IRVING, Texas – With a week away from the regular reason grind, I've been fielding plenty of questions about what to expect from this Cowboys team going forward.
Here are some things I want to address before we dive into game prep for the New York Giants:
What do you think you will see from Matt Cassel that you didn't see from Brandon Weeden?
Let me first say this: if this team would have won in New Orleans, I don't believe we would have seen this switch at quarterback. It was after that loss when the front office and staff knew that something had to be done. The one benefit that Cassel has making this start is that he has been here with the team going through the losses. If he was just coming off the street and had no true understanding of the playbook or the personnel, his job would be more difficult. At least with a working knowledge of the situation, he has a legitimate chance for success. Cassel has been with the club long enough to understand which of those receivers have had success getting open and those which have struggled. One of Weeden's biggest failures was not getting the ball to those receivers that had worked open. There were far too many snaps where he made his mind up and was willing to lay the ball off underneath, and I just don't see Cassel taking this approach. Technique-wise, where Cassel will be noticeably different than Weeden is in his pocket awareness and mobility. Cassel knows how to slide and adjust in order to make throws when he feel pressure. Some of his best passes during his career have been those which he can move forward in the pocket and hit receivers on the move. Cassel doesn't have the same arm strength as Weeden, but his athletic ability is clearly better and you will see that in this game.
What are your expectations of Randy Gregory coming off his high ankle sprain?
From talking to folks that get to watch practice each day, they could not say enough positive things about Gregory and what he was able to bring in those two practices. They were saying that his initial quickness, acceleration and burst were all there. If you remember his first game against the Giants – he was able to put tackle Ereck Flowers in some poor blocking positions. You never know how these injuries are going to play out, but I am excited to see him working with Greg Hardy in this nickel rush. These two had an outstanding chemistry together in the preseason and there is no reason to believe we wouldn't see that continue.
Is La'el Collins really the answer at guard?
I have always been a fan of Ronald Leary and I will continue to be, but his play isn't where it needs to be at this point. The tape has shown this, so I can understand why the front office and staff have made the decision they have. This start against the Giants will not be easy for Collins because they pride themselves on their ability to defend the run and this season is no different by allowing opponents less than four yards per carry. The reason why the Giants have been able to defend the run so well is due in large part to their size. What Collins has to be ready for is a man playing heavy on his nose the entire night. If he does have a bit of an advantage in this situation, it's that he has made a start so he will be able to draw from that experience. But his biggest weapon is his explosive power and strength. There will be several snaps where he is going to have to deal with these defenders one-on-one and how well he handles those blocks will be noticeable. I didn't think that he was ready to handle this task before the season, and I am still not sure now -- but there are those that believe otherwise.