Lions vs. Cowboys Week 11 Scouting Report: Dak Prescott challenge
When the Lions have the ball
For anyone wondering what life without Matthew Stafford would be like for the Lions, they got a clear look this past Sunday. It’s not pretty.
Jeff Driskel certainly wasn’t dreadful in relief of the Lions’ starter, but the dropoff in talent and arm strength is so stark, that the Lions’ most potent weapon, their downfield passing attack, was effectively neutralized with Stafford stuck on the sideline. They completed just one pass of over 25 yards, a 47-yard touchdown to wideout Kenny Golladay, his league-leading eighth scoring catch of the year.
There is no timetable for Stafford’s return, though it seems unlikely to come this week, as he did not practice on Wednesday, as per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Dallas surrenders the sixth-fewest passing yards in the NFL, so the Lions will likely need to focus on stretching drives out with dump-offs, screens, and solid downfield blocking.
Dallas’ pass defense is boosted by a solid group of cornerbacks led by Pro Bowler Byron Jones, who continues to excel in his second full season at corner after switching from safety. The Cowboys have just four interceptions on the year but are strong in coverage, and likely aren’t too concerned about Driskel challenging them on many deep shots.
Up front, the Cowboys are led by edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, who has just 4.5 sacks thus far but generates copious amounts of pressure by himself and is a strong run defender. He has been aided immensely by the arrival of veteran Robert Quinn, who leads the team with 7.5 sacks. Expect both to see time against Lions left tackle Taylor Decker, whose play has been steadily improving throughout the season. Tyrell Crosby figures to start at right tackle for the Lions with starter Rick Wagner in concussion protocol.
The Lions’ running game continues to be non-threatening, though they were able to scrape together 98 yards on the ground against the Bears, their third-highest total of the year. 37 of those yards, however, came on scrambles by Driskel. Predicting which tailback gets the majority of the hand offs on Sunday is very cloudy.
Rookie Ty Johnson left last week’s game with a concussion and seems doubtful to suit up this week. J.D. McKissic has been productive in spurts but likely isn’t suited to carry the ball more than a dozen times in a game and Paul Perkins is averaging just 2.2 yards per attempt. Keep an eye on recent practice squad addition Bo Scarborough, who could be called up to the active roster out of pure desperation and attrition.
The Cowboys’ run defense ranks right in the middle of the league, surrendering 103 yards per contest, as well as 4.2 yards per attempt. Any gains that the Lions can make running the ball will be a positive development. However if the Lions face an early deficit, the Cowboys figure to put extra defenders in the box to force Driskel to beat them with his arm, something he couldn’t do last week.