Dave from Blogging the Boys was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the Dallas Cowboys and the Chiefs' match up with them in Week 5 this year.
Here's a little primer on how the Cowboys ranked last year:
|Lg Rank Offense||18||13||19||8||9||4||29||11||25||21||22||12||31||26|
|Lg Rank Defense||20||8||9||14||5||10||30||5||7||12||8||20||20||5|
If you're the Chiefs, what's the weakest point in the Cowboys offense that we can hope to exploit?
The offensive line. The Cowboys have a ton of weapons at the skill positions even with the loss of T.O. Our running backs go three deep, when you add the tight ends to the wide receivers we have threats in the passing game, and Tony Romo puts up numbers. So you have to respect the offense in both the running and passing games. To slow it down, you need to attack the core, the o-line, and they are coming off a shaky and inconsistent 2008 campaign.
We lost our offensive line coach, Tony Sparano, before last year and brought in Hudson Houck. Sparano, and his line, had a very good 2007 season; our offensive line was being talked about as one of the better in football. In 2008, that was no longer the case. We suffered some injuries which were part of the problem, but there seemed to be an overall drop off in their play, even among the healthy guys. Some cast a curious eye towards veteran coach Houck, who came to Dallas with a big reputation and a long resume of great offensive lines. For whatever reason, his first season didn’t work out as well as it should have. Cowboys fans want to see if he and his line can rebound in their second season together.
LT Flozell Adams has had a very good career, but he is aging and was playing injured for some of last year. Observers are wondering how many good years he has left. LG Kyle Kosier was out for most of last year and is just now beginning to practice again after recovering from surgery. C Andre Gurode and RG Leonard Davis are solid players, but after excellent 2007 seasons, they both had an inconsistent 2008. Only RT Marc Colombo was consistently good last year. The Cowboys will cough the ball up and will make stupid penalties under pressure. The first thing I would do as a defensive coordinator is test the o-line. All else flows from that.
The word out of Cowboys headquarters is that Roy Williams and Tony Romo spent a lot of time together this offseason getting their trust and timing down. When Williams was brought in mid-season last year, he and Romo never really got in sync; Romo missed games due to injury and then Williams hurt his foot and played hobbled for much of the campaign. Meanwhile, T.O. and Jason Witten were the main targets in the passing game. All of this left us to wonder exactly what we have in Roy Williams. Romo and Williams were determined to get on the same page in the offseason and develop a bond as QB/WR. Williams talked openly about their efforts to do so.
On the field, we’ll have to see if Roy can command double-teams the way T.O. did. The Cowboys rely on Jason Witten like a WR, and his backup Martellus Bennett is looking like a player in the passing game, too. So while the Cowboys are a pass-first offense, they aren’t overly-reliant on their wide receivers, but they will need Roy Williams to be a threat in the secondary or teams will focus on stopping Witten. You guys can probably relate from your experiences with Tony Gonzalez. Patrick Crayton is steady, but the guy who could really help out is Miles Austin. He’s got size and speed, but he needs to translate that to production on the field, and he needs to stay healthy.
I respect Lombardi, but I don’t agree with this assessment at all. Say what you will about Wade Phillips as a head coach (and I won’t disagree with a lot of it), but Phillips is as good a defensive coordinator as there is in the league. Not sure what Lombardi is basing his analysis on, but the Cowboys led the league in sacks last year, two-years removed from the Parcells era. We were also very good statistically in yards/game in 2008. This hypothesis from Lombardi sounds more like a convenient talking-point than a well-thought out analysis.
The problems last year stemmed from not getting turnovers on defense, short fields provided by a woeful special teams unit, and the tendency to give up the big play in crucial situations. A lot of those problems were associated with the secondary where we had some holes and we had some injuries. Safety Roy Williams was a liability in the passing game that we just couldn’t cover up. Cornerback Anthony Henry was also showing declining play, and because of injury and suspensions (Pacman Jones) we ended up playing a lot of mix-and-match in terms of secondary personnel.
Hmmm....score prediction? I'm going 27 to 24 in favor of the Cowboys. I'm not sure if the Chiefs' defense can capitalize on the Cowboys' weak spot - their offensive line.
Many thanks again to Dave for answering our questions. Check out Blogging the Boys for all things Cowboys.