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Mailbag: How long for offense to find rhythm?


I understand the safety concerns with not wanting to risk injury to a starting player during the preseason. But as tight as the NFC East is going to be, especially between Dallas and Philadelphia, every division game is big. So with the Cowboys opening up the season at the rival Giants, do you think it was wise to enter the season with a "rusty" starting lineup? Is it going to take Dak Prescott and the offense a few possessions (or a game) to find their rhythm?Michael Scharch/Easton, MD

Nick Eatman: Some of this might depend on the health of their two starting linemen on the left side. I would imagine if both Tyron Smith (ankle) and Tyler Smith (hamstring) are not in the lineup, finding a rhythm is going to be even tougher now. But as to your original question, I just don't think it's the smart move to play the starters in the preseason. Do you really think having them play a few snaps on Aug. 12, then Aug. 19 and then Aug. 26 is going to make them even more ready to go for Sept. 10? I hear the point and then last year's game with the Bucs is easy to make a case. But I just feel like the rust will still be there if you played in the preseason and still took two weeks off. The risk/reward just isn't there for me. All I know, the Cowboys have gone 3-1, 3-1 and 3-1 in the last three seasons after a preseason. So whatever they're doing to prepare for a season seems to be working.

Patrik: I personally think the "rust" thing is overblown and often stripped completely of context. If we're talking about Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense going up against the Dallas defense of, say, the Rob Ryan defense of 2011 then, sure, give them some burn in the preseason against other teams. But when it's arguably one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, with arguably the best defensive coordinator and arguably the best defensive player in the league (not to mention playmakers at every position/level), is it really rust, is there a reason to think playing Prescott and Co. in the preseason would somehow offer MORE resistance and a BIGGER challenge? This is the way I look at it, and my answer is no. So then I'd be risking their health in games that have no bearing on the outcome of the season UNLESS they get injured; and I'm not good with that. I saw the battles in camp firsthand and I promise you, there's no other defense that would've tested Prescott and the offense like Dallas' defense did/does. That means there should not only be no rust, but things should be a bit easier in actual games … because only one or two other teams in the NFC can offer up a defensive challenge that equals what they've seen all summer.

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