Just Chill: Five thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys.
Inspired by Dak
The Cowboys are not just hoping to get by with rookie Dak Prescott at quarterback in place of the injured Tony Romo for at least the first six games of the season. They truly believe they can win with him. His sensational preseason play has inspired the team, per owner Jerry Jones, unlike last season when they were grasping at straws when Romo went down. “I like the way our team, it's attitude, the way that the team is inspired with Dak,” Jones said on his radio show. “They were inspired. One thing Dak did bring is a real hope and he brought genuine, genuine promise. And, so, I think we can maintain that.”
Three’s a crowd
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The Cowboys have listed three starters at cornerback on their opening depth chart, Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. As a result, they have 12 starters listed on defense. Of course, you only play with 11. This reminds me of former Texas coach Mack Brown, who used to name co-starters all the time to alledgely not hurt the feelings and the promises made to former star recruits. That the Cowboys list three starters is a nod to the fact they will be in the nickel defense the majority of the time so all three will play. They might even open the game as the starters against the New York Giants Sunday because they use three-wide sets more than 70 percent of the time. But the question of who starts and who sits in the regular defense must be answered. Scandrick supplanted Claiborne as the primary starter opposite Carr in 2013. He had that advantage until last year when he missed the entire season with a major knee injury. Now that he is back healthy, it is expected that the team’s best cornerback in 2013 and 2014 regains his starting spot. That would leave Carr or Claiborne on the sideline. Claiborne had the best off-season and preseason of his career. Will the Cowboys reward him with more than just being named the triple starter on the depth chart? Will they start him ahead of Carr, who has no interceptions since 2013? Both are in the final years of their contract. Carr is likely gone after the season because of his age. A good year could possibly earn Claiborne a contract extension. We will see on Sunday.
Gachkar a starter
Andrew Gachkar has recovered enough from a fractured hand in training camp to be listed as the starter at strong side linebacker heading into Sunday’s season opener. Gachkar has largely been a special teams player, but he has proven he can contribute in the regular defense. This move was also made because former starter Kyle Wilber will line up primarily at end to help make up for the suspensions of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Thornton a backup
The Cowboys signed Cedric Thornton from the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency to replace Nick Hayden at nose tackle. But he is heading into the season as a backup to Terrell McClain. That Thornton is being paid $5 million to be a backup is not an indictment of him and the decision to sign him. Credit McClain and his return to health after two injury-plagued seasons in Dallas. He is finally ready to live up to expectations and the Cowboys have the proven Thornton behind him in what will be a solid rotation at nose tackle. This is a good problem to have.
Garrett’s .500 pace
Does Tony Romo’s injury give coach Jason Garrett a pass for this season? Garrett has an exactly .500 regular-season record in five full seasons as Cowboys coach. Never mind the 5-3 mark after taking over for Wade Phillips midway through the 2010 season. He has gone 8-8, 8-8, 8-8, 12-4 and 4-12. You can blame last year’s 4-12 on injuries to Romo and receiver Dez Bryant. Now Romo is hurt again and will miss at least the first six games of the season. The Cowboys will be hardpressed to make a playoff run. He will be lucky to go 8-8 this season with rookie Dak Prescott as the starter and a suspect defense. I think the coaching staff should partly be blamed for their inability to muster average quarterback play when Romo went down last year. But this year, they have hope for the future in Prescott and getting to 8-8 would be a vast improvement from last year. Doing better than that is simply asking too much.
Dallas Cowboys regular-season schedule
vs. NY Giants
at San Francisco
at Green Bay
KXAS/5, NFL Net.
at NY Giants
vs. Tampa Bay
All games broadcast on KRLD/105.3 FM and KMVK/107.5 (Spanish)
*Time and television broadcast subject to change.