In this week's Q/A session with the Chicago Bears opponent blogger, we sat down and visited with David Halprin from Blogging the Boys to gain some insight on the upcoming Sunday Night Football game.
1. Let's start with the obvious. How has Rayne Dakota (Dak) Prescott looked so far on his first 2 games and are you convinced he's the QB of the future?
Dave: He's looked better than anyone expected. As a rookie, you would think there would be some real growing pains like turnovers, bad reads or panicked throws, but so far we haven't seen much of that at all. Poise is the word everyone uses to describe Prescott's play at quarterback. He just doesn't play like a rookie, he looks more like a seasoned vet. The only area were there has been an issue is passing in the red zone, Dallas has yet to score a touchdown through the air. Other than that, he spreads the ball around, makes good reads and doesn't panic in the pocket when the protection starts breaking down. At this point, I'm 80% convinced he's the Cowboys quarterback of the future, but I'd like to see him play some more games before coming to a final conclusion.
2. The Cowboys have invested in the offensive line like it was the 1980's and have been rewarded with studs up and down the line. Given the success of mid round running backs around the league, are you happy with the Ezekiel Elliott selection or would you have preferred an impact defender like Jalen Ramsey?
Dave: Elliott has definitely had some issues in his first two games, mainly from not showing patience in finding the hole and putting the ball on the ground twice in the second half of the Washington game. But he is tied for the eighth-most rushing yards in the league so far and he had two rushing touchdowns. He's also been very good about converting short-yardage situations into first downs, something the Cowboys had struggled with in the past. I think the Cowboys haven't seen anything close to what Elliott can be once he really gets a feel for the offense and the NFL. By mid-season I'm guessing he will become a focal point of the opposing team's defense. The Cowboys think that Elliott will help the team more by keeping the offense on the field, chewing up the clock and putting points on the board than a defender like Jalen Ramsey could have helped the defense. Generally I agree that you can find running backs just about anywhere in the draft, but Elliott has the skills to be more than just a good running back, he could be elite. We'll have to wait and see.
3. Rod Marinelli (the reason the Bears suffered through Marc Trestman instead of Bruce Arians) was great for Chicago's defense as it absolutely collapsed once he left town. What's he been able to do in his 4 years in Dallas?
Dave: Marinelli has done a fantastic job of making a decent defense out of a unit that doesn't have top-notch talent. The Cowboys have definitely spent their resources on the offensive side of the ball, both in contracts and in draft capital. So Marinelli has to work with a unit devoid of many stars, but somehow he manages to keep the unit competitive which is a testament to his ability as a defensive coordinator. The Cowboys run a lot of bend-don't-break defense and try to clamp down in the red zone. They also rely on turnovers and feel that if you make an offense run a lot of plays without giving up a big one, they will eventually make a mistake. In 2014 that really worked, but that was coupled with a good Cowboys offense that put pressure on opposing offenses to take chances to keep up, and that led to turnovers. In 2015, with a cruddy offense, that didn't work so well. So far this year, the defense has done a decent job.
4. Jason Garrett has enjoyed unique job security in Dallas for a traditionally quick triggered owner. Is he in danger of losing his job this year if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs or will the Romo injury give him more rope?
Dave: It's a tough call right now about what would happen if the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs. If everything was normal and Tony Romo had not been injured, and he played all year and Dallas still failed to make the playoffs, then yeah, Garrett would have definitely been in danger. Of course it would depend on why they lost, did other injuries play a role etc. but in general I think there would have been an expectation that the Cowboys would make the playoffs. Now with Romo's injury, it's hard to make any forecasts. We don't know when Romo will be back, how well he can recover and play, and can he stay healthy for the rest of the year. It's just too many moving parts right now to forecast anything about Garrett's future.
5. Who is a player or players that the average fan might not know about on the Cowboys who we should be keeping an eye on this Sunday?
Dave: This question is always difficult for me because I have no idea what the average fans knows or doesn't know. For instance, how familiar is the average fan with wide receiver Cole Beasley? Because he's become a favorite of Prescott's out of the slot. Nose tackle Terrell McClain has been a nice surprise for Dallas this year, he's always been a player with potential but always was hurt. This year he's doing a nice job. Second tight end Geoff Swaim has been a nice addition to the offense, making some plays even though he backs up Jason Witten.
Bonus! What's your prediction for Sunday night and where do the Cowboys finish the year at?
Dave: The Cowboys should so well on Sunday night, I think they win by a 10-point margin or more. The Cowboys, I predict, will finish at 10-6 and make the playoffs.