In preparation for tomorrow's preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys, I reached out to David Halprin from Blogging the Boys to see if he might answer a few of my questions about the visiting team. Here's how that went:
1. Everyone knows the Cowboys will go 8-8 this year and every year, but how will they win 8 games this year without any healthy defensive players?
The defense is definitely the issue in Dallas. Last year, the team was hit hard by injury on defense and still managed to win 8 games, so they seem to have that part down. The big question is can the defense improve on last year's dismal performance? The Cowboys placed Rod Marinelli in charge this year and the hope is that he will be able to jolt some life into the defense.
Also, last year was the Cowboys first year of switching over to a 4-3 defense, so the scheme was new and the players had to learn it on the fly. The hope is that this year guys will know their roles better and can react instantly to plays instead of having to think about it then react. They have also brought in a large number of cheap free agents and have guys returning from injury last year; they hope they'll find a few gems in that bunch.
I won't lie, there is not much to go on but faith that the defense will improve, but until the season starts and we get to see the unit in action for real, we just have to keep hope alive.
2. It looks like Tony Romo isn't playing against the Chargers, but how has he looked in camp?
He's looked okay, but he hasn't participated in too many practices and of course he hasn't taken a real hit yet. The Cowboys trainers have been very cautious with how much they have let Romo practice. He seems to be moving around fine and throwing the ball well, although recently his QB coach, Wade Wilson, mentioned that he hasn't really been cutting loose on the long passes yet, that he seems to be holding back on that part of his game.
Romo claims he's fine and that once the season gets here he'll be ready to go. Everyone is kind of waiting on him taking a big hit from an opposing defense, that's a big question mark right now - how will his back handle a big hit? Of course we won't see that this week since they are holding him out of the game.
The answer to the overall question is that he's looked fine so far, but we really don't know for sure.
3. Is there any chance for Dez Bryant to stay with the Cowboys long-term after they gave so much money to Tyron Smith?
There is a 100% chance that Dez will stay with the Cowboys long term. If they don't reach a deal with him by the time he's a free agent in 2015, they will franchise him until they do get a deal done. He's not going anywhere.
The Cowboys will have money to sign him, the deal they gave to Tyron Smith was actually very team-friendly. Behind closed doors, agents were upset that Smith would tie himself to the Cowboys for that long of a time at what is not really that big of a salary for one of the best left tackles in the league. Not many people realize it but Smith is already one of the top guys at his position and he's still only 23 years old. The Cowboys actually ended up getting a deal with Smith based on what he could have gotten.
4. What have been the big storylines so far in training camp?
The two big storylines of camp so far have been the items mentioned above. One is Tony Romo and his back. The other is the Cowboys defense, can they get better than last year and do something to help the rest of the team?
On offense and special teams, the Cowboys are set, the offense should be one of the highest-scoring units in the league again if Romo's back is actually as good as he claims. The special teams is also very dangerous with a top return guy in Dwayne Harris and a very reliable kicker in Dan Bailey. So all eyes are on the defense, and Tony Romo's back.
5. Which newcomers to the team should we know about? Who left that could also impact the team?
The Cowboys have been very impressed with first-round pick Zack Martin at guard. He's been one of the better players in camp, making the Cowboys offensive line one of the better units around. That's a huge turnaround from a few years ago when the Cowboys o-line was a real problem. On defense, the Cowboys picked up former Bear Henry Melton to play the 3-technique on the defensive line, they are hoping he will return to his Pro Bowl form after recovering from an ACL tear. They were hoping DeMarcus Lawrence, their second-round pick, would also be a force at defensive end, but he fractured his foot and will miss at least the first-half of the season. Some other guys they like so far are rookie draft picks Devin Street (WR) and Terrance Mitchell (CB), and defensive tackle free-agent Terrell McClain.
The team lost three players on defense that could be a problem. DeMarcus Ware was let go because his production and injuries were not adding up to his bloated contract. Still, he's DeMarcus Ware and not having him is a scary proposition. Jason Hatcher also left in free agency, but he was so over-paid by the Redskins the Cowboys were smart to not match. Then Sean Lee went down with season-ending injury in OTAs. That's a lot of talent on the defensive side, although Ware and Hatcher's age and injuries were becoming an issue.
Thank you, David, for the information and your time.