Optimism is on the rise for Dallas Cowboys fans. Despite a close loss in week two, the wins against the New York Giants and the St. Louis Rams have us feeling pretty good about the state of our favorite team. The outlook is even rosier given that the rest of the NFC East is floundering, with the only win mustered by any of Dallas' rivals being the Philadelphia Eagles' beating of the Washington Redskins.
But if you have been a Cowboys fan for any time at all, you know that optimism about your team is subject to complete and total annihilation at almost any moment. After the past two up and down seasons that ended in the textbook definition of mediocrity, our faith is sometimes a bit shaky.
Despite the good start for the Cowboys, and the excellent reviews being given players like Doug Free, Tyron Smith (see Bob Sturm's explanation of why he is really the best tackle the Cowboys have), DeMarco Murray, Barry Church, Orlando Scandrick, and everyone who comes into contact with Rod Marinelli, there are still things to be concerned about. And though some of the worries are familiar, there are some big ones from past years that no longer seem to be the issues they so recently were. The offensive line seems to finally have gelled, the play calling looked really good last week, the safeties have not been the weak spot so many were worried about, and did I mention Rod Marinelli and the Rushmen? (Any resemblance to a fifties doo-wop group is strictly coincidental and probably influenced by having Monte Kiffin walking around at practice.)
I didn't want to just go over my own thoughts here, so I reached out to the rest of the FPW and got six of them to share their biggest concern as the Cowboys head to San Diego to play the Chargers.
Dave Halprin, Managing editor and overall SBN guru. "Besides the ever-present worry of injury to key personnel, my biggest concern is the pass rush doesn't remain as potent as it has been and this starts exposing the pass coverage in the secondary. This is more of a concern for the overall season than it is for this week against the Chargers. It looks like we have good talent in the secondary and linebackers, but we have never been a lockdown coverage unit. So if we can't get good pressure from our front four, then we'll have to resort to blitzing and could leave the pass coverage in some precarious positions."
KD Drummond, Multimedia genius and associate of the stars. "My biggest concern is if I'll be able to get any of the current Cowboys on the podcast once they win the Super Bowl.
"Or it could be that this defense is earning accolades by playing two of the lesser offenses in the NFL and the only truly vertical challenge it faced it failed miserably. 3 games in a row coming against offenses that face a significantly greater challenge than the last two are on the horizon. We've already seen a contest where they got great pressure and still got abused. The issues with the linebackers reactions being a step late, as much as I love Wilcox, his inexperience will be on full display over the next month."
One.Cool.Customer, AKA The Google. (Never mess with the Goog.) "Lots of things can go wrong of course, but right now, like in this very moment, I'm puzzled by the performance of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
"Both were supposed to be on track for All Pro seasons, dominant against the pass and stuffing the run at every turn, but over the first three games, they haven't shown up all that much. Sure they had a couple of tackles, and Carter already has two sacks, but at no point did they dominate the games the way we were expecting. If I were the Chargers, I'd be worried about the D-line and be careful about about the secondary, but I'd go after the linebackers with my short and intermediate passing game all day.
"Against Sean Lee, opposing QBs are 9-for-11 with 3 TDs for a passer rating of 136.2, Carter looks a little better but has also been targeted more often: 16-for-25, no TDs, 82.1 rating. Of note, Carter is the most targeted defender in the passing game: Carr (10/18), Claiborne (9/16), Scandrick (8/16), and Church (5/7) are all targeted less frequently."
Rabblerousr, General purpose football brain and raconteur. "Offensive identity. I see them trying different stuff each week, which is cool, because they're showing the league a lot of different looks, and offering tape of numerous guys hurting other teams. But I still wonder: what is this offense's fundamental identity? What is their preferred tempo? What do they (and we) have most confidence in, even against good defenses?
"And: I don't think "taking what the defense gives us" is an identity..."
Joey Ickes, Master of the chalk . . . er, whiteboard. "My biggest concern right now is consistency. We've seen each area of the team play well, and poorly at time through 3 games. If they can perform at a high level each and every week, this team can play with anyone in the NFL.
Dawn Macelli, Rookie sensation and legal eagle. "My concern is that there is not a developmental guy who is the understudy to a guy like Brian Waters. I feel that his biggest potential impact is not as a player but as a mentor to younger linemen. Leary and Fred will benefit from his experience, but I would like to see at least one more guy there for him to impart his knowledge to. I have little confidence in Bernie or anyone else that they have available beyond the starters."
And me, that goatmouth guy: I am worried that a bad performance could erode the confidence the team has. Right now, they believe, but due to the way the game with the Chiefs turned out, I think the belief is shallow. A win by at lest two scores this week would go a long way towards solidifying that confidence, but even a close victory will leave some of the same old doubts. A loss would be really damaging. With San Diego's offensive line down to asking for volunteers from the stands, and their pass defense having already established a reputation of being as stout as a wet paper towel, the Cowboys need a good margin of victory to convince observers and themselves that this is a different kind of team.
Those are our worries. In general, I would have to say the things we are concerned about this year are not as significant as they were last year. In a way, that is progress. Mostly, there is still a "show us what you got" attitude among the writers,
Is that where you are? Join in the discussion and vent what has you most concerned, or what questions you feel still need to be answered.
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