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Pre-Game Recon: Five Questions With Blogging The Boys

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Dave Halprin of our sister site, Blogging the Boys, stops by to answer all of our burning questions on his beloved South Oklahoma Cowboys before the Texans game on Sunday.

Chris Trotman

I sent Dave Halprin, head honcho at SB Nation's site for all things Dallas and Cowboy, Blogging The Boys, five questions in advance of Sunday's game. Here are my questions and his insightful answers.

1. The Cowboys recently said that they do not regret taking Tyron Smith over J.J. Watt. Do you feel the same?

The question of Watt vs. Smith seems to be set up in a binary way, it's either a 1 or 0. The more nuanced answer is likely to shed more truth on the matter. I don't regret not taking J.J. Watt, but that's because Tyron Smith is an excellent player at one of the most important positions on the football field. If we had passed on Watt and picked a bust or just an average player, then I would very much regret not taking Watt. But since Smith has turned out to be everything the Cowboys hoped for, there is no real regret or pain in the decision. That doesn't change the fact that Watt is one of the best defensive players to play the game and I would love to have seen him in a Cowboys uniform.  I don't think anybody is trying to make the argument that Watt wasn't the better pick just in terms of a strict player-to-player comparison. But regret is way too strong of a word to use when you get a player of Smith's caliber. So in the end I don't regret it, even though I can acknowledge that Watt is a very special football player.

2. Speaking of the offensive line, how is rookie guard Zack Martin looking so far in his young career?

He looks like the Cowboys have gone 3-for-3 in picking first-round offensive linemen over the past four drafts. Joining the above-mentioned Smith and center Travis Frederick, Martin is helping anchor an offensive line that is now being talked about as among the best in the NFL. Martin hasn't looked overwhelmed or tentative at all even though he's just a rookie, and his quality of play has helped right tackle Doug Free play better than average most of the time. Martin has been solid at holding the point of attack, but he can also get to the second-level on run blocks. While not the best yet at reading and recognizing blitzes and stunts, he's certainly better than average. There is no "regret" in passing over Johnny Football for Martin, at least not yet.

3. This Cowboys defense was supposed to be awful going into this season, and yet somehow they have been anything but. What has been the secret to their success? Do they have a weakness?

I think you have to give a big percentage of the credit to new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Last year, he was just the defensive line coach to Monte Kiffin's defensive coordinator. This year Marinelli is in charge and just like he did with the Chicago Bears, he has the Cowboys playing solid defense. With a few more "stars" on defense in the future, the Cowboys might actually be able to call their defense a strength. So far, he's made it work minus DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee. Another factor might be that the Cowboys were new to the 4-3 defense last year, having just converted over; this year, guys are more familiar with their positions and responsibilities. Dallas is also benefiting from the trade for Rolando McClain, who has been very good at middle linebacker in replacing the injured Sean Lee.

They do have weaknesses. They can't seem to cover tight ends, the safeties are not getting the job done there, so expect the tight end to play a major role on Sunday. They also don't get to the quarterback as often as they need to, although things are picking up a bit in that department. They will give up yards, but they tend to limit the points allowed and they do create turnovers.

4. What does the Houston-Dallas rivalry mean to Cowboys fans?

It's a rivalry because it is in-state, but I think most Cowboys fans rate it pretty far down on the list. We only play the Texans once every four years, so it's pretty hard to get too much of a rivalry out of it. Cowboys fans are much more concerned with rivalries against the NFC East, and teams like the Steelers and the 49ers. Having said that, no one likes to lose to their in-state opponent, especially when it's a much younger franchise that hasn't been around as long and doesn't have the history behind. Without sounding derogatory, it's like losing to your little brother.  It stings.

5. Put your name on it:  The score of this game will be Dallas _______, Houston ________.  Why?

Dallas 27 - Houston 17. The Cowboys will do what they do best on offense now, and that is run the ball, control the clock and turn to the air when opponents start over-stacking the box. Sure, we'll be concerned with J.J. Watt, and he'll get his work in like always, but the Cowboys just look like a different team this year. I think the Dallas defense will be able to limit the Texans offense enough to where the Cowboys offense can stick to their game plan which is run the ball and walk out with a hard-fought win.

Thanks to Dave for taking the time. Head on over to Blogging The Boys to see what Cowboys fans are saying about the game.

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