David Halprin from Blogging The Boys answered five questions I asked regarding the upcoming game, and gave some great insight to how some situations might unfold Monday night. Many thanks to David for this awesome discussion, and bring on the primetime matchup!
1) Rashawn Slater has an incredibly reliable blindside protector, but Micah Parsons is one of the best defensive players in the game. Will we get to enjoy a clash of titans on the left side of the Chargers’ line, or will Dan Quinn move Parsons over the right tackle to exploit the weaker side?
Based on past history, you will get some reps of Micah Parsons facing Rashawn Slater, but it won’t be for all of the game. Dan Quinn moves Parsons around a lot. He can be found in the middle of the line at times and flipped out wide to the left side of the defense too. Last week against the 49ers, Trent Williams was at left tackle and Quinn had Parsons avoid him at times, but not always. So that’s probably a similar template this week where Parsons moves around but he does that in general, maybe just a little more when the left tackle is of a high level. One variable here is Dallas is very thin at linebacker with Leighton Vander Esch out, we might even see Parsons playing a little more off-ball linebacker this game.
2) The Cowboys have been on a pendulum swing this season, looking like a Super Bowl favorite one week, and looking very questionable another. Where do fans point to when discussing the biggest struggles with this squad?
It seems to mainly be directed in the direction of Mike McCarthy, and then some at Dak Prescott, and to a lesser extent Dan Quinn. McCarthy is receiving the most fire for two reasons. One, he is the head coach and there have been a couple of games where Dallas just doesn’t look like they are even ready to play. When they fall behind, the team folds and the head coach doesn’t seem to have a plan to avoid it. But he is also now the play-caller (hey Kellen Moore), and the offense hasn’t exactly been on fire this season. The defense and special teams have really helped with the Cowboys scoring this season. So McCarthy is taking big hits from the fanbase.
Dak is taking fire because he always does, but also because he played so poorly against the 49ers and has struggled getting the team in the endzone once they reach the redzone. And finally, in our two losses, Dan Quinn’s defense has looked bad. Very unlike what we have come to expect from him and the defense, so fans are wanting him to get that sorted out.
3) Who needs to step up on defense now that Leighton Vander Esch is on the IR?
The Cowboys are so thin at linebacker that they had to sign free agent Rashaan Evans this week, and he might have to enter the rotation right away. Damone Clark has been playing alongside LVE and he’s doing okay, but is still young and inexperienced. Markquese Bell is a converted safety who has been the third guy in the rotation. After that, they really don’t have a lot although Quinn uses safeties Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson as pseudo-linebackers in some packages. So there really isn’t a guy to step up, but multiple players that will have to take reps, maybe including Micah Parsons at times.
4) KaVontae Turpin is an electric talent, and very fun to watch. He’s caught 83.3% of his passes, and is averaging 10.6 yards per touch. Do you anticipate his role to continue to grow? What is his ceiling?
His role has been growing and probably would have continued to grow, but unfortunately, he hurt his ankle in the 49ers game. He didn’t practice on Thursday, and earlier in the week there were reports it was a high-ankle sprain and he could miss weeks. The Cowboys have been less definitive about it, but right now I would bet that he misses this game.
5) DraftKings Sportsbook views this matchup as a high-scoring affair, with the Over/Under set at 51. Are you expecting a shootout? If you were to set an alternative line, what would it be?
I think they are correct in thinking it will be a high-scoring affair. The Chargers have shown their ability to score points, and right now there are some issues with the Cowboys pass defense that need to get worked out after Trevon Diggs’ injury removed him from the equation. The Cowboys still have a great pass rush, and there is talent in the secondary, but recently there has been a tendency to give up big plays. The Chargers' pass defense has also struggled, and the Cowboys have shown the ability to bounce back from embarrassing defeats. So I expect a lot of points.