This week, Marshall Faulk's GMC Playbook question is one that the Dallas Cowboys may have already answered.
Riding the six game winning streak, Dallas seems to have most things under control at the moment, and given that they have the best record in the NFL . . . wait a minute, I have to savor that a bit . . . best record in the NFL . . . OK, as I was saying, the adjustments seem to already have been made.
The biggest ones took place in the offseason, and consist of the promotion of Rod Marinelli and the hiring of Scott Linehan. Marinelli seems to do a much better job of running the defense during a game, although he also has the benefit of a much more stable roster than the injury-driven chaos Monte Kiffin had to handle last season. Linehan has simply been brilliant in utilizing the tools at hand. He is using almost the same cast that Bill Callahan and Jason Garrett had, with only the single (although apparently quite significant) addition of Zack Martin.
The results have become one of the top storylines in the NFL. DeMarco Murray is pounding his way into the record books behind a very good offensive line that looks to just get better (Murray just gave the starters on the line new iMac computers as a little thank you). With the help of that O line, Tony Romo has played some of the best football of his career the last couple of games. Jason Witten is still Jason By God Witten. Dez Bryant now has Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar to help out and make sure that there is no easy solution for the opposing defense.
Meanwhile, the defense has outperformed all expectations, leaving more than one "expert analyst" red-faced over confident predictions about how historically horrid this unit would be. Instead, they are statistically either middle of the pack or, in certain key areas like points given up and third down conversions allowed, actually among the league's best. Using a bunch of unheralded players, led by Rolando McClain (who should be on the short list for Comeback Player of the Year), they have been exactly what the Cowboys needed, just good enough to let the offense put up more points than the opponent.
At this point, Dallas is clearly more than just fighting for a playoff spot. They are now the team the rest of the NFC is chasing. But, in answer to Marshall's question, the one area the Cowboys need to adjust is the pass rush. While the team is clearly getting some pressure, which has been enough so far, they are not closing the deal. There has been a paucity of sacks. That needs to be adjusted.
Oh. That may already be in progress. Anthony Spencer has returned to the lineup, and although he has been a bit uneven so far, he has shown some flashes of the talent that led to the franchise tags. Terrell McClain is finally healthy, and had a very good game against the New York Giants. It should have been even better, but I have been advised to not dwell on the fumble-that-should-have-been due to my blood pressure. And rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, medical miracle Amobi Okoye, and rehabilitating miscreant Josh Brent all will be available if needed in the next few weeks. Lawrence is certain to be a part of the mix on the line, and he provides just what the team needs, pressure off the edge.
In reality, there is only one real adjustment the Cowboys must make, and that is to being the team with the target on their back that everyone else is chasing. For that situation, the team mostly needs to maintain their focus and take care of business. There are likely no coaches in the NFL that have a better approach to keeping his team on point than Jason Garrett. So for this one, Mr. Faulk, we got it.
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