The Rams face an interesting Dallas Cowboys team tonight in each team's third preseason game.
Both figure to play their starting units more than we've seen to this point, so it's the last good chunk of evaluation to be had with the number ones. Papapegasus ran down the keys to the game, but bear in mind preseason victories are worth about as much as a stack of ESPN magazines. It ain't much.
So to get some intel on the Cowboys, I linked up with KD Drummond over at Blogging the Boys, the SB Nation community for fans of America's Te---BARF COUGH SPLAT POOP BURP BLECH UUUUUUUUUGH. Whew, I feel better.
KD's doing some of the best video work among SBN contributors. His three pivotal road games video was some fine work.
KD was gentlemanly enough to answer five questions for me.
I'm interested to see how Morris Claiborne works out for you guys given the trade the Rams and Cowboys worked out. How did he look against San Diego in his debut?
First, let's say that rational fans are expecting average play and hoping for more than that. It's well known that rookie corners struggle and with Claiborne not being able to participate in rookie camp, OTAs or the first portion of training camp he is definitely behind the curb. The hope, beyond his outstanding ballhawk ability he enters the league with, is that the coaching brain trust that oversaw the only recent rookie CB to succeed in Year One (Joe Haden) is here with Dallas. Rob Ryan and DB coach Jerome Henderson were on the Cleveland staff when Haden was a rookie. In 2009, the didn't start Haden until a couple weeks in and have recently said they wish they started him sooner.As for the San Diego game, Claiborne fared pretty well. He allowed a couple completions but was able to keep the plays in front of him; closing well on a screen and not allowing any YAC on an 8-yard out to Malcolm Floyd (although he did bail on the play before collecting himself). Other than that, he really wasn't tested much. In that context, you'd have to say he passed his first test.
The rest of the Q&A after the jump.
How is the offensive line shoring up and who do you expect the starting unit to consist of?
Things were much better against the Chargers than they were against the Raiders. Tony Romo actually had several seconds on the majority of his snaps to scan the field; a stark contrast from the second drive against Oakland where Witten's spleen and Romo's circle of trust were assaulted on consecutive snaps.The line still isn't complete and won't be until next week. Nate Livings returned at LG, meaning we can finally sit Derrick Dockery down. At this point he appears to have no business in the NFL anymore; a nine-year veteran camp body. Mackenzie Bernadeau has looked pretty good at RG since he returned from offseason hip and knee surgery. The tackle switch is going well as second-year man Tyron Smith is settling in nicely at LT; no worries there. Doug Free has given up a couple plays in the preseason and been consistent outside of those; but they were crucial errors. You don't have to call in the cavalry, but anyon who claims they aren't a little concerned is either a little lying or a little homer.Our starting center still isn't back. Phil Costa will hopefully return next week but he is the main concern on the team of most fans. You can imagine the angst over his backup who never snapped before the second week of camp and has never played a snap in his NFL career. David Arkin's snaps have been comical in camp, but he's been perfect in two games. He is actually faring much better than expected based on how the national reporters painted his camp performance.When the season starts, we hope to trot out Smith-Livings-Costa-Bernadeau-Free, but that won't be Saturday night and the next time you see them together will be the first.
What's the status of the WR unit? Who's stepping up to play behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin at this point in the preseason? I've been hearing buzz about Cole Beasley this week; does he look legit to you?
Half of the fan base is waiting for the 2012 version of Laurent Robinson to be signed. The other half wants to see how the "no-snap" newbies (as I like to call them) performs. It appears that the clubhouse leader for the third wideout position is a guy in between. Kevin Ogletree has been with the team for a couple years and has looked lost on the field in the past. It appears the light switch finally came on this offseason after his brother was murdered and he found focus. If no outside vets are signed, Ogletree will win the competition as he can play both inside and outside. He caught a ball in traffic, took the hit and held on; a play that cemented his lead.Dwayne Harris, last year's sixth rounder is impressing as well, though not as consistently. Andre Holmes has great size, but can't string together solid plays, much less days. Tim Benford was strong early and has faded and Raymond Radway is also inconsistent. Fifth-round pick Danny Coale is just now getting into the action after breaking his foot in June.Cole Beasley quit camp and that rubbed me the wrong way after being one of his most vocal supporters through the offseason. He's exciting for fans to root for but his damage mostly came in garbage time. There's no denying his ability to get open and make the catch, but he's just so damn small.
Any concerns in the front seven on defense? With DeMarcus Ware and your ILBs, it looks like a strength. Is the D-line on track to be a top unit this year?
You nailed it; this should be the pride of the team. We have been able to get pressure in the preseason without Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer; three starters. They are all back now. OLB Victor Butler has great pass rushing skills and will get more snaps in 2012. Rookie DE Tyrone Crawford has shown plenty of push and played up and down the line. DE Sean Lissemore made big impact in limited 2011 snaps.With the swap out of the aging Keith Brooking and Bradie James for the youthful Bruce Carter and Dan Conner at inside backer, this is the most confident Dallas has been in their front seven in a long, long time.
Random question: what share of your readership/commentariat at BTB would you say isn't from or hasn't ever lived in Dallas? I always think the non-native fan base is an interesting topic. Of course me being from Dallas and a Rams fan makes no sense, so it's a bit of my personal status as a "foreign fan" that drives that interest.
Hold on, let me store commentariat in the word bank. OK, as you know we have the nickname America's Team and fans of the other 31 teams hate this fact. However, check the merchandise sales despite any real playoff success in almost 20 years. Check the television ratings that have multiple Dallas games in the Top 10 every year. It's true, it's true. Fans all over the country and the world love the Cowboys and BTB is no different.Heck, look at our staff. Not a single person from the DFW, only one from the state of Texas. Georgia, Maryland (DC area), New York (2- both upstate), Pennsylvania and... wait for it... Germany. Our commentariat reflects the same. We just launched the 2012 Cowboys preview e-book this week, and we have international sales and inquiries as to when it will be available in foreign iTunes and Kindle stores. I just checked Sitemeter, and out of the last 40 visitors, only three were from Texas.
We're everywhere, and we're not going anywhere except for the 2012 playoffs.
Thanks to KD for taking the time to answer these.