New York Giants beat writer goes behind enemy lines to ask Cowboys publisher five burning questions

New York Giants beat writer Josh Fyffe goes behind enemy lines to ask Cowboys publisher KD Drummond five burning questions about America's team heading into the season opener.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

Orlando Scandrick just went down for the 2015 season; how is their secondary reshaping after his injury and what is the hierarchy amongst the remaining cornerbacks? Will the secondary be an area of weakness for the ‘Boys in 2015?

 

KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

The loss of Orlando Scandrick was a huge blow. Not only was he one of the emotional leaders of the defense last season as the team transitioned from being in Demarcus Ware's care, but he had evolved to one of the games better corners. Scandrick played both slot and on the outside, rare in today's NFL. He didn't give up a single touchdown pass in over 800 snaps last season. It's a tough loss for the team to get over, but there is talent on the roster.

 

Prior to his loss, Dallas analysts were overwhelmed with just how much talent there was at the cornerback position. Brandon Carr had a horrible regular season last year, no doubt. But if you look at the playoffs, he effectively shutdown both Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson. That gives fans hope that he turned the corner, pardon the pun. Morris Claiborne will start opposite him and there is hope that he will be serviceable enough to maintain the position. Hope is gone that he is a talent worthy of his draft pedigree (6th overall in the extremely busty 2012 first round), but he was finally able to participate in the offseason program for the first time in his four-year career. 

 

Behind them, up and coming UDFA Tyler Patmon is in the mold of Scandrick and is the new slot corner. A lot of fight in him (just as Dez Bryant and the St. Louis Rams). He'll be tested often. FA Corey White escaped the cluster that is the Saints defense and appears to be a great find by the Cowboys front office led by future-GM Will McClay. With so much talent, first-round pick Byron Jones has been put on swiss-army knife duty. Getting slot work as a dime, outside work and also free safety work. The safeties for Dallas are the primary cause of concern, as both Barry Church and JJ Wilcox are considered better box players than centerfielders. The key to the transition is that Dallas now has not only a pass rush, but one that should wreak major havoc, therefore lessening the time the DBs need to cover receivers. That should make life more tenable. 

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

Obviously Demarco Murray was widely successful a season ago in this offense. Now that he has departed to Philadelphia, can any half back on Dallas’ roster emulate Murray’s success? And is there a projected lead back or is it going to be a committee between Randle, McFadden and Dunbar?

 

KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

The Cowboys aren't going to be looking for anyone to replace DeMarco Murray's production directly, because they gave Murray such a heavy workload with the mentality of Ivan Drago... "If he dies... he dies." Not literally, of course, but Dallas decided to ride the hot hand even though they had capable backs to share in the workload. Dallas will run by committee, as we predicted on CowboysHQ way back in January. Joseph Randle is the lead runner, and the only thing that will take that title away seem to be personality quirks (shoplifting and a domestic violence investigation in the last year) and pass blocking. Randle's best asset is his quickness and ability to maneuver to and through the hole with speed, as well as vision. Running back coach Gary Brown subtly proclaimed Randle as his "next 1,000 yard back" earlier in the offseason and he has no reason to lie.

 

Darren McFadden was brought in over the offseason and replaced Ryan Williams. His speed is unquestioned (as is his injury history), but he doesn't seem to have the moves that are necessary for the zone game. Expect Dallas, who runs both zone and man power schemes, to focus on the latter moreso when DMC is in the game. McFadden will get a lot of the third down work.

 

Lance Dunbar is the jitterbug who can line up all over the field and is the change-of-pace back. Many begin to lose faith Dallas will ever get him to ascend, and then you watch how much of a mismatch he was for the Seattle defense early last year and you just live with the fact he'll be used in small doses. Finally, the team traded for Christine Michael from the Seahawks to be their fourth back, the power runner. An athletic freak, the Cowboys will have to get him to stop dancing behind the line because once he gets north-south, it's special.

