With the players we have returning that have been out for several games (D-Law, Gregory, Gallimore), how long do you think it will take them to get back up to speed to their normal game peak? Seems unrealistic to think they will hit the ground 100%, just from a reaction / game processing perspective. — TRACY MILLIFF / ARKADELPHIA, AR
Nick: The good thing about this is they play on defense, where rotation is a normal thing. If this was a cornerback, offensive lineman or quarterback, it's a different deal because it's pretty much all-or-nothing. I think D-Law showed us what he could do right off the bat and even though he didn't have a ton of plays, he was in the middle of the action from start to finish. If they can get that again from Gregory and even Neville Gallimore, they'll be in great shape. And don't forget about Trysten Hill. For this game, the Cowboys shoud have Gallimore, Hill, Odighizuwa and Carlos Watkins inside, along with the Chauncey Golston playing a couple of spots. That's a deeper rotation than we've seen all year.
David: My plan is to always keep my expectations low, because it's asking a lot for a guy to hit the ground running. But then I watched DeMarcus Lawrence go out and wreck shop in his very first game back from injury. Combine that with the fact that Randy Gregory has only been out for three weeks, and I don't think it's going to take long at all. Maybe it all come together at once, but I don't think it should be too long of a wait.
On the upside, this team seems to have plenty of grit and a good chance to get healthy for a stretch run. On the downside, we seem to have lost our ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on offense. What do you think we can do to regain our early season form? Is it as simple as giving Connor Williams another chance, or did Denver really give the league a "blueprint" on how to play defense against us? — LES HOFFMAN / PELL CITY, AL
Nick: I've said a couple of times now that I'd go back to Connor Williams at guard. If the move was supposed to change anything in terms of penalties, it has done that. But it's also the same time the offense has started to go south. I'm not putting it all on McGovern, but he's got to be factored into the equation. I don't think Connor Williams was struggling too much in terms of blocking, but yes, the penalties were an issue. Now, a lot of them were from one game. And we've seen in the case of Anthony Brown, that sometimes one officiating crew can alter our opinions of a player in the big picture. I'd go back to Williams and that also opens up the HULK package that uses McGovern as the lead fullback, which was so effective in short-yardage situations.
David: They need to make opponents respect their passing game, which they haven't been able to do on a consistent basis for six weeks. Some of that has been injury, some of that has been COVID-19, some of that has been communication issues, some of that has been outright bad play. Regardless, Dak Prescott and his receivers need to sync up and remind opposing defenses that it's going to cost them to key on the run too much.