Kickoff is right around the corner. It’s a big game. The Cowboys need this one in a big way. Most people feel that winning the division is the only ticket into the playoffs. If that is the case, starting the season off with an 0-2 division record is a big hole. It’s premature to be throwing around the term "must win" but this game has that feel to it and the Cowboys need to demonstrate some winning football today.
Let’s check in with our writing staff to see what’s going through their minds as game time approaches.
Can the Cowboys get back to their blueprint?
OCC: We were told the Cowboys invested their fourth-overall pick in Ezekiel Elliott to complement their dominant offensive line and establish a dominant ground game, all in order to take the pressure off the passing game. But against the Giants, the Cowboys ended up doing the exact opposite, throwing the ball to compensate for a sub-par ground game.
Few teams looked more inept against the run in Week one than the Redskins, and if the Cowboys can't get the ground game going against Washington, then we have to start talking about whether the entire team-building philosophy of the last few years was wrong, and that investing in the run game in a pass-heavy league was a nice story but not an effective strategy.
Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice...
Will the Cowboys get things rolling after a slow start, or are the issues deeper than that?
Tom Ryle: For the past two years, Dallas has had struggles in the first game, losing the opener in 2014 badly and having to mount a big comeback last year. And that comeback would not have happened without some horrid clock management by the Giants. Once again, there were sub-par performances by some of the players the team was relying on. Most notable was the offensive line, which was frankly manhandled last Sunday. If they and other key players like Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott can be more what we expect, then things should be fine.
But if the problems persist, then this is going to be a long, long season.
Three yards and a cloud of dust
VAfan: I'm actually in disagreement with OCC's point above. It's a return to smash mouth football, instead of the finesse game the Cowboys were playing when they always reverted to Romo and the 2-minute offense when things went bad. That led to three 8-8 seasons because Romo was able to pull just enough of those games out of the hat.
If you look at Seattle and the 49ers, who dominated the NFC for a few years, they were both run-first teams on offense as well. They had much better defenses, granted. But they weren't trying to play like New England on offense. Carolina plays much the same way.
There's nothing wrong with a dominant run game coupled with a deep passing game. That's the Cowboys offense of 2014. And it's really hard to stop. You need a good QB to make the reads and deliver the ball down the field, but it should put the defense in an untenable pick your poison position. Load the box to stop the run, and you expose yourself down the field. Play back, and get run over. And if you have a running QB, it actually adds another stress point, as Seattle, Carolina, and San Francisco have shown.
Give me this attack over the one Washington is trying every day. If they don't get a running game going, Washington will become one-dimensional, Cousins will turn the ball over too much, and they will lose to any good team.
Is it all over at 0-2?
Michael Sisemore: People will tell you all the time that 0-2 is bad but it's not a death sentence. If the Cowboys lose to the Redskins, they are 0-2 in the division and looking for a lifeline. With the way the NFC is going to play out, the wildcard team is not likely to come from this division. As much as we want to be optimistic and keep seeing things through blue and silver lenses, this is a must win for this team. If they can't get their offense to produce as they advertised it throughout the offseason, there will be no excuse worthy of saving this coaching staff. They made bold statements that they have it all covered and their personnel is good enough.
One of these teams will leave 0-2 on the season and the most desperate team will have to win. The Cowboys will feel the hurt way more than a Redskins team that lost to the likely team that will represent the AFC in this year's Super Bowl. 0-2 in this division, in this conference, under these circumstances will be a death sentence. The Cowboys have to make it happen and I believe they will be more desperate to win.
Put the pedal to the metal
Danny Phantom: I really want to see this offense "cradle to grave" a drive that is capped off with an end zone celebration. The Redskins defense will have holes, but can Dak and company exploit them and find the right matchups?
Sustaining drives and finding the end zone is nice, but the Cowboys need to have their foot on the gas. They need to be the aggressors and look for some big plays. If they shorten the game with fewer possessions, it becomes critical to make them count. Putting together a few big plays would sure be nice. The Cowboys lost the big play battle last week, so they are going to have to win this battle against the Redskins.
The offensive weapons are there and if the Cowboys struggle to utilize them, my stomach is going to start retching. I want victory Monday to be a good day and not filled with befuddlement.
Those are our thoughts. What are yours?