaim caught 3 passes for 55 yards against the Texans, following up his 3 catches for 39 yards and first career TD the previous week against the Lions. Swaim, with 14 receptions for 159 yards on the season, is now Dallas’s third-leading pass-catcher behind WR Cole Beasley and RB Ezekiel Elliott. That’s not enough to make the Cowboys stop missing Jason Witten, but Swaim qualifies as a bright spot for the Dallas passing game.
GAME PLAN: The Cowboys’ stunted development in the passing game means they can’t depend on Dak Prescott picking apart opposing defenses, especially a group as accomplished as the Jaguars’ secondary. So Dallas needs to get creative by involving Tavon Austin in the running game and a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott and the tight ends in the passing game. The Cowboys have kick started Elliott at home and mixed in big plays through the air. They’ll need more of the same against Jacksonville.
On defense, it could be a simple matter of whether or not Demarcus Lawrence and company can rack up a few more sacks. T.J. Yeldon has done a good job of compiling yards both as a runner and receiver, but the Cowboys have shown the ability to take away opponents’ running games. If they do that again, it will be up to Blake Bortles to burn Dallas by hitting receivers, or the Cowboys to drop him.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
-- Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence vs. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. Lawrence was the NFL sack leader before he was shut out on Sunday in Houston. In fact, Lawrence had just one assisted tackle against the Texans. Lawrence and his defensive line teammates nicknamed themselves the Hot Boyz during training camp, but they were more on the mild side against the Texans. The Cowboys defensive front has to get after Bortles to disrupt the Jaguars passing game for Dallas to have a chance of staying unbeaten at home this season.
-- Cowboys QB Dak Prescott vs. Jaguars defensive backs. Prescott threw two interceptions versus the Texans, both on balls that were slightly off target and then tipped up for defenders to snatch. Those two turnovers proved to be a huge factor in the overtime loss as one stopped a potential scoring drive in Texans territory and the other led to a Houston field goal. The task gets more difficult for Prescott this week as the Jaguars rank third in the NFL in pass defense. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who picked off four passes last season on his way to All-Pro honors, leads the Jacksonville secondary. The Jaguars DBs have the potential to make life even more miserable for the Dallas passing game.