With the Cowboys being 1-6 and without Tony Romo, Sunday’s game doesn’t have the same luster as it once did when the 2010 season commenced. However, there is always fireworks with the Packers and Cowboys meet as this rivalry runs deep through many games, coaches and championships. We invited the guys at Blogging the Boys to join us for our weekly Q&A to help us break down the game and perhaps enlighten us on some of the younger players the Cowboys may feature this week and the rest of the season.
The Cowboys came into the season with a three-headed rushing attack, but are now ranked near the bottom in the league in rushing, what have been the reasons the running game hasn’t gotten going this season?
The Cowboys running game has been surprisingly effective in short yardage situations this year, but the O-line has simply been unable to create the holes for any long gains.
Marion Barber is quite effective on 3rd down conversions from three yards and less, going 8-for-9 so far this season. His 88.9% conversion rate in those third-and-short situations ranks him 2nd in the league. Barber also has a higher overall first down conversion percentage on his runs than any other back in the league (33.8 percent) and he ranks fifth in avoiding negative runs. On the other hand, the 2010 Cowboys’ running game is characterized by a complete lack of any sort of big play ability. Over seven games, the Cowboys have two runs of more than twenty yards and 12 runs of more than 10 yards, tied for last in the league.
For a long time the Cowboys’ best best running play has been the draw. The Cowboys like to run draws and counters with guards pulling and the tight ends crossing. Draws are ideal for large, athletic linemen who can move and are better at pulling than blocking the man in front of them.
Well, the Cowboys linemen collectively don’t move that well anymore. Four of the five starters are above 30, knees are shot, ligaments are worn, bones are weary. This line just doesn’t have the speed to pull off these plays any longer. Instead, what you see are linemen not getting to their blocks fast enough and runners forced to avoid defenders in the backfield. A lot.
How nervous should the Packers be of Dez Bryant?
Dez Bryant is one of the very few bright spots for the Cowboys this season. Keep in mind that he has missed most of training camp and has been continuously hobbled by a high ankle sprain that has also kept him out of many mid-week practices. Yet the guy delivers on the field. More importantly, Cowboys fans see him as one of the few players who shows the want-to that the ‘Boys will need to climb out the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
Dez will likely catch almost everything thrown his way, but he is still limited in terms of how much of the playbook he has mastered with limited practice. On punt returns though, the Packers special teams had better stay on their toes.
Nationally, everyone seems to have Wade Phillips on the chopping block, but what is the general feeling of Phillips with fans and players in Dallas?
The players are adamant that the fault is with them, not with Wade Phillips. “At the end of the day, when we’re going out there and playing the way we’re playing defensively, are [you] going to point the finger at [Wade Phillips]?” Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said after the loss to the Jaguars. ”Are you going to point the finger at Reggie Herring, our linebackers coach? No, you point the finger at us. We take the responsibility, so put it on me. We’re the ones that are not going out and getting the job done.”
A number of players have made similar statements, but it doesn’t change the fact that Phillips’ time in Dallas is done after the season. A large part of the fanbase is clamoring for a coaching change not because they necessarily think that things will improve, but more out of a sense of ‘why prolong the agony’?
Who is one Cowboy that Packer fans may not know now, but will know his name after the game Sunday night?
I’ll give you two fresh faces who’ll likely get a chance to prove themselves: In the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, undrafted rookie safety Barry Church replaced starting safety Alan Ball in the base defense. Ball has has been a disappointment and has not made many plays all season – the coaches might want to see what they have in special teams ace Church.
The second one is defensive end Sean Lissemore. Sean Lissemore made his NFL debut against Jacksonville last week and recorded his first career sack right away. Lissemore is a high-motor lineman who finished his collegiate career at William & Mary with 193 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 28 tackles for losses.
What are the chances Stephen McGee sees the field soon since he offers a lot more upside than Jon Kitna?
I don’t think the Cowboys will consider McGee until they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, which should require two more losses. At that point the maxim in Dallas will change to ‘If you can’t be good, be young’, and you’ll likely see a lot of changes to the line-up, including McGee.
Thanks again to Blogging the Boys for joining us this week to help break down the Cowboys. They cover the team like a blanket, so check them out before latest installment of one of the NFL’s best rivalries before Sunday.