Josh Sanchez, a Dallas Cowboys blogger at The Landry Hat, and I spent a couple days this week emailing back and forth in preparation of the Lions game against the Dallas Cowboys. Give our discussion a read and be part of the banter by using the comment section.
Zac Snyder: Roy Williams has made some comments that the Cowboys losses this year have reminded him of his time in Detroit. What is the fan buzz surrounding the 2-7 ‘boys?
Josh Sanchez: We were all struggling to come to grips with how the team has performed this year. Everyone knew that the lack of accountability and discipline is what really was hurting the team. They showed last week that the talent is still there and it was actually in large part due to a former Lion in Jon Kitna. Players are saying that he’s been a great leader in the locker room and the guys really look to him for advice and to learn about more than just football. Of course, Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni had a big part to do with the change in attitude as well.
Speaking of Kitna and Williams, how are Lions fans looking forward to facing off against the two former players?
ZS: I have heard surprisingly little in regards to facing those two specifically but if other fans are like me they are looking forward to it. Roy had a tendency to say some really stupid things and I get the feeling that a lot of fans saw him as never reaching his potential. Kitna was the ultimate tease. He could throw for 400 yards and make it look like they were mounting a comeback and then throw two pick sixes to seal it for the other team. Beating Kitna and Williams would be symbolic that the future is better than the past.
Speaking of the future, is it a forgone conclusion that Garrett will be the head coach of the 2011 Dallas Cowboys and if so, what makes you hopeful that things will be different under him?
JS: It’s definitely not certain that Jason Garrett will be the Cowboys head coach of the future, but he sure is making a case for himself. He immediately came in and demanded the respect from the team. He made minor changes like acknowledging players with game balls and putting signs outside of the locker room with the “stars of the game.” He also installed a dress code to get a sense of unity to the team and makes the team practice in pads to bring a more physical mindset. He’s really making an impact and it seems like he’s winning over the team and fans alike. Same goes for Paul Pasqualoni on defense. He has made some minor changes like playing more zone and less blitzing, but they’ve payed off significantly on the field. He’s winning everyone over as well.
While they’re making good cases for themselves to continue as coaches in 2011, you can never predict what Jerry Jones will do especially with so many big name coaches out there.
A big part of Detroit’s future is Matt Stafford. How is his shoulder doing and is there concern that these injuries could derail him from reaching his full potential?
ZS: It sounds like he will avoid surgery, so I suppose that is positive. Surgery or not, we all just want him to be healthy. There is definitely some concern that he is injury prone. Even if he comes back to play a couple games at the end of the season he wouldn’t have played 16 games over the course of two seasons. He has a lot of the qualities you look for in a franchise quarterback but it won’t matter if he can’t stay on the field. No one is giving up on him but the injuries are a huge cause for concern.
The Cowboys running back situation has been a hot topic this year. What will we see in terms of the Dallas backs on Sunday and what is the organization’s plan going forward?
JS: For some reason that I do not understand, Marion Barber continues to get carries. He has really been ineffective, but if last week was any indication of the way Garrett plans on going the the rest of the season, Felix Jones will be more involved on Sunday. He’s such a dynamic back and can hit the home run on any play. I’d really like to see more of Tashard Choice on the field. He’s probably the most complete back on the roster, but the team hasn’t used him. I hope he isn’t on the outs. Expect Barber to play early and try to establish a physical mindset for the offense and then mostly Jones throughout the middle of the game. If Dallas has a lead late, Barber will likely come back in to finish the game off in his “closer” role. Next year, it looks like Barber could be gone. He ignored Jason Garrett’s dress code last week and that irked a lot of teammates. He’s a captain and supposed to lead by example… he didn’t. Add that to Barber’s ineffectiveness this year and the fact that he is over-payed, he seems to be a good candidate to get cut. A Jones-Choice backfield would be just fine.
What do you think the Lions will be looking to do on defense to make sure that the Dallas offense won’t get rolling on Sunday? Do you think it’s possible to stop a guy like Dez Bryant?
ZS: The Lions defense starts with their ability to get to the opposing quarterback with just their front four. Kyle Vanden Bosch has been a nice addition on the edge. Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh can dominate inside. The Lions may be without their other starting defensive end, Cliff Avril, so their depth comes into play. Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson have done a nice job when given their opportunities. Sammie Hill rotates in at defensive tackle and has also played well. Defensive line is the one area where the Lions actually have quality depth and it is the key to their defense. Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith have exceeded expectations but I worry about Bryant’s combination of speed and physicality. That is why it all comes down to getting in Kitna’s face and forcing bad throws.
Many people thought that Dez Bryant represented Jerry Jones’ re-do of passing on Randy Moss more than a decade ago. What is your take on that opinion and can Bryant be as good as Moss?
JS: Well, I will say that Dez Bryant is the best rookie wide receiver since Randy Moss. He has been unbelievable for Dallas this season and he keeps getting better. He’s one of the front-runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year along with Sam Bradford. He has made his impact felt in every game whether it be on offense or special teams. He really is a special player and the Cowboys fans are ecstatic about his future. Do I think he can be as good as Moss? In terms of production, yes, but they aren’t the same kind of receiver. Moss is a vertical guy and Bryant is a tough, physical receiver he can run through defensive backs, but he can also go deep. He is a more complete receiver than Moss.
Bryant doesn’t seem to be a diva like Moss either. He has been eager to learn this season and constantly is giving his all during plays… something that Moss can’t say he does.
Bryant has definitely made a huge impact in Dallas and in Detroit you guys know a little something about impact rookies. How happy is everyone with Ndamukong Suh? His potential seems unlimited and I’m sure there is a lot of buzz around his play.
ZS: He is already a fan favorite and the Ford Field crowds look for any opportunity to yell SUUUUUUUH!!!! We all knew that he wouldn’t come in and dominate the NFL like he did in the Big XII championship game last year but I don’t think anyone expected him to look this close. He out-tackled the entire Lions linebacking corps against the Eagles, he batted a ball out of the air and intercepted in against the Rams, and he scooped up a fumble and scored a touchdown against the Redskins. All this while putting together a double-digit sack pace as a rookie. Not bad at a position that usually requires a bit of seasoning before making a real impact. Yeah, we’re excited.
Alright Josh, time for game predictions. Who you got?
JS: This game is going to say a lot about Dallas. The players are going to go out and try to prove that last week was not a fluke. Expect the defense to be fresh throughout the game since Coach P has been using a 20 player rotation. This will really work into their favor as they look to keep the Lions in check and force turnovers. Both Kitna and Williams will probably be looking to make statement games against Detroit, and as long as the Cowboys can keep that running game going like they did against the Giants it should open up the passing game even more.
I expect Dallas to make another statement and extend the Lions road game losing streak. Cowboys: 31, Lions: 17.
How do you see the game playing out?
ZS: The Lions defense is underrated, they will need to keep the Lions in the game since their running game has been so anemic. Ultimately, the Lions have too many issues for me to be able to count on them for a win. I gave them the benefit of the doubt last week going into Buffalo and they let me down. If they came out with that kind of performance for a 25th straight road loss, why would this road game end any differently? Cowboys 23, Lions 16