5 Bold Predictions for the Dallas Cowboys' Matchup Against San Diego
The Dallas Cowboys have finally illustrated what a complete game looks like, and more importantly, an indication of just how high of a ceiling this team really has. They showed balance, precise execution and a certain crispness in all phases of the game.
Yes, finally a running game that will allow the pressure to come off Tony Romo's shoulders to constantly make plays. A running game that allows the Cowboys to stay on the field, take up huge chunks of time and allow for huge opportunities in the passing game.
The question now becomes whether or not this becomes a regular occurrence or was it just a well thought out game plan and execution aimed at silencing the critics?
The correct answer is that the Cowboys probably realized a lot after the Kansas City game and what it will take to improve.
That might be evidenced by Jason Hatcher's words to the team about consistency that were construed as an attack on Romo. If that's what it takes for the Cowboys to avoid being a roller coaster team then so be it.
The only aspect of the season the Cowboys can control is their next game and how they prepare, play and execute as they did with the Rams. Next up for Dallas are the San Diego Chargers and an opportunity to be 3-1 at the first quarter mark of the season.
Which Dallas team will show up? Here are five bold predictions that might give us a clue.
DeMarco Murray's Explosion Will Continue
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DeMarco Murray's performance against the Rams was just what this offense needed and the team for that matter. His ability to follow his blocks, make the proper cuts and run with a purpose were evident in his final totals of 26 carries, 175 yards and a touchdown.
But it wasn't so much about the total yardage, it was the effectiveness of his running on first and second downs, creating manageable third downs and allowing the Cowboys to utilize the clock.
The Chargers currently rank 28th against the run and are allowing an average of 130 yards per game. This statistic alone is enough reason for optimism that Murray will indeed have a monster game.
Running backs such as Chris Johnson, Arian Foster and Ben Tate have had success against the Chargers run defense and Murray is next. The play of the Cowboys' offensive line is the other reason for optimism in this game.
DeMarcus Ware Will Get a Hat Trick
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The Cowboys currently rank second in the NFL with 13 sacks trailing only Kansas City's 16. Ware, coming of a two-sack performance, and having four on the year, will take advantage of rookie D.J. Fluker or King Dunlap regardless of matchup.
With Jason Hatcher wreaking havoc along the interior of the defensive line, Ware is seeing less double-teams and applying more pressure on quarterbacks. This week will be no different, and a quarterback like Phillip Rivers, who is not mobile, will feel the heat.
My expectation is that Ware will pull off the trifecta and rack up three sacks on Rivers. With the Cowboys currently ranked second in run defense only allowing 66 yards per game, they could force the Chargers into throwing the ball more than they want.
And Ware will be waiting.
Chargers' Secondary Will Have a Long Day
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Dez Bryant battled a sore back last week and was still effective while not posting huge numbers. But when Murray has things going in the running game, the complexion of the offense changes.
Well, expect huge results this week as Bryant victimizes both Shareece Wright and Derek Cox.
The Chargers rank 31st in total defense and have given up 81 points thus far. The Cowboys will add to that total with a huge day from Bryant, some success from the other receivers and Jason Witten winning the game within the hashes.
With Bryant's back only getting better, it will be a long day for the Chargers secondary and a step closer to 3-1 for the Cowboys.
J.J. Wilcox Takes One to the House
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J.J. Wilcox had his first interception negated by a Hatcher roughing the quarterback penalty. But that will change this week.
The opportunistic Dallas defense will produce a defensive touchdown, and the beneficiary will be Wilcox, who has stepped into the starting safety position early in this season.
For Wilcox, it's a meteoric rise from former college receiver, running back and one year safety at Georgia Southern to starting for the Cowboys. He plays with great instincts, awareness and he just has a nose for the ball.
In watching his game footage against the Rams, he really plays within himself and he does not look out of place or out of position. You can tell this is a kid who put in the extra time and is now reaping the benefits.
This is a playmaking safety who will display that on Sunday.
Gavin Escobar Will Make Jerry Jones Look Like a Genius
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Before you order a psychiatric evaluation for me, just look at the steps Escobar has taken in three games. For that matter, look at preseason footage and then look at his performance against the Rams. There has been an under-the-radar improvement in his game that people needs to be noticed.
It's not just for the 24 yard touchdown pass, it's about his ability to pick up blocks, understand the scheme and just an overall improvement in the blocking game. If the Cowboys are going to build on Murray's performance, the tight end position will be vital in that regard.
Now when you watch Escobar in the seam creating a mismatch, we finally saw the real benefit and importance of developing another tight end. Clearly, Escobar is the preferred second tight end on this team, and a probable acceleration into this offense is imminent.
Romo threw a fade to him in the red zone, but he caught it out of bounds, and this is more proof of the Cowboys' commitment to his draft status and determination to develop another weapon. Escobar is fluid in his routes, he has outstanding hands and size, and his presence in the red zone needs to be accounted for.
His improvement will only help this team in several aspects, and with Miles Austin's injury, Escobar will have an impact for this team on Sunday.
I repeat, he will impact this game on Sunday, he will have some key receptions and eventually make Jerry Jones look smart.