Well it is that time of year yet again. The 2009 NFL football season officially begins tonight when the Tennessee Titans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the defending NFL champion Steelers. Perhaps more importantly, however, the start of the season marks the weekly return of America’s Table, Bleacher Report’s Dallas Cowboys roundtable.
For those new to the series, America’s Table is comprised of two die hard Cowboys fans (James Williamson and Robert Allred) and one Cowboys hater (Andrew Nuschler). In addition to offering weekly insight and analysis on the Cowboys’ games throughout the season, America’s Table will also cover any breaking Cowboys news as it comes in and is happy to answer questions submitted by readers.
But enough with the introduction, let’s talk some Dallas Cowboys football!
One of the biggest "controversies" surrounding the Cowboys this offseason has not involved any coaches, players, or players' girlfriends, but has instead been about the largest big screen TV in the world. Set at 90 feet above field level and ranging from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, the Cowboys' new Jumbotron (to put it lightly) is undoubtedly a marvel to behold. However, in the Cowboys' first preseason game, it got plunked by the back-up Minnesota punter and raised the question of whether or not it needs to be raised. Should Jerry and/or the NFL foot the bill to have the screen raised, or is it fine where it is?
James Williamson: It's fine. From what I read, if the punters don't try to intentionally hit it, they really won't hit it. Jones used his own punter, Matt McBriar, to test the video board and check its height. I haven't seen McBriar come real close yet.
I don't see anything wrong with it. The NFL allows the Colts to pump in fake crowd noise or turn up the temperature if the opposing QB has a sickness. For years, the NFL didn't do anything about the turf at Veteran's Stadium. Qwest field is beyond loud because of its architecture. I view the video board as architecture and if the Cowboys get a small homefield advantage with it, then there is nothing wrong really.
It isn't like they are messing with the field to sabotage an opponent's gameplan like the Steelers did to the Raiders in 1975. That was cheating; a video board that may make a punter change his angles or his power in his punt is not.
Andrew Nuschler: I actually hadn’t heard about this until my pops (who loathes the ‘pokes almost as much as I do) mentioned it to me the other day.
C’mon, it’s gotta be raised and it’s gotta come out of Jerry Jones’ checkbook.
This isn’t Major League Baseball where each new old-fashioned yard has its own little nuance. Individual quirks that give the place character like the Green Monster in Fenway Park or the Ivy in Wrigley Field or the hill in Minute Maid Park are par for the course when it comes to the diamond.
Maybe I’m wrong, but aside from dome/not-dome, different kinds of turf, and cold weather/warm weather stadiums, all football stadiums seem pretty uniform. Now, all of a sudden, you’re gonna have an obstruction hanging over one field?
And the problem was foreseeable so it’s on Jones to fix it. A man who’s spent as much time around a pro football field as Jerry has and who takes as much credit for the franchise’s every move as Jerry does should’ve seen the issue in its infancy.
Plus, I don’t like him so let’s get his money...
Robert Allred: If anyone should pay for the screen to be raised, it should be the league. It was not only built to meet regulations, but to exceed them. Rules call for the screen to be at least 85 feet above the playing surface, and Jerry put it at 90. Love him or hate him, Jerry should not have to eat the cost if the league does in fact determine that the screen needs to be raised.
Still, I am not convinced that it needs to be.
A Tennessee punter, playing in a meaningless pre-season game, tried to hit the video board. Why? Because he's a backup kicker, and that is about the only way he is going to get his name in the paper! Look, if I really wanted to, I could probably jump out into the street in front of an oncoming bus. Does that mean that the government should shell out a bunch of cash to build 10 foot walls surrounding every street in America? No, they don't need to, because most people would agree that there is little benefit to jumping in front of a bus, and therefore it will very rarely happen.
The same is true of a punt hitting the video board. The NFL has already taken action to remove any benefit associated with doing so. Originally there were concerns that teams could use this approach to run time off the clock late in the game. Now, if a punt hits the screen, the down will simply be replayed and time put back on the clock. No punter is going to try to hit the screen now, because a) it has already been done, b) doing so offers no benefit, and c) it gives the opposing team another chance to block their kick.
I am not going to be so bold as to say that nobody will ever accidentally punt the ball into the video board again, but I will happily go on record with a prediction that it will happen less than three times over the course of the season. And if that's the case, does it really matter?
Anyone that looks at the Dallas Cowboys roster will quickly tell you that they have plenty of talented players on both offense and defense. However, as the New England Patriots can attest to, no team is perfect and every team has its weaknesses and areas of desired improvement. As a Cowboy coach, what position group worries you the most?
James: Two points worry me to the point of hives. One, I severely question our secondary including Pro Bowl safety Ken Hamlin. He was a flop last year. Gerald Sensabaugh is maybe half the player Troy Polamalu is on a good day, and Jenkins and Scandrick combined for one interception last year.
The one guy I trust is Terrence Newman and he's injury prone. I see the roster and I pray for a faster pass rush so teams can't throw on us.
The other area that worries me is the deep ball. We haven't seen any of our receivers really make a deep catch. I think the one offensive play over 35 yards was a screen to Felix Jones that he busted for a big gain.
The Cowboys need the deep ball to be able to score quickly in case the defense can't stop the opposing offense. You can't waste the clock and score a little if the other team is already up by 21. Big receiving plays are necessary and without T.O. there is a good chance we won't have any.
I gotta go with quarterbacks, but not necessarily because I doubt Tony Romo.
Although the defense in Big D is important as it is for every team, I think the Cowboys can still excel without each unit on that side of the ball playing perfectly. It would be a crushing blow to lose a DeMarcus Ware or Terrence Newman for an extended period of time, but, with a humming offense, the ‘boys could survive.
On the other hand, the ‘pokes are rode hard and put up wet if the O disappears.
Fortunately, the glamour half has a full stable of running backs, one of the best tight ends in the League, an intimidating front line of beef, and two possibly underrated threats at receiver. In other words, there aren’t a lot of footholds for fretting.
BUT, if Romo struggles or gets hurt? Yikes.
A slow start would be most catastrophic because the wave of negativity could capsize the whole organization (wouldn’t that be a cryin’ shame?). An injury would be a disaster, but not of the same magnitude since Jon Kitna isn’t the worst arm in a glass case.
Even so, if I’m a coach and I’m losing sleep, it’s gotta be visions of a worst-case QB scenario plaguing my dreams.
Robert: For me, it has got to be the wide receivers. I do not have concerns with the skill level of the group, because I think that their top four receivers are plenty talented for this offense to work, and Kevin Ogletree has showed some promise. What does concern me is the depth: Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, and Ogletree.
Williams has had only one season in his career in which he has played a full 16 games, and both Austin and Hurd have shown a knack for getting injured early in their careers. If even one of the Cowboys' top four receivers goes down to injury for a significant amount of time, things can get dicey at that position.
Still, with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, the Cowboys do have one of the best running back stables in the NFL, and they have the best tight end duo in the league in Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. Even if their receivers do get a little banged up over the course of the season, the Cowboys have plenty of weapons they can go to through the air.
Short and Sweet: Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Predictions and score?
James: I hate predicting scores, but I'll say that the Boys win 28-10 this Sunday.
Andrew: Short and sweet should also describe the competitive portion of this game.
27-13 Dallas Cowboys take it comfortably.
Robert: This is one of the best teams that Dallas could ask to start their season against. Traditionally, Tampa is a tough place to play, but this is not the Tampa team from last year. With a new quarterback and the distractions that have come along involving the firing of their offensive coordinator, this team should be ripe for the picking. Cowboys win this one handily, 28-6.