NFL - Week 1 - Cowboys and Patriots Unleashed
A fantastic performance by Dak Prescott has fanned the flames of optimism in Dallas. Dak has proven that when his line is healthy and keeping him upright, he’s a solid quarterback. In his rookie year, he led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record while posting a 104.9 rating. For what seems like the first time since that year, the offensive line is feeling healthy and the Cowboys have a fully engaged Ezekiel Elliott at running back. Dak produced a “perfect game” with a 158.3 rating and has set a fire of hope that will be hard to extinguish. Still, many questions are still legitimate. Is Dak really this good? Was the performance a reflection of Kellen Moore’s innovative offensive play calling? Was this a product of Dak’s improvement at under the tutelage of QB coach Jon Kitna? Could his performance be a combination of the two combined? Or was this simply a mirage due to the ineptitude of the Giants’ porous defense?
As a lifetime Cowboy fan (born in the late 60s), I’ve had the privilege to watch a lot of Cowboy games and have been blessed to watch some magnificent Cowboy quarterbacks. I have concern about Dak’s long-term ceiling due to his propensity to throw passes, that while caught, were thrown behind receivers enough to prevent them from gaining yards after the catch. This lack of accuracy means these are completions that might be listed as a 12 yard completion (as an example), but there is no way to keep a stat on a pass that should’ve been a 50 yard touchdown – assuming the receiver had caught a ball in stride. The two quarterbacks who I remember being notorious for turning potential touchdowns into just a completion were Donovan McNabb and Trent Dilfer. Both made it to Super Bowls, with Dilfer winning a title largely due to the nightmarish Raven defense.
In this salary cap era, the Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones has to understand what he has in Dak before signing a long term deal that would add to the dollars spent on Zeke’s deal and still allow Amari Cooper to be signed to form a modern-day triplets. If all three were to sign deals equal to the 2nd highest paid player at their positions, the triplets would project to be 34% of the Cowboys team cap. The second highest percentage for a QB, RB, and WR trio is the 26% of Indianapolis (at least for this year of Luck’s deal). The Cowboys would have talent tied up at 3 positions but can they afford the linemen to block for them or a defense to stop the opponents?
Jerry needs to know what he has at QB. If he has a player that can be one of the top 5 quarterbacks for the long run (think Brady, Rodgers, or Manning) then it’s probably an idea worth pursuing. If he has a QB who needs a huge line and a variety of high paid weapons, then this is a recipe for Cowboy mediocrity. Only time will tell. The stakes are enormous for the franchise and the fans, though.
Patriots = Intimidating
I’ll start with a note that yes, I realize injuries can and will happen. That being said, if there aren’t any key injuries, the Patriots look like 2007 again - this is a team that could end up 16-0 at the end of the regular season. If that’s the case, I see no way that Bill Belichick lets the season end in a second crushing and record-denying loss in the Super Bowl with an undefeated record at stake.
Last night, Brady was…well he was Brady. There’s really nothing else can you say to better describe his performance. Brady was accurate to the point of making the season look like it could be a waste of time. As per typical Belichick, both the offensive line and defensive line are stacked with guys who can play their position well and have the right strength, speed, and football IQs to master the roles Belichick assigns to them. Belichick has three traits that make him the best pro football coach since Vince Lombardi:
he is the master of understanding what each position on his team requires from a player in order for the system to be successful
he is uncannily accurate when evaluating what a player can and cannot do
he then insists on only signing guys who want to win badly – but still fit his criteria for success at a particular position
It was scary to watch the Patriots take apart a more than capable Steeler team with relative ease. Even scarier to think Antonio Brown wasn’t even on the field. How are folks supposed to stop this offense when it gets everyone on the field and they are coached and familiar with the system? I’m not certain any defense can do that. Maybe slow them down? Even that is hard to predict based on last night. Admittedly is only one night - but this is a Belichick coached team with Tom Brady at QB - so pardon me for possibly overreacting. This season may be like watching the 2007 season. Everyone tuned in to watch the Patriots the same way we watched the 1985 Bears. You wanted to see how bad they were going to mess up the other team. Back to the future is here in 2019, maybe?
Here’s the last word I have on the Patriots (for now)…what if Gronk watches this and decides to get back into shape? How hard would it be for him to sign on to play one more stretch for the Patriots – from late November through the Super Bowl? He’s said it would only take a month to get ready to play. Think of Gordon on one side, Brown on the other, Edelman in the slot, and Gronk at TE – does it get any better than that? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.
Next week looks to have some good matchups. Thank goodness the NFL season is upon us!