Some pregame thoughts before the Cowboys take on the Giants Sunday night:
- There was no way to expect that Brian Waters would have been ready to play in this game despite how many Pro Bowls he had been to in his career. What I do know, is that health wise this offensive line is in the best shape they have been in weeks. Ronald Leary will start at left guard and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the right side.
By working Doug Free and Jermey Parnell as well during the preseason it has protected them in case that there is a problem at one of those spots. You never want to go into a game and have that feeling that if something were to happen injury wise, you didn't have the best plan or options in place to handle the situation. By Free working at right guard, it now appears very smart on this front office and coaches part. Seven are going to dress but you have to be prepared for them all to play.
- The shoulder injury to Ben Bass during Thursday's practice is a situation that happens and there is really no way around it when you work your team the way that Jason Garrett has. Practices have been competitive and it's just part of the game that you deal with. Where Bass' injury hurts this team the most is with its depth at an already thin position. Bass is one of those players that had shown the ability to play not only some defensive tackle but end as well.
When you have a backup that you have confidence in to fill a couple of roles and you lose him, then it leaves you in a tough spot. Pending his MRI, it appears that Bass will be out several weeks, so there are a couple of ways the club can play this. They could move a player off the roster and look to add say a Jeris Pendleton for one week who knows the system from his days in camp and play him at the one technique and have Landon Cohen as the three. Another option, would be to move newly acquired Caesar Rayford inside as a potential backup tackle and nickel rusher for Nick Hayden. Rayford does have the size and length to play inside plus the quickness and get off the coaches like.
- Jason Witten has been outstanding in these practices during training camp even though it has not shown in the preseason games. Witten has always been productive against the Giants throughout his career and despite what Giants safety, Antrel Rolle says, he should once again have a big day. Matter of fact, I see all the Cowboys tight ends being on point in this matchup. From what I have seen on tape of the Giants, you need to attack them on early down because of their linebackers.
They do not have that Michael Boley type of player that was able to matchup and play in coverage. Dan Connor starts at the Mike linebacker, so working tight ends and backs in his area, should be a good plan. Connor is a very aggressive player when it comes to attacking the line of scrimmage, so play action calls could put him in some bad positions. I believe we will see a heavy dose of "12" personnel from Bill Callahan to create some matchup issues that they can take advantage of.
- There will be a great deal of pressure on Orlando Scandrick this game of having to play out of the slot. Victor Cruz is no easy draw but Scandrick was able to handle him the last time these two clubs met. I thought that Scandrick was outstanding during training camp but the book on him lately has been look great in the Summer but not the same in the Fall. This season has a chance to be different for him because I feel like that practice after practice, down after down, he has been more consistent finishing plays. In previous seasons, I didn't always see that consistency.
I observed good plays, then there would be two or three in a row where he didn't look like the same player. Scandrick will play a critical role in this scheme not only in the nickel but the first man off the bench if something were to happen to either one of the starters and with Claiborne's knee in question, that's an important role. We also need to keep an eye on Scandrick and how Monte Kiffin uses him as a slot blitzer. It was a tactic that Ronde Barber was famous for in his years with Tampa Bay. Scandrick has the same ability and feel for the rush that Barber had.
- Going into this game on Sunday night, there are still questions of how well can this Cowboys special teams unit play and are there going to be many of the same struggles we saw in the preseason? As critical as many have been of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, I am not one of those. My job as a scout, was to find these coaches players that can execute our schemes. I believe with the flurry of moves that we had seen at the cut down, that this front office had the same vision. The mistake would have been to sit on their hands and do absolutely nothing but that was not the case at all. What they have done is try to build a core group that doesn't miss blocks or tackles.
Dante Rosario was a core guy but he didn't work out. The front office goes and gets a couple of guys like Edgar Jones and Kyle Bosworth that have experience but also have been productive teams guys. Put those veterans with rookies like J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath, who are physical hard-nosed players, then you have a chance for a dependable group. It will hurt the squad this week against the Giants with no Danny McCray or Lance Dunbar but this is where Phillip Tanner, Ernie Sims and Dwayne Harris have to step up and make plays. Better players make a better coach, on Sunday night against the Giants, let's see if those players prove me right.