Dallas Cowboys: What to Watch For Today


Nov 20, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive back Barry Church (42) gestures on the field prior to the game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As the Dallas Cowboys enter their 3rd preseason game more questions have been asked than answered. At a time when most teams are distancing themselves from the lesser thans, the Cowboys are resembling the posers more than  the contenders.

Sure there have been good plays here and there and sure there have been SportsCenter highlights but this is preseason. Big plays don’t matter. Health, consistency, and answers are what matter in the preseason. At this point, what questions have really been answered? Entering training camp the Cowboys had 3 big questions:

  1. Offensive Guards
  2. Defensive Tackles
  3. Safeties

Which of those questions have been answered?

None really.

June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary (65) center Travis Frederick (70) and guard David Arkin (62) during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Guard

The guard play has been as abysmal in 2013 as it was in 2012. The only bright spot was Ronald Leary, who may not have blown us away, but at least he put up an average performance. An average performance was only a fantasy a year ago so Leary gave Cowboys fans a reason to believe this season. Sadly he is undergoing a minor knee procedure that will probably keep him out until week 2 of the season.

This means the Cowboys are back to square one (at least short term) at offensive guard.

Phil Costa and David Arkin have been getting manhandled the past two preseason games and need to tighten up their play. They need to improve their technique because their strength is not getting it done. To expect them to man a starting position is ludicrous. But if they can at least play with solid technique they could be adequate backups.

I will pray for Brian Waters to sign on but in the meantime we must bank on the current staff. I will be paying special attention to their pulling and pass blocking because in the absence of physical strength they can at least execute these tasks adequately.

Dec 16, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53) blocks for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) against Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (95) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Tackle

The Defensive Tackle question will not be answered until Jay Ratliff finally returns. Jason Hatcher has been doing very well in his absence filling in at the 3-technique DT spot Ratliff is slotted for.

When all is said and done I expect Hatcher to play more 3-technique that Ratliff does in the regular season but in the meantime I need to see Sean Lissemore step up and cover both spots.

The Cowboys will be VERY vulnerable to the run in 2013 because of their aggressive style and undersized linemen. Every man in the DT rotation must hold his own and play with extremely high energy in order to succeed in 2013.


Whether the Cowboys operate primarily out of a Tampa 2, a Cover 2, or a Single High Safety, they need to have some good safeties. Currently Barry Church is the only proven safety on the Cowboys roster. Sure they have veteran Will Allen but if Barry Church ranks the 50th best safety (out of 64) then Will Allen might as well be the 100th.

Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox (27) participates in special teams drills at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Safety is a very important position in this defense no matter what specific scheme they run. I expect Church to step up and play well in 2013 but I’m not diluted enough to think he is a Pro Bowler by any means. The Cowboys need to find a second safety who isn’t a liability and can consistently make plays.

Will Allen has met his ceiling. He will never be more than just a guy (JAG). Being a JAG is perfectly fine at safety if exectations are low (or the team is stacked elsewhere). But in Dallas expectations are always sky high.

Allen will probably be starting in week 1 but I need to see enough from J.J Wilcox to let me know he’ll take over early in the season.

And yes, I’m very aware he made a big interception in the Oakland game. But remember, this was after he was lost and confused for majority of the game. This was also against a QB who is a horrible passing QB with very little chance to ever make a difference in the NFL as a passer.

It was great to see but not enough.


I am very interested in the TE’s. I want to see their increased involvement in the run and pass game. I want to see multiple sets, combo routes, and lead blocking. But at this point that may be a luxury. If the Cowboys want to even have a winning record they need to answer the Big 3 questions first:

  1. Offensive Guards
  2. Defensive Tackles
  3. Safeties

Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at permaximum@hotmail.com. You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson