1. Can the Cowboys find a way to effectively run the ball consistently?
I was surprised how many ‘analysts’ were celebrating the arrival of the Cowboys running game. Don’t let the two big runs by Jones fool you into thinking the Cowboys have finally found a way to consistently run the ball. The running game still has a long way to go. Even against the Skins, they had 11 runs of 2 yards or less, 1 run of 3 yards, 3 runs of 4 yards, just 6 carries of 6 or 7 yards, and then the 2 long ones of 29 & 40. Last week’s performance was certainly an improvement, and perhaps a justifiable reason for optimism, but the running game is not “fixed”. If you take away the two big runs by Felix, the rest of the running game was pretty dismal.
With the current state of the receiving corps – a gimpy Bryant and no Austin – they need to establish some kind of running game to take the pressure off Romo and Witten. The bad news is that Suh may be the best NT to step foot on the field in a long time; the good news is that the other monster DT, Fairley, is not expected to play.
I will be watching to see whether the Cowboys avoid trying to run up the middle because of their respect for Suh. Will they run more sweeps, tosses, and stretches?
2. Can Felix
get stay on a roll?
Felix rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries last week. I can’t even remember the last time a Cowboys RB eclipsed the 100 yard mark. But again, if you take away the two big carries, Felix rushed for 46 yards on 12 carries. Despite the 2 long rushes, he has not exactly showed the elusiveness that he flashed in the pre-season. The first quarter screen that resulted in a 27 yard gain was a great play, but Felix was all alone in the open field and the first tackler took him to the ground. The open field tackle was made by D’Angelo Hall, a CB who is not exactly renowned for his tackling prowess. Felix also missed at least 2 cut-backs that would have yielded big gains.
I was a bit surprised that Jones carried the ball as much as he did against the Skins, given that he has a banged up shoulder and is obviously less than 100%.
I will be watching to see whether he continues to miss the obvious cut-back lanes. I will also be watching to see whether Murray is given a chance to get more involved in the running game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Murray start to play more often on 3rd downs.