New season, new start, and with that the Dallas Cowboys are looking to put all of the offseason talk and storylines to bed. That process can intensify come Sunday night when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. We have spoken at nauseum about the offensive line position and the lack of preparation that has brought us to Tyler Smith starting his first NFL game at left tackle after practicing at left guard all of training camp. We can’t forget how we have felt that the Cowboys have been missing a piece in the wide receiver room as they look to see how the youth serves them first before doing so.
However, as the Cowboys roll into week one, we are all fascinated to see how it plays out on the field. Tampa comes in with some issues of their own, and look eerily familiar to what the Cowboys are currently dealing with themselves. They have a question marks about a star receiver and his availability, and will also be playing a rookie and backups on the offensive line. Ultimately, both these teams will suit up and battle it out for 60 minutes and the most complete, prepared team will come out victorious and feel good about their decisions made at least for one week.
You can look at all three phases of both these teams and convincingly state that there is an X-factor on all three units. However, these two individuals, one a Cowboy, one a member of the Buccaneers, will have the biggest impact on Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys X-factor:
When speaking about X-Factors, its not necessarily about the best players on the team every week, it is more about which players play that week that is going to affect the game the most. It’s hard to think of a player on the Cowboys whose debut and performance will be more closely watched than the young rookie out of Tulsa. Making his NFL debut versus a tough and well respected Bucs front seven is no easy feat. Doing it on minimal offensive tackle reps in practice and none at the position in a preseason live setting is down right alarming.
The Cowboys are putting a lot of trust and faith in the first-round pick to go out there and protect Dak Prescott and his blindside. We have seen players for this organization go out there and man that position so poorly it deeply impacted the football game and scarred us all for life. Ultimately, Smith is a much more talented player than Chaz Green. The expectations for him is not to be All-Pro out the gate, nobody is expecting that, but it can be said with a fair amount of confidence that Smith’s debut will not be that low either. One way or another, the performance of Tyler Smith will absolutely be the X-Factor for this Dallas Cowboys team and which ever way it goes will be a nice indicator of how we all feel come Monday morning.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers X-factor:
Although Julio Jones is not the Julio Jones of old, he could find himself playing a pivotal role in the outcome of Sunday night’s game. Chris Godwin was very iffy heading into week one and although it seems that Godwin will play Sunday night, it certainly will be limited reps as they ease him back in. Not having Godwin full go is a hit for this Bucs offense, a unit that looks to improve upon their second ranked offense from 2021 heading into the new season.
That void will be filled with a wide receiver that was widely viewed as one of the leagues very best just a few years ago. Although that was a few teams and a few unfortunate injuries ago, Jones still commands respect on the field. If Jones is able to come in on Sunday night and put up production and command the attention of the Cowboys secondary in his Tampa Bay debut, it could very well change the complexion of this offense and the game as a whole. If Jones is not on the same page with Tom Brady, or just doesn't flash glimpses of who we knew him to be, the options Brady has to throw too is not nearly as daunting as in years past. Look for Dan Quinn and company to have a keen eye on Julio Jones as the try to figure out how to limit Brady and the offense on their way to a week one victory.