By Zach Walker
Dallas Cowboys vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday – November 9 – 12:00 pm
Wembley Stadium – London
Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
RB/OW Denard Robinson – The Jaguars were so confident in what they were getting when they drafted Robinson, a year ago in the fifth round, that they invented a new position for him, offensive weapon. That’s just about the coolest thing a player can be designated, but the “No-Fun-League” shut down his designation. The defense and Robinson are the reason why they grabbed their lone win on the season against the Browns. Robinson was used in relief of the genuinely ineffective Toby Gerhart, but Robinson got his shot in the Browns game, and has not looked back. Robinson has 57 carries for 329 yards, for a 5.7 yards per gain in his time as the primary offensive weapon. Denard is about 15 pounds lighter than DeMarco Murray, but he has the same kind of vision and patience to a damn effective running back in the league.
Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
Safety JJ Wilcox – Really, all JJ Wilcox needs to do, is keep stacking these solid games together. If everyone will keep in mind that Wilcox is still learning the safety position, then the last two games will look like art. Barry Church had a bad game against Washington, but JJ Wilcox had probably had his best, seven solo tackles and an interception in the endzone to rob a touchdown. And against the Cardinals, Wilcox had six tackles and looked very solid in coverage during a game where the entire defense kept the game close for the offense. If Wilcox can continue to stack these good games together, while Barry Church puts that Washington game further in his rear view, the Cowboys back-end defense could be a very formidable pairing going forward into the serious grind of the Cowboys schedule.
Which group will give the Cowboys fits?
The Jaguars Wide Receivers – Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee. If these names aren’t recognizable and are wondering where these guys came from, the short answer is college. Three of the top four wide receiver options are rookies, two second round picks (Lee and Robinson) and an undrafted free agent rookie in Allen Hurns. Lee, from USC, didn’t play much into the Cincinnati game and is listed as questionable for this game. Allen Robinson, from Penn State, seems to be more of the possession receiver on the field, because of his receptions-to-targets percentage of around 60%. But the real breakout is Allen Hurns, formerly of the U. Hurns is tied for first among rookies for touchdown catches, and his average of 16 yards per catch is best on the team, and is alone at the top of the rookie receiver’s charts of plays of 40+ yards, so he’s got the jets needed to separate. Lost among the young blood is Cecil Shorts, who hasn’t been the same player that he was when Chad Henne was under center. Blake Bortles has taken some heat for his interceptions, but his completion percentage is better than Russell Wilson’s, who has thrown basically the same amount of passes, Wilson is 152 of 242 passes, while Bortles is 154 of 241 passes, so let him grow, he’ll be alright.
Which group will give the Jaguars fits?
The Cowboys balance – “Balance” is such an ugly word, because what balance really means effectiveness of the offense plays. For instance, if the passing game can’t do anything against the Cardinals, then forty carries a game just doesn’t seem like enough to balance out the ineptitude. The Cowboys before the Washington game were very “balanced,” the run game was rolling and imposing their will, and the passing attack was precise and calibrated. Washington got the offense off the tracks with hammering the door open and unraveling the balance to their offense. This game against the Jaguars is going to be a recalibration before the bye week, like a spell-check, get everything looking tidy and buttoned up to cover up those errors that are apparent. Tony Romo is going to play, because HE wants to play, he isn’t being forced, prematurely, back into action. If Doug Free and Ron Leary get back into the action, the offense is going to look like they did when they were winning. The biggest benefit to Romo coming back is Dez Bryant, this game is his renaissance, and he needs it after the past two forgettable performances.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Doing what they are supposed to do, win. I’m a fan of what the Jaguars are doing, getting younger, enthusiastic coaching staff, there’s really a lot to like, but let’s face it, a team wouldn’t be giving up these home games to play in London, if the product was good. The Cowboys need to beat these Jaguars in convincing fashion, whether that’s the score, which I doubt that’ll happen, but in the way they get the win. Getting the defense off the field on third downs, converting those same third downs on offense, getting Murray and Dez and the offense back to the standard they set for themselves.
Prediction: Dallas 35 – Jacksonville 14: With Romo returning, the offense is going look good, and the weapons are going to want to fire off, so Dez is going to try and break every tackle. If the defense can do to the Jaguars, what they did to the Cardinals, there’s a possibility that they donut the Jaguars.