Behind Enemy Lines Part I: Giants at Cowboys

TheGiantsBeat.com publisher Rick Laughland goes Behind Enemy Lines to get intel from CowboysHQ.com publisher KD Drummond ahead of this Sunday's Giants at Cowboys game. Find out what the Dallas Cowboys beat writer has to say about the surging 5-1 squad.

Q: Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat.com

1. Joseph Randle's arrest for shoplifting has caused quite a stir in the media and somewhat taken the attention away from the Cowboys 5-1 start. How is Garrett and company dealing with the distraction and has he lost some respect from teammates in the locker room?

A: KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

Garrett and his staff have bred an environment of accountability. Whenever a player makes a mistake along these embarassing lines, the player normally apologies to the entire team and staff at a closed meeting. From most reports, Randle's apology was heartfelt and accepted widely among teammates. It was a dumb thing to do, and is most likely a function of an addiction he's had, despite claiming it's not a habit. Kleptomania afflicts a lot of people in this world and has nothing to do with financial difficulty.

The interesting dynamic here is that the distraction may have been the best thing for the Cowboys as a team. For one, the Class B misdemeanor is legally the equivalent of a traffic ticket. However the fact that just over 24 hours after the biggest win for the franchise in a few years, all of the congratulatory pomp and circumstance from the national media faded away. As the original team of BIll Parcells, I'm sure you are familiar with his saying "Don't Eat The Cheese". The Randle arrest eviscerated any scent of it... and it had to be right back to work to prove to the world that they are more than the team that employs a shoplifter.

Q: Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat.com

2. With Right tackle Doug Free expected to miss 3-4 weeks, how much of a hit is that to an offensive line that is playing at an elite level this season? What move(s) have the Cowboys made to make up for his absence and can the unit be as dominant as it has been so far this year without Free?

A: KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

That my friend is the million dollar question. Doug Free has taken a lot of beating over the years, and justifiably so. He had rough seasons in 2011 and 2012, where if he wasn't missing protections he was getting called for penalties. This was painful as he was being paid and being looked at as one of the team's top linemen. He bounced back and had a strong start to 2013 and was able to play reasonably well through the season. In 2014, he's been playing at a fair clip, but here's the rub.

If Doug Free is your best lineman, your team is in a world of trouble. If Doug Free is your fifth best lineman, you have a damn good offensive line; and that's the scenario Dallas is in. Theoretically, a top unit like this shouldn't suffer to much going from their 5th best guy to their 7th best guy. He'll be replaced by Jermey Parnell, who I have some doubts about. Parnell hasn't looked good in preseason games for the last few years running with lesser teammates than he'll have on Sunday. However, in spot duty as a sixth offensive lineman he still hasn't shown me much. I'd expect to see Dallas throw a lot of help in his direction Sunday afternoon.

Q: Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat.com

3. Dez Bryant is among the league's best playmakers, but you hardly ever hear his name mentioned with the Top 5 WRs in the league? Do you think that he's an All-Pro pass-catcher and doesn't get some of the respect that he deserves?

A: KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

Yes, but I'm hideously biased. In another offense, with less adept complimentary pieces, I think Dez Bryant is an offensive player of the year candidate. Compare Bryant's first four seasons to Calvin Johnson's first four seasons; Bryant wins out. Now, granted, Johnson didn't have Stafford throwing to him those first two years, but the point is still legitimate. I think people recognize his skill set, but as always... players are elevated based on team success. I'd imagine that if Dallas continues to play at this clip, he'll get more and more recognition for his outstanding abilities. I know one thing, I've rarely seen defenses put two men at the line of scrimmage to cover a wideout like I've seen several times against Dez Bryant. Coordinators know that he's All-Pro caliber, that's for sure.

Q: Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat.com

4. The Cowboys seem to have shifted their offensive philosophy to focus on the running game and DeMarco Murray? What do you attribute this shift to? Did they finally recognize that their offensive line is a force to be reckoned with? Did they think that Romo needed a more balanced offensive especially coming off back surgery? All of the above?

A: KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

All of the above. Dallas actually began the shift to a heavier dose of the run game towards the end of last season, but has taken it to a whole different level in 2014. As an example, CowboysHQ staff have tried to figure out if there's ever been a game where a team came back to win after being down by 21 points, and ended up with more rushing attempts than passes. That's what Dallas did against St. Louis, and they are truly running a 50/50 split for the year. Dallas' play at the guard spots has reached new heights and allows them to dominate in both ZBS and Power Man plays. LG Ron Leary has progressed beautifully and Zack Martin has been everything expected at RG. Combined with Pro Bowler Tyron Smith and future Pro Bowler Travis Frederick, it's tough to imagine them not having success in the run game.

Q: Rick Laughland | TheGiantsBeat.com

5. Tony Romo has been ridiculed for his late game miscues and chastised by the media and opposing fans for not possessing that clutch factor? With 26 fourth quarter comebacks over his career, do you feel like some of that criticism is undeserved?

A: KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

There's no question that Romo has had his share of games where he turned the ball over in crucial situations; but the fact that is the prevailing narrative on his career is simply lazy journalism. As you've stated, 26 fourth quarter comebacks is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it's a franchise record for a club that has some guy in their record books nicknamed Captain Comeback. Roger Staubach thinks Tony Romo is a clutch performer.

If the Cowboys had done a better job of putting a capable team around Romo, I think things would be different. I could bore you to death with stat after stat about the team play surrounding him compared to other QBs around the league... it's frightening how much he's left out to dry. However, Dallas rebuilt on the fly around Romo (only two other offensive players remain from when Jason Garrett took over as head coach) and he's been able to keep the team in playoff contention each year. As all of us know, though, reputations are built on postseason success and the Cowboys haven't had any. Until that changes, the narrative on Romo will likely stick, whether completely deserved or not.


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