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What to Know for Cowboys Heading into Week 4

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At Bleacher Report, I posted what you need to know heading into Week 4:

What Must Improve

Coming off of a 31-7 win, there’s really not a whole lot that the team needs to improve over last week. You’re always looking to get better wherever you can, obviously, and there are a handful of players who need to up.

LT Tyron Smith

Tyron Smith isn’t playing poor football by any means. He’s given up six pressures on 130 pass snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—a 4.6 percent pressure rate that’s down from the 6.0 percent Smith posted in 2012. That 4.6 percent mark still isn’t an elite number, though, and we know that Smith is capable of outstanding play.

Smith’s best season was really as a rookie in 2011, although it’s worth noting that he played on the right side that year.

Still only 22 years old, Smith is in his third NFL season when most players are rookies. That’s a huge advantage, but it will soon be time for Smith to take the next step. One area where he looks good is the running game, as Cowboys running backs have averaged 5.27 yards per carry on 33 rushes with Smith at the point of attack.

CB Morris Claiborne

Everything was setting up nicely for this to be a breakout year for Morris Claiborne. The No. 6 overall pick in 2012 played pretty well as a rookie, but after injuring his shoulder early in 2013, Claiborne hasn’t been the same.

Claiborne has allowed nearly 10 yards per target in 2013, up from the 8.28 he allowed in 2012. Another way to analyze cornerbacks is to look at the number of yards they allow per route that they’re in coverage. That way, they’re actually rewarded for having great coverage and not getting targeting.

But Claiborne has allowed 1.32 yards per route in 2013, again up from the mark he posted as a rookie. There’s no doubt that Claiborne’s shoulder has affected his play, and luckily cornerback Orlando Scandrick has stepped up in a big way during his absence. But eventually, Claiborne is going to need to pick up the slack when the other cornerbacks aren’t playing so effectively.

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