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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Dallas Cowboys

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas has lost two games in a row, after a 3-0 start that saw them take care of three weak teams. They lost 12-10 to the Drew Brees-less Saints and lost by 10 to the Packers last week. Can they keep the Jets winless on the road to stop the slide?

Quarterbacks

The pressure is on for Dak Prescott to keep playing at a high level, as he’s on the verge of signing a big-money extension. This year, the two-time pro bowler has completed a career-high 70 percent of his passes and has posted a career-best average yards per attempt of 9.4. However, he’s also posted the highest interception rate of his career with six in five games.

Prescott is a constant threat with his legs, having rushed for six touchdowns in each of his first three seasons.

The backup is youngster Cooper Rush who has only thrown three passes in his career.

Offensive Line

Much like the Eagles, Dallas has a strong offensive line with plenty of pro bowl-level talent. However, they’re a little banged up at the moment with starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins each having missed every practice this week and guard Zack Martin having been limited with a back issue. Smith and Collins have been listed as questionable but Martin returned to full practice on Friday and should play.

Travis Frederick is back at center having missed all of last year through injury and last year’s second round pick Connor Williams rounds out the starting line-up at left guard. He started 10 games in his rookie year.

The offensive line has performed well so far with the team averaging over five yards per carry and having allowed just six sacks. Smith missed the last game though and former New England Patriot Cameron Fleming was a downgrade in his place. Collins was also knocked out of the last game, forcing undrafted rookie Brandon Knight into the line-up.

Former second rounder Xavier Sua-Filo and fourth rounder Joe Looney provide experience off the bench but backup center Adam Redmond has never started an NFL game.

Running Backs

The Cowboys’ running game is built around two-time pro bowler Ezekiel Elliott, who already has just shy of 500 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns after having led the league in rushing for the second time last year.

Fourth round rookie Tony Pollard is the only backup but he’s contributed well so far, averaging just under five yards per carry in a reserve role.

Jamize Olawale is listed as the fullback, but doesn’t get many reps in the Cowboys’ system.

Receivers

Amari Cooper had a big impact after being acquired from the Raiders last year and he’s followed that up this season. Cooper is averaging over 100 receiving yards per game through five weeks.

Michael Gallup caught 33 passes last season but he’s already increased his production following the departure of Cole Beasley. Gallup has 20 catches for 339 yards.

Veteran Randall Cobb was added to the mix and has 17 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown so far. Cobb has been dealing with a hip injury, though, and is listed as questionable.

Diminutive speedster Tavon Austin adds another dimension to the offense, but he hasn’t done much so far this year. The other main reserve is former Jets’ bust Devin Smith who had a monster preseason but has just five catches so far this year. One of those was a 51-yard touchdown though.

Cedrick Wilson Jr. and undrafted rookie Ventrell Bryant are also on the roster, but yet to catch a pass this year.

At tight end, Jason Witten came out of retirement during the offseason and has 17 catches including two touchdowns already.

Reserve Blake Jarwin has 35 catches since the start of last season but third-stringer Dalton Schultz is more of a blocking specialist.

Defensive Line

At defensive end, DeMarcus Lawrence, who signed a big-money extension in the offseason, has 2.5 sacks after having posted 10.5 in 2018. The dependable Tyrone Crawford is listed as the other starter.

However, Robert Quinn is now back in the line-up after serving a suspension at the start of the year. He had two sacks against the Saints and another one last week.

Along with Crawford, the Cowboys have last year’s fourth round pick Torance Armstrong, this year’s fifth rounder Joe Jackson and former Jets cast-off Kerry Hyder.

Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods are the starters at defensive tackle. Woods is more of a space-stuffing run defender while Collins is a disruptor who contributes in the pass rush.

Second round rookie Trysten Hill provides depth along with former Texan Christian Covington. Crawford also plays inside sometimes.

Linebackers

The Cowboys have one of the top linebacker units in the league, even though former pro bowler Sean Lee is past his prime at 33 years old. 2018 pro bowler Leighton Vander Esch has missed some practices due to illness this week but returned to full practice on Friday. Jaylon Smith, who had a breakout season last year, is the other starter.

Vander Esch was third in the league with 140 tackles last season, but Smith is leading the team so far this year.

Joe Thomas is their primary backup at linebacker, but Justin March and undrafted rookie Luke Gifford have yet to contribute.

Defensive Backs

Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones are the starting cornerbacks with Jones coming off a pro bowl season. Awuzie has the only interception so far this year for the Cowboys, but leads them with three penalties.

Anthony Brown is the primary slot cornerback and has been playing a lot, as he averages about 50 snaps per game. CJ Goodwin and Jourdan Lewis provide depth off the bench.

At safety, Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods return as the starting strong safety and free safety respectively. Darien Thompson is the third safety but the Cowboys don’t generally use any three-safety sets. Sixth round rookie Donovan Wilson rounds out the rotation.

Special Teams

Chris Jones is back as the team’s punter for the ninth straight year, while Brett Maher - a former Jets undrafted free agent - returns as the kicker. Jones is having a solid year but Maher has missed three of his seven field goal attempts.

The Cowboys haven’t had much success in the return game so far with Pollard on kicks. Austin, Cobb and Wilson have all fielded punts.

In coverage, Thomas, Goodwin and Olawale are among their main contributors. Olawale led them with 12 tackles last season.