Welcome to the Week 4 edition of Big Harb’s Ballers. Well that finish sucked, didn’t it? For a 2nd straight week, the Cowboys offense could only play for one half. Unfortunately, this week the defense was mostly a no-show and the special teams were awful. That makes finding Baller-worthy players a much more difficult task but, Big Harb’s Ballers for Week 4 are DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant.
DeMarcus Lawrence did everything he could to help the Dallas Cowboys get a win on Sunday. He was routinely double-teamed and occasionally even triple-teamed to keep him off the stat sheet. There was some question after his first three weeks of production that he would fade into oblivion once offenses began to game plan to take him out of the game. Instead, he showed even more that he can be the “War Daddy” Jerry Jones was talking about all offseason.
Lawrence fought through all the extra attention he received from the Rams offense and was still able to make game-impacting plays. His strip sack showed both his athleticism and his growth as a player. He was blocked past the QB but was still able to reach back to knock the ball loose. Unfortunately, none of his linemates were close enough to fall on the ball. He is leading the league in sacks by two over the next closest player with 7.5, and his ability to demand an extra blocker is what can allow lesser players to affect the QB as well. That gives him four straight games with a sack and he was also effective against the run.
The concern for the Dallas defense moving forward is that no one else could make the Rams pay for doubling him. David Irving is coming back this week but fans shouldn’t be expecting him to make an immediate impact. Irving has never been a consistent performer and it may take a game or two for him to knock off the rust of his 4-week, unpaid vacation. In the meantime, Lawrence will have to do his best as a one-man wrecking crew until any of the other DEs find a way to make an impact.
Ezekiel Elliott set a standard in his rookie season that may be impossible to live up to this season. With the distractions of his pending suspension and the leaks on his offensive line that didn’t exist last year, he will be hard-pressed to replicate those numbers on a consistent basis in 2017. With that said, his impact on this game was excellent.
He was just under 140 total yards from scrimmage while running tough and catching the ball effectively. He was also extremely good when called upon to protect Dak Prescot. There was a lot of positive to take from how the Cowboys were able to create running lanes in the first half and it was refreshing to see the team get Elliott into the open field in the passing game. Unfortunately, all the good feelings are overshadowed by the fact that the production in the 2nd half was nowhere near where it needed to be to sustain offense. Elliott missed a couple of holes but overall, he was the least of the problems on offense in this Cowboys loss.
Many of you will look at Dez Bryant being included in this group and get up-in-arms about all the hot takes floating around the internet. “Dez isn’t elite” or “Dez can’t separate” and so on. Don’t just rehash what you hear. Wide receiver is probably the most dependent skill position on the field. They can’t throw it to themselves. Look at the game objectively and you will see that even though the stats say Bryant only caught 5 of the 13 targets that came his way, at least 5 of those misses were uncatchable. A couple were throwaways but most were just inaccurate throws from Prescott.
With better accuracy from the QB, Dez could have easily caught 8-9 balls for 130 or more yards. Even with that, Bryant had 5 catches for 98 yards and was open several other times when Prescott either missed him or didn’t have time to find him. You’ll take that every week from your WR1 and be happy for it. Bryant and Prescott must absolutely get rid of the miscommunications that had the ball falling harmlessly 10 -15 yards away from hitting the receiver. However, in this game, those misses appear to fall into the QB’s lap. Moving forward, getting this kind of production out of Bryant will lead to offensive success and more opportunities for the other receivers.
What do you think about these choices for our Week 4 ballers? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @bigharb06.