With the New York Giants facing the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night in their season opener it is time for our first regular-season 'Five Questions' of 2013. I checked in with Dave Halprin, editor of Blogging The Boys, for his insights about the Cowboys. Following are his answers to my questions.
Ed: As you enter this season, what are your feelings about Jason Garrett? Do the Cowboys have to reach the playoffs for him to keep his job?
Dave Halprin: I'm a supporter of Jason Garrett, I like a lot of what he has brought to this organization. He expects everybody to do their job and have accountability, something that seemed to be lacking when he took over from Wade Phillips. He's done a lot of work in remaking the roster and has brought in Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli, two coaches who command a lot of respect around the league. He's also not just a puppet for owner Jerry Jones, he very much has a say in what's going on with the Cowboys on all levels. On the downside, he's done some "learning on the job" in game management, and some of that has been painful, but I feel like he's learned what he needed to and is ready for the 2013 season. As for what he needs to do to keep his job, that's not really something I concern myself with right now. Basically the season has to play out and we have to see how he did and how the team did. I will say if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, there better be some pretty big extenuating circumstances or plenty of heads could roll.
Ed: What do you think of the switch to the 4-3 defense? Do the Cowboys have the right personnel in the front 7? How are they adjusting?
Dave: The switch to the 4-3 has looked good so far, but as everyone knows the vanilla gameplans you see in the preseason are not the same ones you see in the regular season. This version of the 4-3 seems to be built around the concept of bend-don't-break and getting turnovers. Dallas was terrible in takeaways last year but has been very good in takeaways during the preseason. It's a very simplistic scheme that doesn't rely on blitzing, plays a lot of zone coverage and allows smaller, quicker athletes to run the field and make plays. The Cowboys personnel actually works well in the scheme, although the play at safety and injuries along the defensive line are areas that could cause concern. Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were built to play in this scheme and I expect big things from that duo if they can stay healthy. Jason Hatcher has settled in well in the middle of the defensive line and DeMarcus Ware has no problem playing with a hand on the ground. They're missing Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff to injury right now, so that might hold them back a bit.
Ed: For folks who don't pay a lot of attention during the offseason, who were the key losses and key additions to the Cowboys' roster heading into the season?
Dave: The key losses were actually guys Dallas wanted to get rid of anyway. Guys Like Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman were better fits for a 3-4 scheme. Corner Mike Jenkins had fallen out of favor in Dallas and wasn't going to get a new offer. Dallas didn't really lose anybody who they really wanted to keep. The key additions are draft pick Travis Frederick who will be starting at center, newly-signed guard Brian Waters who may play, or may not play, in Sunday's game. Will Allen is a free agent who will be starting at safety and Justin Durant might start at linebacker. Ron Leary is not new this year, but this is only his second year and will likely start at guard, and Lance Dunbar is a second-year running back we're excited about although he'll miss Sunday because of injury.
Ed: Give me the one Giants' player you would like to take from the Giants and put in your own starting lineup. Why?
Dave: Jason Pierre-Paul, if he's back to his 2011 form. Anthony Spencer is injured and the Cowboys have to make a decision on him after the year in free agency. DeMarcus Ware is not getting any younger so having a replacement on board would be good. JPP is young and can be dominant if the back surgery has cleared up his issues from 2012.
Ed: In recent years seasons of high expectations have ended in disappointment for Dallas. The expectations are high again. Why, in your mind, can this season be different?
Dave: Well, each season is its own entity, sometimes it's hard to say why things work one year and not the next. But the reasons this year could be different is that Dallas stands the chance of having a decent offensive line this year. If things go as planned, they will replace all three interior linemen from a year ago. And the middle of the line was really a big problem spot last year. Also, the Cowboy defense last year was often confused on plays and had too many blown assignments. Rob Ryan's scheme just didn't work well with these players. Monte Kiffin's scheme seems like a better fit. I would expect the defense to improve this year and I doubt they suffer as many injuries as they did last year. So if the o-line plays better and the defense quits imploding, it could be a very good year for the Cowboys.
Thanks to Dave for taking the time. When you head over to Blogging The Boys please remember to represent Big Blue View, and all Giants' fans, with class.
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