Dallas Cowboys: Preview for Week One, Dallas Cowboys VS Carolina Panthers

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys smile during warm ups before the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium on August 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys smile during warm ups before the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium on August 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys will square off against the Carolina Panthers in Week One of the NFL regular season. Here are some key factors heading into this matchup.

The Dallas Cowboys will take on the Carolina Panthers in Week One of the NFL regular season in what should be a very physical matchup. The Cowboys have improved several areas of their roster but have also had some major injuries/ailments facing key members of the strongest part of their roster, the offensive line.

In theory, you could say the same thing about the Carolina Panthers which is just one of the things that makes this such a balanced matchup. This should be a good test for both teams to see just where they are in terms of competitiveness and growth. Let’s examine some of the key factors heading into this Week One matchup.

Offensive line woes:

Both teams have had their share of injuries but no position group has been hit harder than the offensive line. For the Dallas Cowboys, Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick is out indefinitely with an illness however in some exciting news Zack Martin appears to be back around 100 percent.

Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, and La’El Collins should also be in the lineup so realistically the only issue facing this group is the lack of their starting center and little to no depth at the guard positions. Joe Looney will get the start at center and to be fair he has looked pretty decent in the lineup.

The Carolina Panthers have lost starters Daryl Williams (torn MCL), Amini Silatolu (torn meniscus), Matt Kalil (arthroscopic knee surgery) which is a lot worse than what the Dallas Cowboys have to deal with. Rookies and free agents will make up a patchwork line that will struggle to protect Cam Newton’s blindside.

I will touch on the pass rush implications later but Newton should have a lot tougher of a day than Dak Prescott at this point. Heading into this matchup the smart money is on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line being much more effective than the Panthers.

Battle of the wide receiving corps:

If you had to guess which team had the better wide receiving corps heading into this game it is hard not to pick the Cowboys. I love D.J. Moore and believe he will end up being a stud in this league, but he is still a rookie wide receiver, on a team with a pretty beat up offensive line.

Besides Moore, Devin Funchess could pose some size problems in the red zone. At 6’5 the former second-round pick will be a dangerous option for Newton and should be one of the more productive receivers for Carolina in this matchup.

Curtis Samuel will miss Week One with an injury so the Cowboys won’t have to worry about him however the Panthers have one more player the Dallas knows pretty intimately.

Torrey Smith formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles will be the speed element of the Panthers offense (along with Christian McCaffrey. Smith is fast but at 29 his decline must be near.

If the Cowboys can contain Smith while making sure to wrap up Funchess and keep him away from the red zone, the team should be in good shape. As for the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving corps, they have looked better than they have in years. I mean let’s face it, Dez Bryant has been at least two seasons removed from “elite” production.

In 2016 during that record-setting season for the offense, Bryant was an afterthought. People will obviously say that Bryant helped the offense by drawing some top-tier coverage, but the truth is defenses stopped double covering him a couple of seasons ago. Bryant was a one trick pony with Tony Romo (now that was arguably one of the greatest tricks of all time, the back shoulder fade) and was never known for being that technical of a receiver.

He didn’t know the entire route tree and really never diversified his game enough with Dak. So with that said the Cowboys have several receivers now who all do fairly different things. Veterans Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams return for another season and should both lineup on the outside.

They will likely move Beasley around a bit more as he is fairly versatile. Allen Turns will likely start on the outside and will have the primary Dez role, however, he is capable of much more. He knows the full route tree and should be in the running to lead this team in receiving.

Tavon Austin will likely be a gadget guy who will line up everywhere even potentially in the backfield. Austin will likely be the Cowboys “secret weapon” as they hope his speed can cause mismatches and favorable situations.

The last two receivers on this roster are Michael Gallup and Deonte Thompson both of whom could be extremely productive this season. Personally, I am all in with Gallup, bought a jersey and everything.

He is a star and the best thing I like about his game is just how productive he is. He focuses on catching the football with his hands and he can just do things that most of the receivers on this roster cannot.

He could be the dark horse rookie of the year candidate. Now with Greg Olsen potentially out for Sunday’s matchup, it is impossible for me to say that the Panthers have more weapons than Dallas.

Dak VS Cam:

Cam Newton, a player who is desperate for a deep playoff run if not a Super Bowl, for his legacy. Dak Prescott in the biggest year of his career, looking for a performance that will put the Dallas Cowboys back in the playoffs and land him a big payday. These two players are similar but their situations could not be any more different.

The Panthers as a whole are growing tired of Newton and his inability to connect with receivers down the field, however, the team has done little to get him any help (until 2018). Now they have a first-round pick at wide receiver, a Super Bowl champion, and a player the size of Mike Evans who is seemingly coming into his own.

Newton has to have a big year or he will likely be on the hot seat at quarterback. Dak wants a good season not only for Dallas but for himself as his contract is almost up. Being a fourth-round pick Dak has less time under contract than earlier picks so having a productive season is not only in the best interest for him but for the Cowboys as well.

Both quarterbacks will face a moderate pass rush that can definitely impact their style of play. Newton should feel more of an impact from an improved Cowboys pass rush as he tends to run the ball more and take more risks as a playmaker. Prescott can settle in as a pocket passer, scrambler, or whatever he needs to be.

The situation seems to favor Dak but that is also assuming he takes a step forward this season. Let’s also not forget Ezekiel Elliott will be the focal point of the Dallas Cowboys offense not necessarily Dak so expect the Cowboys to run the ball a lot on Sunday.

Pass rush bonanza:

In the first paragraph we discussed the issues along the offensive line, now let’s talk about the pass rushers. Both quarterbacks should be under some amount of pressure during the course of this game.

While most people would think that the Panthers have the edge here, the Panthers offensive line problems could allow the Cowboys to have a better day defensively. Demarcus Lawrence looks ready to continue his dominance after a breakout 2017 season.

Rookie Dorance Armstrong has come on strong as quite possibly one of the most exciting pass rushers on this roster. The defensive tackle position is somewhat thin but one has to like the former Cornhusker Maliek Collins in terms of how productive he can be on the football field.

Tyrone Crawford could potentially take snaps at defensive tackle as well so there are a few interesting things the Cowboys can do at the position. Let’s also not forget Taco Charlton and Randy Gregory looking to be big factors at defensive end.

This could potentially be the best pass rushing unit the Cowboys have put on the field since the early Romo era. You will also have to account for the Cowboys strongest unit, their linebacking corps, who also can get after the quarterback.

A healthy Jaylon Smith is dangerous for any quarterback whether it be in coverage or rushing the passer. But let’s not forget about the Panthers linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson both of whom should lead the defense in tackles and pass breakups on Sunday.

Thompson, in particular, is looking to have the best season of his career so that should start with attempting to contain Ezekiel Elliott and limit the Cowboys passing lanes. On the defensive line, Julius Peppers returns for another year of quality work at defensive end.

Even though he is old he has to be the toughest player on defense for the Panthers. Free agent acquisition Dontari Poe should help sure up the defensive tackle position for the Panthers with Kawann Short. The one knock on both of these guys is that sometimes they can be a bit too stationary in trying to bring down running backs.

Elliott will be a tough test for those two as he is one of the best backs in the NFL. The other starter at defensive end Mario Addison has been incredibly disruptive as well so the Panthers will be fielding a pretty strong pass rushing/run stopping unit.

So who gets the edge (a little play on words there) on Sunday, most likely the team that can put the best offensive line on the field.

Next. Dallas Cowboys: Roster evaluation after cutdown day. dark

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 28 Carolina Panthers 17

  • Published on 09/09/2018 at 00:04 AM
  • Last updated at 09/09/2018 at 00:04 AM