Dallas Cowboys

Five things to watch when the Cowboys play the Browns

What Ezekiel Elliott does best – run the football – is what Cleveland struggles with the most. The Browns rank 31st of the league’s 32 teams in run defense while Elliott is the NFL individual leader and the Cowboys are the top rushing offense.
What Ezekiel Elliott does best – run the football – is what Cleveland struggles with the most. The Browns rank 31st of the league’s 32 teams in run defense while Elliott is the NFL individual leader and the Cowboys are the top rushing offense. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The Dallas Cowboys (6-1) are heading to Cleveland to face the winless Browns looking for their seventh consecutive win. It would be the longest win streak since the Cowboys won seven consecutive games in 2007 and finished 13-3. The Cowboys are looking to keep their road record perfect after winning their first three away from home.

Here’s five things to watch:

Dak bounce back

All eyes will be on quarterback Dak Prescott to see how he recovers from his first really bad outing of his pro career. Of course, Prescott bounced back just fine in the fourth quarter and overtime of last Sunday’s victory against Philadelphia. He has worked all week on correcting the footwork and technical issues that caused his inaccuracy. Great quarterbacks usually follow bad games with great games. Let’s see what Prescott will do against a Cleveland pass defense that has allowed the second-most passing touchdowns (19) in the league and has allowed the third-highest passer rating (103.4).

Zeke feasting

The formula for the Cowboys on Sunday is simple: hammer the Browns 31st-ranked defense (143.8) with Ezekiel Elliott and the league’s top rushing offense. Run the ball. Run the ball. Run the ball. Elliott leads the league with 799 yards rushing, but he has yet to have that monster breakout game. He already leads the league in runs of 20-plus yards (7). Look for him to post a big number against the Browns.

Dez and Joe

The premier matchup will be a battle between Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Browns cornerback Joe Haden. There had been some talk earlier in the week of Haden being on the trading block. That didn’t happen and Bryant expects to be followed all over the field by him. Haden is the Browns’ best cornerback. He has two interceptions this season and 18 for his career. Bryant has a streak of 14 consecutive games with a touchdown catch against AFC opponents.

Trap game

The focus for the Cowboys is to not take the Browns lightly. They are winless, but they are feisty and could have easily had a couple of wins. With a premier matchup against the Steelers coming next week, the Cowboys could be caught looking ahead. Coach Jason Garrett, tight end Jason Witten and linebacker Sean Lee have preached all week about how dangerous Cleveland is. There are no weeks off in the NFL.

Secondary matters

J.J. Wilcox will start in place of injured strong safety Barry Church. This is a good opportunity to see how much Wilcox has learned and grown since being replaced in the starting lineup at free safety last season by Byron Jones. Wilcox was criticized then for taking bad angles and missing tackles. But he is better suited for Church’s strong safety spot. He is a big hitter and more of a box safety. He has improved over the past season in tackling and coverage.

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