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5 Cowboys subjects that deserve a second look after Week 1

With a few days to digest the Cowboys first game and looking forward to the next, here are some Dallas subjects that bear a second look.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
The head coach did something beyond calling plays.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. That was rather amazing. The Dallas Cowboys got the season started with a bang in dismantling the New York Giants 40-0. Now it’s on to the other team from the Big Apple, the New York Jets. Before we get to Week 2, let’s discuss some Cowboys topics.

We have not talked enough about how prepared the Cowboys were

Almost none of the starters in the Sunday night massacre played a single down in the preseason. There is a sometimes lively debate about the wisdom of that, as it can lead to teams having to take a week or more of the regular season to get things working correctly.

That was clearly not the case for Dallas, as this team was ready. While the defense was a bit soft on the opening Giants drive, that went away in a hurry. From that point on, they were dominant. It was almost like they took offense at how easily New York was moving the ball at the start and went on a mission to show that wasn’t going to last. The special teams had the big play that really turned the game at the end of that possession. And the offense, while not overly impressive, played almost mistake-free football and put up 27 points on their own in wet conditions.

We’ve talked a lot about Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling and retooling the offense, and the jobs both Dan Quinn and John Fassel do with their units. But most of the work of the coaching staff comes during the days between games, and having their team ready is always crucial. This was an excellent job in that department, and played a huge part in the big win.

Most overlooked significant play of the game

As just mentioned, the Juanyeh Thomas/Noah Igbinoghene tag-team kick block and touchdown is seen as the moment everything started to go wrong for the Giants. But it may have been the play before that was the real turning point. After a false start that turned a third and two into third and seven, the Giants were still threatening to get into the end zone. But the snap went past Daniel Jones, who had to fall on it and New York now faced a fourth and 21. That forced a 45-yard field goal attempt rather than a comparative chip shot for Graham Gano, and he may have changed his trajectory to get more distance. Even if that was not a factor in Thomas getting to the football, given the way he leaped through the line, the botched play after the penalty certainly took the wind out of the Giants’ sails. The touchdown by Igbinoghene just amplified things. Then with Cowboys scoring on five of their next seven possessions, plus the DaRon Bland pick six, things got completely out of hand. Had that snap not gone bad, possibly due to the wet field, this might have unfolded in an entirely different manner.

Can we get some Chuma love?

The biggest concern for Dallas coming into the game was the injury to Tyler Smith. When it was announced he would be inactive, concern turned to major worry for the fan base. Poor offensive line depth was the biggest issue discussed all through the offseason and camp, and now it was being tested right out of the gate against a team for whom the interior of the defensive line was one of their biggest strengths. With word Chuma Edoga would be filling in at left guard, there was much angst about how he had seen very little practice or preseason work due to his own injuries.

It was a very pleasant surprise when the line functioned just fine with the backup in place. According to PFF, Dallas had the best offensive line performance of the NFL’s first week.

This doesn’t mean the depth problem is definitively solved, but it is much better than we worried it would be. When Edoga was signed during free agency, he was not seen as a significant addition. Instead it looked like an insurance signing. Well, that policy has already paid off. We still are waiting to see if Smith is going to be good for the Jets game, but that is a possibility we can face with considerably less anxiety. Props to Edoga for stepping up.

Was there some fluke factor in this game?

First, we had the sloppy conditions as the rain was present all game, with some heavy downpours at times. That affected both teams, but some are just better in those conditions than others, and this might be a little known strength for Dallas, although that is impossible to quantify. Then there was the string of bad plays talked about already.

Those are things that are not likely to reoccur, especially at the same time. The Cowboys will play ten of the remaining regular season games under a roof, or will only see the sky at home if the weather is good. The bad snap and blocked kick were random things.

This is not to suggest that Dallas is not good enough to beat teams who aren’t making huge early mistakes. It is just an acknowledgment that the 40 point margin of victory is probably the high point for the season. It should be much harder in every game, or at least most of them.

But that defense...

Sometimes, the things you think you see in camp are real. In July and August, the defense was giving the offense fits. Micah Parsons seemed unstoppable, and everyone else on that side of the line of scrimmage was balling out. It seemed unlikely that could carry over into the regular season, at least not completely. But lo and behold, it did. Seven sacks and three takeaways will win a lot of games in the league. Again, that will be hard to replicate. Defensive results just are. Still, this is an absolutely fearsome defense, and against the Jets, with Zach Wilson operating behind a suspect offensive line, we could see a somewhat similar level of havoc. Let slip the dogs of Dallas.

OK, forgive the geeking. But even given that it’s just one game, this defense looks dangerous from any aspect. They say defense wins championships.

Keep saying that, and let’s see what more Dan Quinn and his bunch can do.

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