NFL AM: Young Cowboys Have Winning Formula


Dallas Is Playing To Their Strengths

The Dallas Cowboys season was written off by most in late August when quarterback Tony Romo’s back injury sidelined him for the foreseeable future.  With backup quarterback Kellen Moore already lost for the season with a broken leg, Dallas turned to rookie fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who carried over his massive amount of confidence from a brilliant preseason.

“It’s been a great start for him, and he’s excited about it,” Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo said of the fourth-round pick back in the preseason. “You just keep building on it every day, but you can’t ask for a better start.”

“I think and expect us to play winning football with him as the quarterback,” team owner Jerry Jones said of Prescott. “I think we’ll win games with him.”

Head coach Jason Garrett, a career backup quarterback himself during his playing days, has brilliantly simplified the Cowboys playbook.  The team hasn’t asked Prescott to do too much and he’s played brilliantly, as he has navigated the team to a 3-1 start and hasn’t thrown an interception through his first 131 pass attempts, an NFL rookie record.

“He’s got a gift of being very calm and his preparation,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “It felt like the next-man-up thing even though he’s a young guy – just felt so natural because he stepped in there. He was like, ‘I’m ready for this so let’s go, don’t change a thing, I’ll get ready each day’ and had that approach. It’s been impressive.”

The Cowboys are playing a beautiful, smash-mouth brand of football which not only takes a lot of the responsibility off the young quarterback’s shoulders, but it also “hides” a pretty sub-mediocre defense.

As much as Garrett gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong for the Cowboys, it’s time that he gets credit for taking lemons and making lemonade.

Another Dallas rookie, first round pick Ezekiel Elliot is playing a major role in the Cowboys newfound “ground and pound” offense.  Elliot is on pace for a 1,600+ yard season and he’s been over 100 yards and scored in each of the team’s last two victories.

“Oh, I love it. I love the Zeke chants,” Elliott said. “That’s something I’m used to from Ohio State. Actually, in the national championship when we won, the last touchdown I scored we were on the goal line and everyone knew I was going to get the ball and the whole AT&T Stadium was chanting Zeke. I love it.”

Elliot is one of those rare, punishing runners that always falls forward and gets extra yardage, similar to an Eddie George.

“He’s powerful. He’s got good jukes. He has great timing,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “If you break it down, these last four weeks you’re seeing his trust in timing.

“The patience you always talk about, when you need to put your head down and just hit it and when you need to kind of slow and let it open up. That’s the feel. That’s the genius in the running back. He’s explosive, and he’s a powerful back. And then he’s tough to tackle when he’s one-on-one and he gets through that front line.”

Dallas is a flawed team, but they’re playing smart football.  They’re only a few plays away from being 4-0 and that’s impressive considering the injuries and roster they have.

Has The Paxton Lynch Era Begun?

In what was somewhat of a surprise when Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak named Trevor Siemian the starting quarterback for the season opener.  It was more of a surprise when Siemian played well enough to lead the team to three wins to start the year.

The former seventh-round pick from Northwestern was beginning to make a name for himself after he led Denver to a comeback victory over Cincinnati just eight days ago.

“I don’t know, I think we knew we were playing a really good front,” Siemian said. “… It was going to be tough to run the ball, we kind of anticipated that going in … [I] think we were aggressive all game long. And that’s how you have to be against teams like this.”

During Sunday’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Siemian fell hard on his left shoulder and was forced to leave the game, opening the door for 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch to take over.  Siemian was diagnosed with an AC sprain and although he was available to re-enter the game, the Broncos rode with Lynch.

The question is: Are the Broncos going to go with Paxton Lynch full-time?

Lynch was selected to be the future of the franchise and he looked very good coming into a road game where he had limited reps during the week.  The former Memphis Tiger completed 14 of 24 throws, for 170 yards and a touchdown.  Most importantly, he looked confident and the Denver offense didn’t have to change.  In fact, Kubiak was able to call more bootleg rollouts which Lynch executed to near perfection.

Should Denver make the change to the rookie now? 

It’s tough to lose your job to an injury, but Siemian’s starting job was always going to be a temporary arrangement.  He doesn’t have the elite arm strength that Lynch does or the pedigree of being a collegiate star.

Siemian did a great job of “holding down the fort,” but it looks like Lynch is ready to take over and the team will rally behind whoever is under center.



About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.