 

I wrote earlier this offseason, if the Cowboys can get 120 yards a game on a 4.5 ypc average, they'll be just fine. 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

Who is a player who has exceeded expectations this offseason on the defensive side of the ball? Also how are players like Morris Claiborne and Sean Lee recovering from the injuries that ended their seasons in 2014?

 

KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

Randy Gregory. The truth is that rookie pass rushers rarely make a huge impact, averaging less than 3 sacks a season. So with that in mind, expectations were low. But Gregory had three sacks in three games, against some good competition, and also forced multiple holding penalties. When he was drafted, he was around 235 lbs, but has put on weight and maintained his speed and flexibility. With Greg Hardy suspended for a month, it wouldn't surprise if Gregory notched his share of QB pressures.

 

Claiborne and Lee are ready to go. They were managed heavily throughout the offseason; limited reps in team drills, limited exposure in games. They were held out of the San Francisco exhibition because of how shoddy that field was, so they both only got one game of work in. Lee looked like his old self; a heat-seeking missle to the ball carrier. Claiborne showed well in his game, forcing an OPI to keep him from a sure interception where he had great condition. Both are fragile players, no doubt, but if they can remain healthy expect a Pro Bowl for Lee in the Derrick Brooks role, and a serviceable campaign for Mo.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

The Cowboys were considered tentative winners in this year’s draft, selecting cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end Randy Gregory, and tackle La’el Collins all with only one first round pick. How are each of these players developing through training camp and will any of them be starting against the Giants on Sunday?

 

KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

Jones is a rookie corner, and has some growing pains; but he might be the smartest secondary player the team has had in a while. He soaks up knowledge and has been tasked with learning the entire secondary, not just one position. Still, he's not starting on a team that is starting two guys with ridiculous passer-rating-against numbers in 2014. At least, not yet. Gregory I spoke about earlier and he has a real chance to become defensive rookie of the year. His pass rush skills are that impressive, although even he will admit his run stop game will need some work. La'El Collins looked impressive, but didn't get much chance to work with the ones. He couldn't beat out Ron Leary, who had a tremendous camp, at left guard. You know it's a strong offensive line when a guy regarded as one of the top players in the draft, looks really good and still can't crack the lineup. It's doubtful Gregory starts, but both he and Jones should get their fair share of snaps Sunday night.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

What are your expectations for Tony Romo this season? A year ago in a nearly identical offense he was an MVP candidate, posting a 113.9 QB rating, 69.9% completion percentage, 34 TDs and only 9 interceptions. Can he post similar or better numbers in 2015 or will losing Demarco Murray and a consistent rushing attack affect him more than anticipated? Also do you expect the Cowboys to be more pass oriented in their offensive scheme this year?

KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

 

Romo should've been the MVP in 2014. Playing with a bad back, which he later broke during the season, he led the league in completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating, QBR and game-winning drives. The Cowboys were 12-0 in games where he was relatively healthy (losing opener against San Fran, Washington game where he broke his back, Arizona with Weeden at QB and Thanksgiving where he couldn't take a toradol shot he took every other week of the year). With the emergence of Dallas' secondary weapons behind Dez Bryant, he will have plenty of opportunities to be on the same level as 2014, but with more attempts. Cole Beasley will surprise a lot of people this season, and might catch upwards of 60 passes. He's uncoverable in the slot now. Dallas will still be a run-first team, because run blocking is still more of a strength for the offensive line than pass pro; but the offense should be elite in every fashion. The question is, due to nicks and injuries, how long before the offensive line gets their continuity back.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

And what is your prediction for Sunday night’s game? 

 

KD Drummond | CowboysHQ.com

Fireworks. I think this is going to be a game that has big plays early and big plays late, with the advantage going to Dallas because they will be able to force short drives and maintain long ones on their own to greater success than New York. 35-24 for the fifth straight win in the series.

 

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