I wish I could answer all those questions for you, but those answers will reveal themselves soon enough. So too will the more important question that, in my opinion, will dictate the eventual success of the Cowboys season. Will the offensive line continue to improve and be equipped to give consistent performances while assisting whatever quarterback is guiding the rest of the offense?
We saw a young offensive line bow up to the powerful defensive line of the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles in week one in Arlington. My contention is the FSU defensive line and their coaches believed they were so much better than the OSU offensive line sporting a redshirt freshman in Zach Crabtree at right tackle and first-year starters in center Paul Lewis and right guard Zac Veatch. They were wrong. The Cowboys snapped to and fought well against the Noles line.
However, last week knowing they weren't as physical up front, the Missouri State defensive front skipped vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry and went straight to tutti frutti with stunts and blitzes, including a cute little delayed blitz where the linebacker on the defensive left side waited until the end on that side was locked up with Crabtree at right tackle and then he made a bee-line for the backfield. Missouri State's Dylan Cole ended up with six tackles for loss in the contest.
Now after watching that video you can bet that UTSA, out of its 4-2-5 base defense, will cook up some flavorful blitzes and stunts to test the Cowboys.
"There is always room for improvement, but we have come light years from the spring, learning the new coach and new scheme," Veatch said to the media on Monday. "We've got an answer for everything they do. Coach (Bob) Connelly talks about our rules. No matter what they do, we have rules for everything."
Veatch, Crabtree and center Paul Lewis will really be tested by the Roadrunners. Lewis, with a nose tackle on him for the first time, had some soft fluffy snaps in the shotgun against Missouri State, and those kind of puffers really upset the timing of the offense. That will have to improve, as will the communication with Crabtree, who Veatch says will work to get it all done and improved to deal with the upcoming tests defensive coordinators will draw up for the offensive line.
"The big thing about Crabtree is his work ethic," Veatch said of his partner on the right side. "Nobody outworked him in the offseason. I was really impressed with his mental toughness and the way he played in the offseason."
Crabtree and the rest of the offensive line need to play that way the rest of the season. It really doesn't matter which quarterback is in there. Garman and Rudolph will look to throw and Walsh will look to run and pass.
I believe the time and protection they get will decide how many wins are in the Cowboys future, and where the road will lead such as Memphis, San Antonio, Houston, better than those, or home for the holidays. Those big guys up front need to block with a Santa spirit and be givers of opportunity.