The Dallas Cowboys concluded their preseason by finalizing their 53-man roster on Saturday. With the regular season upon us in seven days, the ‘Boys can now turn their focus to the New York Giants.
However, there are still issues that loom as the Cowboys prepare for their division foe in their first home opener in four years. At practice this week expect Jason Garrett to focus on fixing these issues before the Giants come to town.
1. Who will start on offensive line? – The Cowboys went through all of last season and even this preseason with no continuity on the offensive line. The team still isn’t sure who will actually start the game on September 8th.
It appears as if Doug Free will start at guard (a position he’s only played in the latter half of the preseason) and Jeremy Parnell will start at right tackle. However, this all depends on the health of Ronald Leary, who’s recovering from minor knee surgery. Leary did some minor running before their final preseason game against the Texans, and he should be someone to monitor throughout the week. If healthy, he could possibly slide into his guard spot, with Free moving back to tackle.
The line for the ‘Boys is dangerously thin and fans must hope they stay healthy and perform well. Head Coach Jason Garrett has frequently said they’ll play the best five lineman in 2013. That might change from week to week.
Sure sounds like the same old story to me.
2. Can they run the football? – I feel that this question directly coincides with the concern above. If your offensive line is makeshift, how do you expect to run the ball effectively in today’s NFL?
Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan remain committed to finding a balance on the ground, and the team did a decent job on the ground in the preseason. The ran the ball on average about 26 times per game, which is an improvement from last season. However, during their dress rehearsal game against the Bengals, the team only managed a meager 2.5 yards per carry. The first-team also struggled against the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. There is no doubt DeMarco Murray has feature back talent, but you can only do so much with little offensive line help. Hopefully his talent rises above some line struggles.
3. Will the Special Teams unit wake up? – Special Teams Coach Rich Bisaccia should be embarrassed by his unit’s performance during the preseason.
The Cowboys fielded several rookies on special teams, so the unit is going through some growing pains, but several veterans have been at the core of their miscues. They have allowed a punt return for a touchdown, fumbled a punt return, had a field goal blocked, had to use timeouts for not having enough guys on the field, and Dwayne Harris basically looked average as a punt returner. The team even flirted with having starting wideout Miles Austin return punts.
This is a unit that has a lot of work to do, and hopefully they come firing on all cylinders against the Giants.
4. Answering some health questions- Jay Ratliff was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, ensuring he will miss at least the first six games of the season. Anthony Spencer should be ready to go for the Giants, and expect him to get his starters snaps.
The list doesn’t end here and it’s not even week one yet. Morris Claiborne will enter the season without any preseason snaps because of a sore knee, and Lance Dunbar is still in a walking boot and he surely will be listed as questionable for the game. Will Spencer and Claiborne really be ready to go game speed? Is Dunbar going to play or will we see more of Philip Tanner? These will be the other situations to monitor this week Cowboys fans.