What better way to kick off the NFL's Opening Week? The ol' Cowboys @ Redskins rivalry on Sunday Night Football should give us a preview of what to expect of this team in 2010.
Earning a win within the division right out of the gate would prematurely help this Dallas team's playoff hopes, as the Giants (home vs. Carolina) and Eagles (home vs. Green Bay) will have played some pretty tough games by 7:20 EST on Sunday night. I'm getting ahead of myself in mentioning the playoffs, but it's hard not to grin when thinking of the Cowboys having a 1-0 record after the first week, especially if all the other Beasts sit at 0-1.
Back to the SNF game. Both teams have questions--Washington's are much more concerning than Dallas'. New head coach, new quarterback, new defense, relatively trumps the concerns regarding the Cowboys. But here at BTB, our focus is the Cowboys and our main concern falls directly on the play, performance, and injury status of the offensive line.
More VRR after the jump.
Tropical Storm Hermine is soaking much of Texas, so the team was bussed out to practice indoors at TCU today. As Dave mentioned earlier, a couple of knees still being recovered are keeping two starters, Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo, out of practice. So with Kosier not expected to play, look for Andre Gurode to be the backup for both guard spots if needed.
The Cowboys kept only one true backup guard on the roster in Montrae Holland, who is starting in Kosier's place. If Holland or right guard Leonard Davis go down with an injury, Gurode will move over to guard with rookie free agent Phil Costa going in at center.
That goes against traditional wisdom of not letting one injury change two positions. But in this case, the Cowboys have no choice. Costa is only being trained at center as the Cowboys choose not to over load him with work at two positions. Gurode is a veteran who started at guard before moving to center so it's an easier transition for him to make.
Colombo's readiness to play is looking nearly as bleak as Kosier's.
Colombo has two more days to get ready but if he can't go, then Alex Barron would make the start at right tackle. Robert Brewster, who did not play as a rookie last year, would be the extra tackle on Sunday.
Hey, at least we will get to see Dez Bryant in action. Everybody has to be looking forward to witnessing what #88 will do to the Redskins on FedEx Field. Nick Eatman shares his anticipatory hunch:
But from the looks of things, I get the feeling he's got about three options: Pretty good, Really Good or Are You Serious?
Something tells me we're going to get the latter. That when Dez gets out there on the field, he's going to make some phenomenal play right off the bat. In fact, I'm getting this feeling Bryant scores the first touchdown of the season for the Cowboys. Not sure where that's coming from, but sometimes you just get a hunch. I get about five every game and I rarely hit on one or two of them, but you never know.
Bryant has "instant-impact" written all over him and I agreed 100 percent with Wade Phillips on Monday when he said some guys just have a way of figuring it out when the lights come on. Wade thinks Dez is that type of player, and so do I.
Right now, it looks as if it will either be Bryant or Terence Newman fielding punts Sunday night.
Wade Phillips and the Dallas defenders know that much of their success depends on NT Jay Ratliff. Although considered undersized for the position, Ratliff is simply just a damn good football player--the type whose play alone provides the team leadership.
Phillips credits much of Ratliff's success to his knowledge of the game.
"He's a smart player," Phillips said. "He anticipates plays by recognizing formations, something not every lineman does. He even sees guys going in motion. That's hard to do with your hand on the ground."
What Phillips doesn't expect from Ratliff is vocal leadership. He'd much rather lead by example than deliver a speech.
"That's not my style," Ratliff said. "We have great leaders in Keith Brooking, Bradie James, Tony Romo, Jason Witten ... I just listen to them, and any way I can help out, I help out."
As for the opposition, Donovan McNabb will try to right his wrongs he made in the three games his Eagles lost to the Cowboys last season. His ankle may not be 100% though <ahem> instense pass rush upcoming <ahem>.
"Yes, I will be starting this weekend," McNabb told ESPN980. "And I look forward to it." McNabb sprained his left ankle 2 weeks ago in a preseason game against Baltimore. McNabb said the injury isn't classified as a high ankle sprain the more severe type that has more significant ligament damage and a longer recovery time but he said it's "very close to it."
He said he's getting multiple treatments each day.
"Is it 100 percent? No. ... But it's getting better," he said.
Here's the expected starting lineup for the 'Skins, courtesy of SBN Dallas.
QB -- Donovan McNabb
RB -- Clinton Portis, Mike Sellers
WR -- Santana Moss, Joey Galloway
TE -- Chris Cooley
OL -- Trent Williams, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Artis Hicks, Jammal Brown
DL -- Adam Carriker, Ma'ake Kemoeatu (for Albert Haynesworth), Kedric Golston
LB -- Andre Carter, London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Brian Orakpo
DB -- Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore
K/P -- Graham Gano, Josh Bidwell
To be traded or not to be traded? That is the question surrounding Redskins' DT Albert Haynesworth. For players like Brian Orakpo, they're pretty sick of hearing about it. They've got some Dallas team coming into town to focus their energies on.
"It's very distracting, but we try not to let it get to us," said Orakpo. "Because we're tired of talking about it, Albert's tired of talking about it, [Mike] Shanahan's tired of talking about it. Everybody is. We want to move on to be a normal team in this league and not worry about individualism. ... We got a big game coming up and we can't be worrying about No. 92 right now and all this speculation."
Amidst all the speculation, expect Haynesworth to play Sunday night in Washington.
Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall is ready to see how well the new 3-4 defense handles the Dallas offense. Remember, the Cowboys didn't fare too well against 3-4 defenses last season.
Under new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, the Redskins have switched from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 scheme and plan to be more aggressive in blitzing than they were during the past two seasons. Although Haslett revealed little in the preseason, the Redskins were encouraged by their turnover totals and overall performance. So, will Haslett unveil many of the new blitz packages and zones against the Cowboys?
"I'm anticipating us doing anything we can to win this game," Hall said. "It's Dallas in the first game of the season. You know we're going to do everything possible. Whether that's Has on the sideline drawing up plays we weren't necessarily going to run and running 'em, or us just digging down deep and running the stuff we go in expecting to run, I envision all of that happening. I envision us doing whatever it takes."
We're not done talking about the practice squad yet, are we? Well, as a side note there, CB Teddy Williams will get some reps at WR during his time with the Cowboys. Williams is listed as 6-3, 198 on the official roster.
Hey fantasy footballers! NBC's Blue Star Blog breaks down the Cowboys' fantasy value by position.
The AP's NFL writer, Barry Wilner, previews the NFC.
College kickoff weekend will continue at Cowboys Stadium in 2011, as Jerry Jones has booked an Oregon vs. LSU matchup for the now classic Cowboys Classic. Go Ducks!
Bill Parcells stepped down yesterday more into a consultant role for the Miami Dolphins, giving all control of football operations to former Cowboys VP of player personnel, Jeff Ireland.
Speaking of former Dallas head coaches, here's Jimmy Johnson's take on the 'Boys.
Is it too late to order your copy of the 2010 Maple Street Press Cowboys Annual? Heck no! These puppies are in stores until October 7, and can still be ordered via this link.