In the wake of a nationally televised, 38-10 drubbing by the visiting Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys have a 2-4 record, a growing list of injuries and, according to one report, at least a few players unhappy with the coaching staff. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones defended Coach Mike McCarthy and embattled defensive coordinator Mike Nolan on Tuesday, pointing instead to an area he feels is most in need of immediate improvement: turnovers, especially early in games.

“I think we don’t have the talent that we had planned on, but I think you have the talent that if you don’t have those setbacks early, you will win ballgames,” Jones said on Dallas radio station 105.3 the Fan.

A pair of Ezekiel Elliott fumbles Monday night led to two Cardinals touchdowns less than five minutes into the second quarter. After his team went into halftime down 21-3, Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception on the opening possession of the third quarter, which led to another Arizona touchdown. Dalton’s fourth-quarter pick was followed by a Cardinals field goal.

Through six weeks, Dallas has the most giveaways in the NFL, 15, and its turnover differential of negative-12 is by far the league’s worst. All of those turnovers have come in the past five games, and nine occurred in the first halves of those contests.

Not coincidentally, the Cowboys have faced double-digit halftime deficits in four of those games, and other numbers further paint a picture of a team that has consistently dug itself deep holes. The Cowboys have given up 84 points off turnovers, 32 more than the next-worst team (per ESPN), and have scored just 10 points off turnovers, second fewest in the NFL. According to Football Outsiders, Dallas ranks last in average line of scrimmage to start its drives, while its opponents average the third-best field position to start theirs.

Jones alluded to those trends while declaring Tuesday, “I like the way we came out last night, defensively.”

“I thought we had a good plan for the skills of [Arizona quarterback Kyler] Murray and what the Cardinals presented us,” he said. “These aren’t excuses, but [Nolan’s] defense has had a very difficult time with field position, where we’ve gotten the ball early. I don’t care what the skill level of a team is; when they get up on you, they’re going to tee off on you. … I’m okay with Mike Nolan. I am.”

Nolan has come under fire outside the Cowboys’ facility as his defense has set new marks for points allowed. The 218 points given up through six games is the most over the same span for any team during the Super Bowl era. The fact that McCarthy chose to hire Nolan has garnered some questions about the head coach’s acumen in building his staff, particularly given that Nolan, 61, hadn’t been a defensive coordinator since 2014. During his previous stint as a defensive coordinator, with the Atlanta Falcons from 2012 through 2014, that team never finished better than 24th in yards allowed.

As for McCarthy, Jones said he was “really not concerned about him today.”

Pointing to the fact that McCarthy, who coached the Packers from 2006 to 2018, led the 2010 Green Bay team from a wild-card spot to a Super Bowl win, Jones said: “So you know how to adjust, overcome things, when you have that kind of accomplishment on your record. What we don’t have to worry about is if he’s capable of coaching a team to the ultimate, and he very much is. He’s outstanding, to say the least, with his experience.”

To judge from anonymous quotes obtained by NFL Network, though, some Cowboys players might be less sold on their new coach, who replaced Jason Garrett.

  • “Totally unprepared.”
  • “They don’t teach.”
  • “They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly.”
  • “They just aren’t good at their jobs.”

McCarthy wondered aloud Tuesday whether his team’s spate of turnovers was because “we’re trying too hard or we’re overcoaching.” He told reporters, “I have a continuing issue with ball security on my football team, something I personally take a lot of pride in, in how it reflects how you play the game of football, and I’m not getting it done right now.”

Elliott, who is tied for the league lead with four lost fumbles, shouldered some blame Monday. “I want to say I’m sorry and this one’s on me,” he declared after the loss to the Cardinals. “I need to be better for this team.”

Jones claimed Tuesday that it would be too “easy” to cite the Week 5 loss of starting quarterback Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury, as well as the turnovers and poor field position, when analyzing the lopsided defeat to Arizona. “We just got outplayed,” he said.

The good news for the Cowboys is that their 2-4 record is still good enough for first place in the NFC East, and Jones struck an optimistic note by asserting: “We can get the most out of our team, and it could be enough with Andy Dalton. We didn’t last night, and he contributed to the turnovers early, but we can get there with Andy.”

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