Welcome to the Week 5 edition of Big Harb’s Ballers. We are little delayed this week as I needed a couple of days to wash out the bad taste from the Cowboys’ 35-31 loss to the Packers. The offense has shown significant improvement each week and this week was no different. They weren’t perfect but they were able to play keep away with Aaron Rodgers and only gave him 7 possessions all game. The defense was another story altogether. They allowed those measly 7 possessions to turn into five touchdowns and a field goal. Not winning football under any circumstances.
That makes finding Baller-worthy players an offense-heavy endeavor once again. Big Harb’s Ballers for Week 2 are Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and David Irving.
Dak Prescott has been getting progressively better as the season has moved along. While the offensive line struggles have made the running game less than the dominant 2016 version of itself, he has also been working with far fewer clean pockets and more quick pressure than he saw at almost any time during his rookie season. For the second time this calendar year, he played the best current QB in the league to a draw. Prescott has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates and has progressed greatly in his command of the offense and his pre-snap effectiveness. He had three passing TDs and the go-ahead 4th quarter TD on the ground. Unfortunately, it was not the stay-ahead TD as we all so painfully saw.
Even still, it is important to remember that Prescott is just passed his 20th NFL start and is putting any talk of a mythical sophomore slump far behind him. He still needs cut down on the miscommunication that has occasionally popped up on his downfield throws, but he is still ranked in the top ten of quarterbacks in deep passing efficiency. Prescott is the least of the Cowboys’ worries as they try to dig out of this early-season hole.
Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t look likely to duplicate his phenomenal statistics from his rookie season. There area where he has been the most impressive this season is in his ability to keep grinding through offensive line changes and poor run blocking from his tight ends. This game was a great example of what makes Elliott special. He didn’t allow himself to get frustrated with very little running room in the first three quarters. He kept running hard and delivered a very good overall game with an outstanding fourth quarter performance.
With the defensive deficiencies on the team, Elliott was responsible for not only moving the chain, but also grinding out hard yards to drain the clock. His ability to do so when all the pressure was greatest is a great indicator that, even if the numbers don’t reach those from 2016, Elliott is prepared to carry his share of the load to right the Cowboys’ ship. His improvement along with the gelling of the offensive line bodes well for Dallas’ ability to get back to its physical identity and play the “bully-ball” style they perfected last year.
This could have easily been DeMarcus Lawrence again this week. The combination of coming right back from suspension and performing at such a high level put David Irving a little higher for me. Both did everything they could to help the Dallas Cowboys get a win on Sunday but Irving had to sacks and seemed to be able to control the middle of the defense for most of the game. To my surprise and great delight, he did something the Cowboys have been sorely lacking the past couple of weeks. He routinely took advantage of the extra attention Lawrence drew and made the Packers pay. This was most surprising to me as I believed it would take him a week or two to really get his legs under him and to resemble to force of nature he was at times in 2016.
Irving’s performance was one of the defensive silver linings in an otherwise dismal outing. For the Dallas defense moving forward, he showed that the Cowboys do have someone that will make teams pay for doubling DeMarcus Lawrence. He will also work well with Maliek Collins to form a dynamic interior for the Dallas d-line. Now the challenge for Irving is to simply do it again. Irving hasn’t shown consistency in the past but his ability to stay prepared during his suspension and have such an enormous impact immediately bodes well for his future.
What do you think about these choices for Week 5’s Ballers? Let me know in the comments or @bigharb06 on Twitter!