8/9/17: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire in Dallas

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Changes have been made along the Cowboys‘ highly touted offensive line. The talent is still there despite losing a couple of starters. La’el Collins will replace Doug Free at right tackle. Johnathan Cooper will fill in the void left by Collins at left guard. Ezekiel Elliot produced at an elite level during his rookie campaign, but the running back is expected to serve a suspension for domestic violence.

Speaking of domestic violence, and trouble in general with this team, I don’t like the pattern of habits that are hitting the public eye. Who would? Players serving suspensions and constantly reaching the headlines in negative fashion. Dez Bryant continues to shows= up on his own time, according to team beat reporters. You know, he’s missed 10 games in the past 2 seasons and didn’t come near 1,000 yards. Cole Beasley has been a good player, perhaps he draws some more attention in the slot.

Defenses will be game-planning to load the box against the rushing attack, matching up a faster cornerback in press coverage against Beasley, and not allowing Jason Witten to get wide open. Pressing up on Beasley will throw off some timing, force Dak Prescott to make a good throw, or proceed with his progression. If defenses can swarm Elliott enough to get a lead on the Cowboys, the threat of play-action gets diminished. I’m not saying sophomore slump for Prescott, but I am saying that the young QB will ride the roller coaster that everyone rides on.

So, when I hear people saying that they will take a step back, I lean towards that side of the fence as opposed to naming them as Super Bowl contenders. Really, it’s not a knock on America’s Team. The NFC East is one of the tougher divisions in the league, where all 4 teams beat up on each other and rarely, is there a back-to-back division winner. Prescott and Elliott brought life to Jerry World last season. Prescott has a full plate, it’s called being a starting QB in year number 2. Zeke keeps finding a way into the news. No distraction helps, and this is a team leading the league in distractions.

It’s not all about the offense. I like Rod Marinelli, who continues to show why he is an elite defensive coordinator. Sixteen suspensions in the last 4 seasons, with a 17th looming over them. Currently, a D-end, linebacker and cornerback will miss some games. No exceptions here, this has been a pattern. For better or worse, this is how the Cowboys are run and managed. All in all, what matters is if they can unite behind closed doors and on game day, like they were able to last season.

There’s just some new pieces up front and a lot of trouble hovering over some of the starters. Usually, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The Giants had their number lasts season, and Big Blue believes that they improved this offseason. Philly expects to improve upon 7 wins with a pair of new starting wide outs. The Redskins are always in the mix. They got younger at the skill positions. All of these NFC East rivals will attempt to exploit a questionable Cowboys defense that overachieved in 2016. That, and force Prescott to throw more downfield. Easier said than done, but the game plan against them is to take away everything below 7 yards.