Opponent proponents - Q&A with Blogging the Boys

  Yes, it's looking bad for Sam Bradford's 22nd consecutive start at QB for the Rams, but there are two teams in every game. I linked up with Dave Halprin from Blogging the Boys to see what's going down with the Cowboys ahead of Sunday's game.

Any appraisal of the Cowboys has to begin with Tony Romo. I'll discard any national-level narrative and just let you work on a blank slate. How would you rate his performance this season? Has the rib injury had an obvious negative effect on his play?

Here's the thing about Tony Romo, when he's on, he's about as good as anybody. He has almost every skill you want in a QB. Accurate, good pocket presence, quick release, mobile (when fully healthy), throws well on the run. Watching the Cowboys every week, when he's got things going right, the Cowboys passing offense is a machine. The problem is obviously there are times when he becomes Mr. Hyde instead of Dr. Jekyll, and can make some very poor decisions. I've always attributed it to over-competitiveness, not knowing when to pull back and accept the merely bad play instead of trying to make the big play and have it turn disastrous.

As for the injury this year, it's had an effect on his play, not in his ability to throw the ball but in limiting the amount of contact he can take. The Cowboys have resorted to a shorter passing scheme and quick-release plays to limit the hits. He's also staying in the pocket much more to avoid getting hit on the run. Romo is usually very good at scrambling and throwing on the run. That part of his game has been minimized due to the injury.

The rest of the Q&A after the jump.

Football Outsiders ranks the Cowboys' rushing offense as the worst in the league thus far. It's a topic One.Cool.Customer discussed on BTB recently. To whom would you ascribe the struggles of the running game?

I think the majority share has to go to the offensive line. The Cowboys have some talent at running back, and I'm convinced that if they had some room to work in they could produce. Too often teams are penetrating the line of scrimmage instead of the Cowboys line creating a good initial push. I do have some questions about the play-calling and the overall scheme.

It seems that the Cowboys tip their hand a lot by the formations they use, and have become somewhat predictable in their decisions about when to run. I would love to see Jason Garrett bring out a few new wrinkles to the running game. Also, the lack of a good lead fullback is a factor. The Cowboys have been using tight ends as substitute fullbacks. This week, Tony Fiametta, a true fullback, should return from injury. We'll see if that helps.

How has the defense looked under year one of Rob Ryan's DC tenure? Is there cause for concern or optimism?

This has been a real bright spot for the Cowboys. Last week, we limited the high-octane Pats offense to just 20 points (although the offense bombed and we lost). The Cowboys defense is tops against the run, 8th against the pass, and have been creating pressure, sacks and turnovers. Basically all you can want from a defense. Ryan has re-energized this unit and has done it without a true offseason to implement all the unusual looks he can give an offense. The conventional wisdom is they should get even better once they've had a chance to absorb all of his scheme. The defense is unpredictable in what they do, and they can blitz just about anybody on the field at any time. They are not a blitz-happy team, but when they do blitz it's usually very creative.

The comments about "going for the kill." The Romo brush off. Is Jerry Jones having a negative impact on his franchise, or is this just Jerry being Jerry?

Just Jerry being Jerry. His influence has been less and less as the years go by. Don't get me wrong, he's still in charge and can make all of the decisions if he chooses. But it seems he's delegating more of his power to his son Stephen, and to Jason Garrett in personnel decisions. That's the key area where he's damaged us in the past, but the purge of over-priced under-performing players this offseason, many of who were Jerry projects, was definitely pressed by Jason Garrett and his coaching staff. Jerry acceded to Garrett's wishes. Most of this other stuff is just window-dressing.

As a Dallas native, I know that the Cowboys are the heart of the city's sporting fanaticism. But with the Mavericks' finally winning a championship, with the Rangers in the World Series two years running, is there a chance the share of the market the Cowboys own is eroding? I'm not trying to hate, but with just one playoff win since 1996, are the casual fans (if there are any in DFW) in the area starting to crumble away from the Cowboys?

I'm really not the best person to answer that. I'm not a Dallas native, so my view of the Cowboys fanbase is more national. I suppose that many fans are thrilled about the Mavs and Rangers, as they should be, but I can't imagine many of them are turning away from the Cowboys. Sure, we're mad that the team hasn't had playoff success and reached the Super Bowl like they used to, but we're fans, every season brings new hope.

Thanks again to Dave from BTB for hooking it up.

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