By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys (1-1) host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Wednesday marks the traditional start to the NFL work week. So here are the five stories you should follow leading up to the game:
It’s the running game, of course: Two weeks into the season and the Dallas Cowboys have a 2.5-to-1 pass to run ratio. That’s actually worse than last season. Of course, there is plenty of time for the Cowboys to turn that around. But through two weeks the Cowboys are averaging 3.2 yards per carry and Sunday was an example of how a lack of a running game hurts the offense overall. There was nothing to take the pressure off Tony Romo and the passing game, making the offense one-dimensional. There will be plenty of talk this week about how to fix the running game. Possible topics will be play calling, the addition of a fullback, shaking up the offensive line and shaking up the combination of backs used in the game. That’s part of the problem – there is no clear answer.
Who’s in control?: At some point this week you’ll hear chatter about the types of plays being called, probably on Thursday, which is Romo’s traditional day to speak to the media. Expect someone to ask Romo, Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan how much control Romo truly has at the line of scrimmage. Are the Dallas Cowboys giving him one play? A run-pass option? Or is Romo checking out regularly based on coverage? Does any of that play into the issues with the running game?
The NFC East: This division looks below average this year. The Dallas Cowboys did get one victory on Sunday – everyone else in the NFC East lost. Talk radio and other outlets are going to debate why this division looks so woeful, despite the presence of players like Romo, Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick and Eli Manning. There was some electricity surrounding this division last year with Griffin in control in Washington. Right now, there is no buzz at all.
Offensive efficiency: We’re talking about third down, where the Cowboys are picking up pretty much where they left off last year, when they converted just 4.3 third downs per game in their final three games (a stretch in which they went 1-2, incidentally). The Dallas Cowboys are 8-of-26 on third down through two games, a conversion rate of less than 33 percent and coming to just four converted third downs per game. The Cowboys are leaving opportunities on the field, and that was quite evident against Kansas City. What can be done? Expect Garrett to have plenty of vague answers about execution and process, though in truth it really does come down to execution.
Pressure up front: One thing the Cowboys can feel good about is the pass rush, so expect some talk about how the new 4-3 Cover 2 scheme is producing more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. You can’t look at sacks as a complete barometer of pass pressure. But the Dallas Cowboys have seven through two games, and an average of 3.5 per game is Top 10 in the NFL. Extrapolate that for a 16-game season and you get 56 sacks. The Cowboys only averaged 2.1 sacks per game last year. This is an encouraging trend that will be explored because, theoretically, the Rams present an opportunity for the Cowboys to step up the pressure.