The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t have had a better start to the season, as they blew out the New York Giants by 40 on the road. Astonishingly, the Cowboys haven’t beaten the New York Jets for 16 years, but they’ll be expected to take care of business against a Jets team reeling from the news that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss the entire season following an Achilles tear. According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cowboys are favored by 9 points in this game.
Dak Prescott is regarded as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but he hasn’t been to a Pro Bowl since 2018, and he led the NFL in interceptions in 2022. Can he have success against the Jets’ talented secondary?
In the Giants game, Prescott connected on a 49-yard catch and run to CeeDee Lamb, but otherwise didn’t have a single 20-yard completion. Essentially, the Cowboys - who took a 16-0 lead with touchdowns on special teams and defense - didn’t need to air it out much.
The backup is Cooper Rush, but they’re also developing Trey Lance, whom they traded for in the offseason. Rush is 5-1 as a starter over the past two years.
Dallas has some injury issues at guard, with Tyler Smith listed as doubtful after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. Zack Martin, who did play in week one, missed some practice time with a groin injury, but is expected to start at right guard despite being listed as questionable.
In week one, former Jet Chuma Edoga started at left guard and Dallas had good success overall as they rushed for 122 yards and gave up no sacks and just three quarterback hits.
The line is anchored by Martin, a six-time All Pro, left tackle Tyron Smith, an eight-time Pro Bowler, and center Tyler Biadasz, who was a first-time Pro Bowler last season.
Terence Steele is the other starter at right tackle. He gave up just one sack in 13 starts last year.
Two rookies, the undrafted TJ Bass and fifth round rookie Asim Richards, will be on standby.
Dallas has also had to elevate the inexperienced Brock Hoffman from their practice squad to provide depth for the second game in a row. He has played in just four NFL games with no starts.
Dallas had one of the league’s best one-two punches last year with Tony Pollard gradually overtaking Ezekiel Elliott as their best back. Elliott is now with the Patriots, so Rico Dowdle and sixth round rookie Deuce Vaughn provide the depth.
Pollard had the first thousand-yard season of his career last year. He also caught 39 passes for a career-high 371 yards. Pollard got off to a good start last week with 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Dowdle lacks experience but did a solid job, averaging four yards per carry as the number two back in week one. Vaughn was held to eight yards on six carries in his debut.
Undrafted rookie fullback Hunter Luepke played just four offensive snaps in his own debut last weekend.
Dallas has good talent at the wide receiver positions, led by CeeDee Lamb, who had 107 catches for over 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns last season. That gave him his second straight thousand-yard season and Pro Bowl appearance.
Michael Gallup, who had a thousand-yard season of his own in 2019, has seen his production drop off in the past few seasons, but Dallas strengthened their ranks by bringing in Brandin Cooks. The veteran has had thousand-yard seasons with four different teams so far in his career. Could Dallas be a fifth?
Cooks missed some practice time during the week and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Dallas is looking to expand the role of KaVontae Turpin this year after the former USFL MVP went to a Pro Bowl as a return specialist last season. In week one, he contributed 25 yards and a touchdown on five touches. You may see him in the backfield or on jet sweeps.
The rest of their rotation lacks experience. Jalen Tolbert has just two career catches and seventh round rookie Jalen Brooks has yet to make his NFL debut.
At tight end, the Cowboys lost Dalton Schultz, who had almost 200 catches and 17 touchdown catches over the past three seasons, in free agency. Jake Ferguson is now their starter with Peyton Hendershot backing him up. The pair caught just 30 passes between them last season.
Dallas has high hopes for second round rookie Luke Schoonmaker, who they drafted to replace Schultz long-term, but he did not catch a pass against the Giants.
The Cowboys have a deep and talented group of pass rushers, much like the Jets, and they caused chaos in the opener as they racked up seven sacks.
The best of these is two-time All Pro Micah Parsons, who had 13.5 sacks last season, but he’s actually listed as a linebacker as he plays a versatile role.
At defensive end, DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong are listed as the starters. Lawrence, who went to his third Pro Bowl last season, hasn’t had double-digit sacks since 2018, but he is still a very good player. Armstrong had 8.5 sacks last season and got off to a good start with two in Sunday’s game.
Veteran Dante Fowler and last year’s second round pick Sam Williams provide depth off the bench, but fourth round rookie defensive end Viliami Fehoko was inactive during last week’s game.
Johnathan Hankins and Osa Odighizuwa are the starters on the inside, although reserves Chauncey Golston and Neville Gallimore got more snaps than either of them last week as the Cowboys made the most of the opportunity to rotate. Odighizuwa had two sacks against the Giants, but the group as a whole doesn’t always hold up against the run.
First round rookie Mazi Smith also saw action in last week’s game and the team will look to increase his role going forwards.
As noted, Micah Parsons is the Cowboys’ star linebacker, but he’s really more of an edge defender for them and will be someone the Jets need to ensure they account for.
Veteran Leighton Vander Esch and Damone Clark play most of the reps off the ball. Clark started five games as a rookie last year while Vander Esch had 90 tackles despite missing three games.
Devin Harper should be active to provide depth and special teams contributions off the bench, but Dallas lost third round rookie DeMarvion Overshown to a torn ACL in preseason.
The Dallas secondary is led by Trevon Diggs, who went to the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row in 2022. While his interception count dropped from 11 in 2021 to just three last year, he arguably had a more consistent season overall, because he has a reputation for gambling and giving up big plays as a result.
Veteran Stephon Gilmore is the other starter outside while DaRon Bland is the nickelback. Bland had five interceptions last season and a pick-six to open this season against the Giants.
The Cowboys’ depth chart lists three starters at safety - Donovan Wilson, Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker. However, Wilson - their leading tackler last season - missed the opener with a calf injury and is listed as doubtful for Sunday.
Kearse and Hooker are both in their third season with the team. Hooker intercepted three passes last season.
With Wilson out, Juanyeh Thomas made the start, as the Cowboys opened up against the Giants in a three safety set. The easy win gave them a good chance to give Thomas plenty of playing time along with reserves Israel Mukuamu and Markquese Bell, a former cornerback and former linebacker respectively. Bell led the team in tackles and forced a fumble in the opener.
In terms of cornerback depth, Jourdan Lewis and sixth round rookie Eric Scott were both inactive against the Giants, but recent addition Noah Igbinoghene, a former first round pick, saw some action.
Punter Bryan Anger returns for his third year with the Cowboys. He was a Pro Bowler with them back in 2021.
Kicker Brandon Aubrey is the Cowboys’ new kicker, and his missed extra point on his first NFL kick was about the only thing that went wrong in their win over the Giants. He settled down and made his other six kicks though.
As noted, Turpin was a Pro Bowler as a return man last season. He didn’t score a touchdown, but he averaged over 10 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kickoff return.
In kick coverage, Dallas actually lost nearly all of their most productive players from last year’s team, although CJ Goodwin is their best gunner and he has been elevated from the practice squad for the second week in a row. Tolbert, the other gunner, had one special teams tackle on Sunday. Hendershot was also productive last year.
In the opener, Dallas scored a special teams touchdown when Thomas blocked a Graham Gano field goal and Igbinoghene scooped it up and ran it in.