You didn't think we'd let Dallas-Houston week go by without sending our compatriots over at Blogging The Boys some pointed questions, did you? Well, you probably did, on account of us being lazy and all. That's fair. Thus, try to contain your surprise. Dave Halprin was kind enough to take some time to answer five (5) questions; I did the same for him and you can find my answers to Dave's questions here. In the meantime, hit the jump to bathe in the knowledge of someone who roots for a team owned by Bud Adams' cabana boy in Hades.
1. When our respective squads met in the third week of the preseason, one of the refrains we heard afterward was that Dallas' offensive line wasn't the offensive line we'd see this week; namely, that a starter or three was missing. How's the health of the Dallas OL? Who do you expect to start in the trenches on Sunday? And most importantly, do you believe the OL will be able to contain Super Mario & Co.?
BTB: The Cowboys line is back to full health. Both RT Marc Colombo and LG Kyle Kosier played last week. Missing Colombo in the Washington game was a big problem; his replacement, Alex Barron, had a terrible game. But last week against the Bears, the line wasn't the problem. Tony Romo had time to throw, he just had one of those games where his passes were just a bit off. The Cowboys offensive line does well in basic pass-protection blocking. Romo generally has time to throw; where they struggle is against stunts, delayed blitzes, blitzes from odd places, etc. If you want to get to Romo, bring heat and trick the Cowboys line; they miss assignments in those situations. On the running-game side of things, I'll address that in question #4.
2. We don't follow it anywhere near as closely as you do, but there seems to be a lot of gnashing of teeth and/or beating of breasts about Wade Phillips after the disappointing start. Is he already a dead man walking, to the point that a change could be made in season? If so, who are the possible replacement candidates? Jason Garrett can't still be a real option, can he?
BTB: Right now, I think anything is possible with Wade Phillips. One note is that Jerry doesn't usually change coaches during the season, at least from past experience. But, with the expectations around this team before the year, if we are five or six games into this thing, and the Cowboys haven't put some Ws on the board, anything could happen. There's no way this team should be playing as poorly as it has. My expectation is that Phillips will be the coach through the rest of the season, because I believe (hope?) this team will get straightened out and make a run at the playoffs and beyond. As for replacements, I think Jason Garrett is at the top of Jerry's list. Garrett, for all the bashing he's taken, has put together a prolific offense over the past few years. They don't score as many points as they should, redzone issues are a big problem, but this is definitely a dangerous offense. I think Garrett would get a serious look if anything happened to Wade.
3. Distasteful as it may be to you, imagine you've just been hired by the Texans, and your first task is to spill the beans about Dallas' weaknesses. What three (3) things/areas would you suggest the Houston coaching staff attempt to exploit on Sunday?
a. Don't let the Dallas offense quick-strike for a TD. Keep everything in front of you and force them to go on long marches; it's a given they'll do something stupid like a key penalty, a turnover or something else equally ridiculous.
b. Bring the heat using trick blitzes that force the Cowboys o-line to think, and switch assignments. They don't do this well at all.
c. Attack the middle of the Cowboys pass coverage. Our safeties are vulnerable and our middle linebackers aren't the best pass coverage duo in the league. Flood zones with multiple receivers and force the secondary to communicate and make decisions.
4. The Dallas running game is currently averaging a horrendous 69.5 yards per contest. How can that be, with a team that features a supposed three-headed monster of Barber/Jones/Choice? Offensive line woes? Poor play-calling? Something else? Finally, is it something you expect to get addressed on Sunday, at least in the way of additional carries?
BTB: This issue has been analyzed by everybody, and nobody has found a definitive conclusion, at least in my mind. When the Cowboys run the ball well, they are so much better as a team. The real answer is probably a mixture of things you mentioned. Jason Garrett is quick to abandon the run at any sign of trouble. He doesn't have patience in that regard. The question is: If he stuck with it, would the size of the line and the talent of the backs eventually start finding success? The offensive line has to take some blame, too. There are games where they just don't create a push at the point of attack, and that's puzzling considering how big they are, and they are talented. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck also has to take some blame. I won't blame the backs, I know how talented they are, they're just not getting the room to run and they don't get the touches they need to try and work some magic. As for Sunday, if the Texans run defense plays as it has so far, Garrett will quickly opt to go after the secondary through the air.
5. Put your name on it: The final score of Sunday's game will be Dallas _____, Houston _____. Furthermore, Dallas' record at the end of the season will be ___-___, with ____ playoff games appeared in.
BTB: The final score of Sunday's game will be Dallas 27, Houston 24. Furthermore, Dallas' record at the end of the season will be 10-6, with 2 playoff games appeared in. (Yes, I'm a fan first, so I have to hold on to hope for as long as I can!)