Each Friday, I will preview the upcoming week’s game, by reviewing the previous week’s game; hence a “preview by review”. Publishing every Friday will allow knee-jerk reactions/emotions to simmer and allow me to re-watch the game knowing the result, thus not having to deal with the heart-pounding excitement of the game or watching it through my fan goggles.
There will be two different categories: must continue and must improve. In each category, we will highlight (or lowlight) one areas, one positional group, and one individual player. I will not write on who played the best every week or who played worse.
NEEDS TO CONTINUE:
-Red Zone Defense
We here all the time about bend but don’t break mentalities on defense. Well, this defense run by new Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, demonstrated that to perfection during the preseason. The First Team defense did not give up a single touchdown, and forced many turnovers or Field Goals in the red zone. Holding a team to 3 points compared to 7 is a huge difference, especially when you consider the amount of one-score games the Cowboys have played the past two seasons.
If Dallas can prevent the big plays by New York Giants’ players like WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, and RB David Wilson, their ability to tighten up in the red zone may be the difference in the game.
Dallas had a strong and deep core of receivers throughout camp. Now that they trimmed the roster to 53 and kept only 5 receivers, each one needs to continue their strong play. The only disappoint in the group was WR Dwayne Harris. He did not have a strong showing in the preseason games, but still had a strong camp. Except the veterans Miles Austin and Dez Bryant to carry the unit, but between Terrance Williams, Harris, and Cole Beasley, there will be decent production from the young players at the position collectively.
If they can create space so QB Tony Romo can get the ball out quickly, except a big day for both the QB and the WRs. Last year, the Cowboys got unexpected production from former Dallas WR Kevin Ogletree. I would not be surprised if Williams and Harris combine for 100+ yards and a TD.
-Tony Romo, QB
Many candidates for this spot, like Dez or rookie LB DeVonte Holloman, but ultimately, this game will be decided on whether or not Romo can take care of the ball. He had 0 turnovers in the preseason and that trend needs to continue. If he throws 19 INTs again this year, the Cowboys do not have much of a chance to reach the post-season.
The Giants’ have a great defensive line and if they can generate pressure early, they may force Romo into some hurried throws. The key will be keeping a TE or RB in to block for extra protection and quick decisions by Romo.
NEEDS TO IMPROVE:
The one area I hoped would be vastly different this year for Dallas was the running game. They showed glimmers of hope in the preseason, but still struggled with the money plays (3rd and short). One way to keep Romo from throwing INTs, is to have him throw less; the key to throwing less is running more and the key to running more is running consistently. That has been the Cowboys downfall in the preseason and years past: consistency in the run game. Breaking off an occasional 10+ yard run is great, but they need to improve on getting 4-6 yards every time they run.
The headlines will read, Tony Romo vs Eli Manning, but the team that ultimately wins the game, may just be the team that runs the ball better. Hopefully, the Cowboys give the Giants a healthy dose of RB DeMarco Murray, early and often.
I was not a fan of cutting undrafted rookie LBs Cam Lawrence and Brandon McGee, but the Cowboys front office was obviously not happy with their production on special teams. After trimming the roster to 53 the Cowboys have been active in trading or claiming Special Team players. Claiming LB Kyle Bosworth and trading for LB Edgar Jones were strictly to improve the special teams unit. Same can be said of keeping six safeties. Both Danny McCray and Eric Frampton are liabilities on defense, but boy can they make plays on special teams.
Look for Dallas to shut down the NYG kick and punt return game. If not, we may already be looking at a few bad trades by owner Jerry Jones and company.
-Brandon Carr, CB
Carr did not necessarily have a bad preseason, but when he was lined up against Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, he got abused. Carr signed a $50 million contract just a year ago and you typically don’t dish out that much dough to a CB unless he can be a shut down guy. He can take out a team’s best WR and shut down his side of the field, it will allow the safeties to cheat over to the other side or in the slot and force more TOs.
Last year in Week One, CBs Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr were able to almost completely shut down Cruz and Nicks (held them to 10 catches, 94 yards, and 0 TDs combined). Another strong showing in Week One could be a key factor in starting the season 1-0