Like we'll often do here, I recently exchanged questions with Dave Halprin who runs the Blogging the Boys, SB Nation's Dallas Cowboys blog. Below are the questions I've asked him about his Cowboys. To see my responses to his questions, head on over to Blogging the Boys.
It's a big loss, Ferguson was the anchor in the middle of the 3-4 and was very hard to run against. In the preseason we moved backup DE Jay Ratliff to NT, he will be taking over for Ferguson. Ratliff is a good player, a guy with a high motor, a very quick burst off the ball and can get after the QB. The problem is he's not as big as Ferguson, Ratliff is just under 300 lbs. so we want to see how he holds up against the run for a full game. If he can be blocked in the run game with some double teams, our ILB's will have to be very active or else the Dolphins will exploit that. In all honesty though, I'm not overly worried because I've watched Ratliff play for the past couple of years including two training camps and he is a very good player.
What in the world happened last Sunday night to Dallas's pass defense? It had to be more than just the absence of Terence Newman for the Giants to be able to torch them quite often, right?
Terence Newman was part of the equation, but the other part was the guys who were out there played really poorly, with a couple of exceptions. When Newman plays, we can lock him up on a receiver and give help in other areas. He also allows us to blitz the safety from his side and do a lot more in coverage with the other players. The big news is that Newman has practiced with the scout team the past two days and is a game time decision as to whether he'll play. He does make a big difference in our secondary when he's in there.
Without him last Sunday, CB's Anthony Henry and Jacques Reeves struggled to cover Burress and Toomer. With Reeves, who was replacing Newman, we kind of expected some mistakes. Because FS Ken Hamlin spent a lot of time covering Jeremy Shockey, we gave Reeves help from SS Roy Williams, which was a mistake because Roy didn't provide much help. No big surprise there. We also didn't generate enough of a pass rush until later in the game, so the inexperienced corner together with some vets who were having terrible games led to disaster.
How do you think the Cowboy defense will play the pass? Will they blitz often like Washington did, allowing Trent Green to continually check down to the backs with some success (12 times for 88 yards) or will they use three and four man rushes and drop more into coverage?
Wade Phillips has gone on record as saying he never rushes only three guys. He blitzes as much as any coach in the league. So you can forget about Dallas sitting back and playing a prevent shell, they are going to come after Trent Green. Wade Phillips' defensive philosophy is based on getting pressure on the QB, he will bring guys from everywhere. We blitzed our nickel corner five times last week. So bet on blitzes all day long.
How will the Cowboys attack this Dolphin defense? Last week, the Redskins fared much better running the ball against this defense than many thought they would. Meanwhile, the Dolphins did a fairly good job against the pass despite the secondary being the weakness of this defense.
Dallas likes to establish the run to set up play-action passes and to draw the linebackers up so Jason Witten can get loose in the middle. If they can then draw the safeties up, they will go over the top. So expect the Cowboys to run the ball with Julius Jones and Marion Barber, they have a massive offensive line and they want to use it to pound on defenses. But they do it to set up the passing game with Witten and Terrell Owens. Plus, we got a couple of young receivers who are showing a lot of promise.
When it's all said and done, how do you see this game playing out? Who wins and why?
I think Dallas will win because they will be able to run the ball, and I'm not sure if Miami will be able to. I watched the Redskins game and it looked like the Dolphins offensive line was struggling to get any room for their backs, and Dallas has had a pretty good run defense over the past few years. Because Dallas will be able to run the ball, they can set up their passing game for Romo. Our good offense will have more success against your good defense than your struggling offense will have success against our struggling defense. But I'm a homer, so did you expect anything less?
A big thanks to Dave for taking the time to do this. And be sure to check out my responses over at Blogging the Boys.