Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Bengals & Cowboys

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The Cowboys struggled mightily against the Bucs in Week 1 to begin the season this past Sunday, with the most notable development coming in the form of Dak Prescott's thumb injury that will force Cooper Rush into the starting quarterback role moving forward.

It was equally a heartbreaking Week 1 for the Bengals in their home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an overtime loss where Joe Burrow and co. did not look incredibly sharp.

Now that the two will clash with one another in Week 2 at AT&T Stadium, here are five storylines for each team heading into Sunday.

Bengals:

  • Despite spending big in free agency to revamp their offensive line to protect Joe Burrow, including picking up former Cowboys' tackle La'el Collins, the Bengals allowed seven sacks to the ferocious Steelers' defensive front. Micah Parsons racked up two sacks on his own against the Bucs last week, plus the Cowboys' defense collectively has six TFLs in that game. Should the rest of Dallas' young front seven get pressure early it could cause further problems for Cincinnati.
  • As if the sacks were not issue enough for Burrow, add in the fact that he was responsible for five turnovers against the Steelers with four interceptions and one lost fumble. Burrow threw just 14 interceptions all of last season during the Bengals' run to the Super Bowl, while the Cowboys return a secondary led by Trevon Diggs' 11 interceptions and forced 34 turnovers in 2021. Dallas forced Tom Brady into one turnover with Donovan Wilson's pick and should be primed to force more in Burrow keeps up his trend from Week 1.
  • Evan McPherson was as clutch as they came in his rookie season last year from the kicking position, including three successful field goal attempts to end games to close out the regular season. He furthered his legend in the playoffs by going 14-14 on field goal attempts to set the rookie record but was sluggish in Week 1 against Pittsburgh by missing an extra point and potential game-winner.
  • The Bengals will be without longtime long-snapper Clark Harris after suffering a season-ending bicep tear last week. Harris has missed just three games in the Bengals' 205 games since 2009 while the Bengals will now turn to rookie Cal Adomitis to assume the duties after coming up from the practice squad.
  • The Cowboys are 9-4 against the Bengals in the series' history with Dallas taking the last four matchups dating back to 2008. The two teams last got together in 2020 when the Cowboys won 30-7 in Cincinnati, however that was a Bengals' team without a then rookie Joe Burrow due to a torn ACL. This will be Burrow's first career start against Dallas for a Cincinnati team that has not won in Dallas since 1988.

Cowboys:

  • After it was originally thought that Dak Prescott would miss 6-8 weeks with his thumb injury against the Bucs last week, Owner/GM Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning that Prescott would not go on the injured reserve list following thumb surgery on Monday. Jones said that Prescott could in fact return sooner than that with a potential target date of Week 5 at the Rams or at the Eagles in Week 6. The Cowboys are not expected to pursue outside help at the quarterback spot, with Cooper Rush and Will Grier already in the fold.
  • The No. 1 question for the Cowboys for the next couple of weeks following Prescott's thumb injury becomes how the offense will function with back-up Cooper Rush now the starter in the interim. Rush has just one career start that came last season in Week 8 against the Vikings on the road, where he led a game-winning drive in the final minutes to finish with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns to Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. With those two since departed, the challenge for offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will be how to jump start an offense that did not look great against the Bucs with a healthy Prescott.
  • CeeDee Lamb came into 2022 as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver with the aforementioned Cooper now in Cleveland and Michael Gallup still working back from ACL surgery. Coming off his first Pro Bowl season and his first 1,000-yard season, expectations were understandable high, however the former first round pick mustered just two catches for 29 yards on 11 targets. With mostly unproven guys around him, the Bengals are sure to zero in on Lamb, who the Cowboys will be counting on to put Week 1 behind him to get back on track.
  • One of the biggest storylines heading into the season was how rookie tackle Tyler Smith would play in his first career start in place of the injured All-Pro Tyron Smith and the offensive line as a whole. While the younger Smith held his own just fine, left guard Connor McGovern went down on the first series with an ankle injury and will miss the next few weeks, while right tackle Terence Steele found himself in penalty trouble often. If veteran tackle Jason Peters is not ready to be elevated from the practice squad, it seems likely Smith will remain at the tackle spot and Matt Farniok at the guard spot after filling in Sunday.
  • Safety Jayron Kearse left last week's game early with a knee injury before leaving AT&T Stadium on crutches and will not see the field for the next few weeks. Kearse, who led the Cowboys with 101 tackles a season ago, was expected to lead a strong safety group after resigning this past offseason. Now, Dallas will turn to UDFA Markquese Bell who had a strong training camp and preseason or Israel Mukuamu.

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