Once again, it is time to go behind enemy lines and get some intel on this week’s Minnesota Vikings opponent as we get closer to kickoff. This week, we’re swapping questions with the folks from Blogging the Boys, SB Nation’s home for everything relating to Dallas Cowboys football.
I had the pleasure of exchanging questions with Dave Halprin, who has been at BtB for even longer than I’ve been here at DN. That’s a pretty long damn time. Once he posts my answers to the questions he sent me, I’ll make sure to put them up on the main page here. For now, here are his answers to my questions in this week’s exchange.
1) Vikings fans are pretty familiar with Mike McCarthy from his time in Green Bay. After Sunday’s loss, is he on the hot seat (or should he be, in your opinion)?
The situation with Mike McCarthy is pretty cut and dried in my opinion. And it has nothing to do with the game-to-game situation during the regular season. In fact, I don’t think his regular season record will matter much, except that he has to make the playoffs. It is there, in the playoffs, when everything will be decided. McCarthy has to get this team into the playoffs, and then probably get them at least to a conference championship game or the Cowboys will turn their eyes to Sean Payton. If the Cowboys don’t lose another regular-season game, go 14-3, then faceplant in the first round of the playoffs, it won’t be enough. It’s been a long time since Dallas has gotten to the NFC Championship game, and I really feel like that is the measuring stick. Especially with Sean Payton out there; he has been the apple of Jerry Jones’ eye for a while now.
2) Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard have around the same number of carries to this point in the season, but Pollard appears to be a much more productive back. Is there a reason the Cowboys don’t make Pollard the lead back?
Well, that is an interesting question and one that has been kicked around by Cowboys fans for years now. We’ve always recognized that Pollard is the more explosive back and wondered why Dallas didn’t utilize him more. They are doing a better job of getting Pollard involved this year. One line of thought has been that they drafted Elliott high, and they pay him a ton, so they are going to make him the lead back no matter what. There is probably a little of that involved, but it probably has to do more with the perceived limitations of Pollard. For one, he is not very good in pass protection and Elliott is very good, so they are worried about getting Prescott killed back there. There is also a perception that Pollard is the kind of back that would lose his effectiveness if he has too many carries.
Personally, I think the Cowboys have erred by putting too much emphasis on those things and not enough on the fact that Pollard can change a game in an instant. They should have long been giving him equal carries with Zeke, if not more.
3) The Cowboys’ defense has been very good this season. Everyone knows how great Micah Parsons is, but what else about the Dallas defense makes them so stingy?
The Cowboys do a few things extremely well on defense. One is their total pass rush. They just come at opposing offenses in waves on the pass rush, and while Parsons is the ringleader there, they have plenty of other guys who can get to the quarterback. They also move their guys around a lot on the defensive line so it’s hard to set protection plans. Most of their success on defense starts with the pass rush. But their secondary, led by Trevon Diggs, is also pretty good. They have a trio of safeties that can affect a game, and until recently, the corners were tough, too. Injury has hurt them somewhat there as slot corner Jourdan Lewis is out for the season, and Anthony Brown suffered a concussion last week and may or may not play this week. Basically, it’s hard to pass against the Dallas defense. But the run defense? Yeesh.
4) Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Cowboys that you think will make a difference in Sunday’s contest.
On offense, let’s go with Noah Brown. He is the Cowboys third receiver and had a strong start to this season. He missed some time recently with injury but is now back. Dallas needs him to perform because defenses are going to concentrate on WR CeeDee Lamb and TE Dalton Schultz, and WR Michael Gallup hasn’t really gotten going while coming back from an ACL tear at the end of last year. Brown can make the tough catches and is reliable, and the Cowboys need him to step up again.
On defense, watch out for rookie defensive end Sam Williams. The Cowboys don’t give him a lot of run because they are so deep at defensive end, but lately he has been making plays. He has three sacks in his last two games played, and that is from very limited snaps. He also gets disruptive in the backfield against the run. His future looks very bright.
I would take the over, which is strange to say given how good the Cowboys' defense has been this year. But they are susceptible to the run, and the Vikings can certainly run the ball with Cook. Plus, without Jourdan Lewis as the slot corner, there might be danger against strong passing units and I can see the Vikings trying to test his rookie replacement, DaRon Bland. The Packers certainly did and had success. So I’m seeing a higher-scoring game than what Dallas usually plays in.
Once again, thanks to Dave for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions leading up to this week’s game.