Before the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys square off on Monday night, we got together with Tom Ryle from SB Nation Dallas to get an insider's perspective on Big D.
1. The Cowboys made overhauling their secondary a big priority this offseason. Through three games, they're second in passing yards against. What are your impressions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne so far?
Carr has been pretty much everything the team could have asked for. Teams are not throwing at him, and seldom having success when they do. He was forced into filling in at safety on several plays against Tampa Bay due to injuries, and still was extremely effective. Word is also that he is an effective leader on the field. Absolutely worth the big bucks.
Mo Claiborne has held up very well, much better than, say, Patrick Peterson did when playing defense. (Peterson of course was a serious weapon as a returner, so he is hardly a failure.) [ed. note: Peterson is pretty good!
] There are some completions against Claiborne, but he has also done well on more plays than not. He is not at all overwhelmed by the pro game.
This looks like a pair for the future, and this year at least, the availability of Mike Jenkins
has turned the biggest liability for the Cowboys last year, the secondary, into one of their real strengths.
DeMarcus Ware actually hits players pretty clean, and really likes to get the strip sack instead of the killer blow (he had two against the Bucs, but they got both of them back). I would look for a sack early in the first, and then another late from Ware, with a couple more from other players. Watch Anthony Spencer
, who is playing very well despite the negative attitudes about him among the Dallas fanbase, and Jason Hatcher
. And Sean Lee
, AKA Chuck Norris, is due one on a blitz. I will say that the team is getting a lot of pressures when they don't get the sack, and the team would gladly take fewer sacks in exchange for a couple of picks.
3. DeMarco Murray was a breakout star for the Cowboys last season. Do you feel comfortable moving forward with him as Dallas' running back?
Yes. Murray is very good, but he can't do much when the first defender meets him two yards deep in the backfield. Until the offensive line, which has sucked the past two games, gets its act together, look for him to struggle unless he can break off one of the impromptu breakaway runs like he had against the Giants
. Jason Garrett is not going to give up on the run.
The weak link in the run game is Felix Jones
. He is supposed to spell Murray, and he has not looked good at all.
4. What's up with Romo?
See the comments about the line above. If they give him any time, he is still one of the most dangerous quarterbacks out there, especially when he is on the move. His ability to avoid a single rusher is incredible, and that allows the receivers to get free.
Also, he has had an inordinate number of dropped passes, particularly from his security blanket, Jason Witten
. The problems with the passing game have nothing to do with Romo. If he can stay healthy, he should be fine.
5. How you feeling about the Cowboys right now?
I have almost no idea. The defense is starting to look like a real force, special teams got over the second week mistakes and has been doing a great job covering kicks all along, but the offense has not kept pace. If the line can just be marginally adequate, this team can go far. But that is a huge, scary if. Should the Cowboys get a win on Monday, they may come out of the bye week with some of the problems sorted out. A loss, however, might be a mental issue that could hold them back, and they will be looking for some major upgrades on the offensive line in the offseason.
On the other hand, Philadelphia is going to have a hard time keeping Michael Vick
healthy, Washington does not seem able to stop anyone when they play defense, and the Cowboys already have a win over the Giants in hand. The NFC East has no effective offensive lines anywhere, except maybe the defending champs, and should they stumble, the Cowboys may claw their way to a division title even with their own issues.
The Cowboys are a week to week thing, and until they show some consistency, I am very nervous about them.