It is here. After all the months of waiting, through free agency, the draft, minicamps. training camp and pre-season games, it is here. NFL football starts with our Dallas Cowboys venturing into the heart of darkness . . . er, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to play the New York Giants.
This one could be wet. Bad weather greeted the team when it arrived, with heavy rain and more possible throughout the day today. The current forecast (at the time I wrote this Tuesday night) is for the rain to slack off about an hour and a half before kickoff, but there is still a 30% chance of showers. The team is ready for the rain, or at least prepared.
Cowboys have arrived to the rain in New Jersey. Equipment guys said that they were preparing 4 gamelike it was going to be played in it.— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) September 4, 2012
Of course, the main thing is whether the team is prepared for the Giants. Take the jump to catch up on some of the coverage leading up to the game.
Cris Collinsworth submitted a ballot to the AP ranking the 32 NFL teams top to bottom, which was printed in the Dallas Morning News. He has the Giants third (no repeat, I guess) and the Cowboys tweflth (but seventh in the NFC, so just out of the playoffs).
I really loved Brandon Carr's response when asked what he thought about Jerry Jones' issuing a training camp invitation to everyone to come to Dallas to watch the Cowboys kick the Giants' . . . posterior.
"Why not,'' Carr said. "It's fun.
Regarding the game, there is a little bit of mystery going on. As recounted at ESPNDallas, Jason Witten has gone to New York, although his status has not been updated from doubtful. Backup tight end Colin Cochart was left in Dallas, but practice squad member Lance Dunbar made the trip. It sure looks like if Jason plays (and I think he will, just because he is Jason freaking Witten, who taught Sean Lee how to be tough), that Cochart gets cut and Dunbar winds up on the 53 man roster. At least, that's what I think will happen.
Now, down to the important stuff: Keys to the game, important players, and all that.
In another DMN article, David Moore lays out how DeMarco Murray may be the most overlooked element in the potential success of the team. He points out that Murray had 761 yards in six games behind an offensive line that was probably inferior to the one now. That the team went 5-2 while Murray was the lead back. That the Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau signings were as much to help Murray as to protect Tony Romo. That Lawrence Vickers is all about getting Murray free. He is going to be vitally important if he can keep the Cowboys out of obvious passing situations and the Giants defense off-balance so they can't send everyone after Romo. Plus, you have to love this observation:
Not much has been written or said about DeMarco Murray leading up to Wednesday night's opener against the New York Giants. He's perfectly content with this development. The running back has about as much use for the media as he does a defender attempting to make an open-field tackle.
Sticking with Moore, he also covers how the NYG pass rush is on Romo's mind. For good reason.
Romo was sacked nine times by the Giants last season and missed the final 10 games of the 2010 season after suffering a broken collarbone against the Giants.
Moore's colleague at DMN, Rainer Sabin, thinks the most important match-up in handling that pass rush is Tyron Smith vs. Jason Pierre-Paul. This has to stop.
In one memorable performance against the Cowboys last December, (JPP) forced a fumble, recorded a safety and blocked a field goal.
Sabin also looks at the various matchups for the entire game (Dallas running, Giants running, etc.). He sees the pluses and minuses as pretty even, actually, with Dallas having the edge when either team is running and on special teams. A shame it is such a passing league. But if the Cowboys can establish the run the way they want to, they actually have a pretty good shot at this game.
Another writer who does not see this as an automatic New York win is Ian Rapoport at NFL.com. He talks about what a boost it would give to the Cowboys, and reminds everyone of the reasons Dallas should be better this year.
When the two teams return to the 50-yard line on Wednesday, the Cowboys will be different.
The offensive weapons are similar, but they are also healthier. Running back DeMarco Murray will play this time. The defense has changed greatly. The Cowboys retooled a lackluster secondary by adding free agent Brandon Carr and blue-chip rookie Morris Claiborne.
Preseason snapshots have been promising, particularly with regard to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's unit.
Bryan Broaddus at DallasCowboys.com sees three keys to the game. He thinks that Murray needs to keep the team out of third and long, like Moore mentioned above, that they can't let short plays turn into big gainers for the Giants, and that the backups have to step up.
There were two things that I learned a long time ago when I first started scouting in the NFL: One, nobody feels sorry for you when you have injured players, and two, if you don't have depth on your 53-man roster, you're not going to win many games.
Rainer at DMN sees four keys to victory. They are protect your own quarterback, stop the other quarterback, establish that running game, and force turnovers. I think he plans to run the same keys to victory for fifteen more games.
And since I always like to close these pieces with a little comic relief, it must be time for the latest from Martellus Bennett. From another DMN article, written by the prolific "staff reports", comes this tragic tale of the cruel and unfair treatment this poor, misunderstood soul had to endure in his tragic years while the Cowboys wasted his talent.
Bennett said that he never exchanged text messages with Romo while the two were teammates. In fact, Bennett didn't even get Romo's phone number until his final year with the team.
Oh, the horror! And it leads to my nominee for Tweet of the Day!
Such a joke to hear Martellus Bennett trashing Tony Romo. He comes off like a jilted lover. Eli will also tire of Marty B's act.— Matt Mosley (@mattmosley) September 4, 2012
That leaves us with just one last thing: