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Spagnola: Ready To Find Out Just A Little Bit More About These Cowboys

FRISCO, Texas – As they say, one game does not a season make.

Win or lose. Doesn't matter.

Of course, you would rather win that season opener than lose. Go ask New England and Seattle and Arizona. Heck, go ask Cincinnati, already 0-2 and firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, son of former Cowboys offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.

But the Cowboys won.


Beat the Giants, and the game was not nearly as close as the score might indicate, especially when you consider the Cowboys kicked field goals from the 3 and 12. Score touchdowns like you should, and it's 27-3. Even so, only four of the opening week's 15 winners won by a larger point differential.

So the optimism needle out there is hitting bright green.

Yet there sure seems to be a lot of questions still hovering over this Cowboys team heading into Sunday's matchup with the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And you know what, that's good. That's healthy. That's keeping your heads on straight, not allowing 1-0 on the heels of 13-3 to cause premature giddy-up so early in the season.

Guarantee you the Cowboys coaches are cautiously optimistic right there with you, looking for more evidence of just who this team might be.

"One of the things that's so important for us to do as a coaching staff is to evaluate independent of the result," says Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. "Oftentimes you win a game and everyone thinks everything is great or you lose a game and everyone thinks everything is bad.

"But you have to hunker down and just evaluate. Evaluate play by play, player by player, situation by situation."

You bet, and like in the Cowboys' case you have to ask, is this defense for real? After all, the Cowboys held the Giants to just 233 total yards and 35 rushing yards. That leaves them heading into Round 2 of the season ranked seventh in total defense, if you can fathom six other teams in the league totaled fewer yards than did the Giants in a league-wide offensive brownout that first week. The Cowboys also are No. 1 against the run, just where they left off last season.

And that pass rush: For real? Why, the Cowboys recorded three sacks in the opener, two of those by DeMarcus Lawrence. They probably left at least three more on the field. Three a game then would factor out to 48 for the season. You'd have to go back to 2008 to find the Cowboys finishing a season with more (59). The club single-season sack record is the 62 in 1985, three years after sacks became an official NFL stat. Again, this is one game. But here is what is so encouraging: The sack totals have gone up in each of the past three seasons under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's jurisdiction after the departure of DeMarcus Ware: 28-31-36.

Then there is Jaylon Smith. Seriously? The guy had not played in a game in 20 months. Still wears a brace to combat increasingly decreasing drop foot. Sometimes needs an extra step or two to get where he's going, especially when changing directions. But the coaches awarded him nine tackles against the Giants, six of those solos, playing 36 snaps. Man, does this guy have that much talent he can play through his physical handicap? That much talent he can play through prolonged inactivity? Let's keep watching.

 Next, what about that offensive line? Have the Cowboys sufficiently repaired the best line in the NFL after the departures of Doug Free at right tackle and Ron Leary at left guard? And again, let's not hastily jump to conclusions, considering La'el Collins was playing tackle in a real game for the first time since his senior year (2014) at LSU, and Chaz Green was playing a whole game at guard for the first time, period, the offensive tackle by trade claiming to only have been inside for just a half one time at Florida. That, too, was at least three years ago.

The early returns up front? The Cowboys ran for 129 yards against a stout Giants defense. Ezekiel Elliott had 104. Dak Prescott was sacked only one time. Their 392 total yards and 34 minutes, 14 seconds time of possession against the Giants both rank fourth in the NFL after Week 1. Not bad, but by no means a finished product. Let's keep an eye on this, especially with Denver's, uh, Vont-ed defense and head-pulsating crowd noise up next.

Here is another question: Can this young secondary hold up? Just think, with veteran Orlando Scandrick already ruled out of Sunday's game after having his fractured third metacarpal on the back of his left hand surgically-repaired, six of the possible nine active defensive backs on Sunday will be in no more than their third year. And only one of those six, Byron Jones, is a third-year guy. That's a lot, as they say, yout back there, especially when you consider the top three corners going up against Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will be eighth-year veteran Nolan Carroll, second-year man Anthony Brown and rookie Chidobe Awuzie, with rookie Jordan Lewis poised to be active for the first time. And don't forget rookie safety Xavier Woods and second-year safety Kavon Frazier active, too. That'll create some high anxiety.  

 And, yes, I know, I know, what about Zeke? What's going to happen with those tired-head court cases, what with this appeal, that appeal, this arbitrator, that district judge and ultimately now next week's three-judge Circuit Court panel? Can't help you here. This we know for sure: Elliott plays Sunday against the Broncos (1-0). After that, judges will decide if he immediately starts his six-game suspension, has the suspension delayed yet another week or two, orrrrrr … stay the suspension until further court proceedings take place in the offseason.

And you think our income tax system is complicated.

So all this questioning is healthy after Game 1, taking, as Jaylon Smith likes to say, a clear-eye view of what you've done and more importantly what you still need to do. Thus, we should receive more evidence Sunday at Mile High of just where the Cowboys are. Because as Bill Parcells is wont to say, you don't want to be a flash in the pan.

Consistency is key.

"Consistency is such an important thing," Garrett preaches. "The best teams are consistent. The best players are consistent. It's week in and week out. And it's even more than that. It's throughout a ball game …

"But you used the right word, consistent. Can you be consistent the next week, do the same kinds of things?"

Exactly. And for the Cowboys, the next week arrives Sunday, 3:25 p.m., on the road in Denver, Colo., before a crowd upwards of 76,000. No matter. The Cowboys are 18-7 in their last 25 road games, with five of those losses during the Romo-less 2015 season and one the final game of last season they punted for preserved-health reasons.

That was then, though. This is now. This is this team. And we're about to find out just a little bit more.

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