With the Tennessee Titans taking on the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, we decided to get some inside info from a Cowboys expert.
Later tonight, the Tennessee Titans will play in primetime on Monday Night Football. As I’ve outlined before, history favors the Titans when it comes to MNF games, but this one won’t be easy against an opponent with strengths that line up with the Titans’ weaknesses.
We don’t know all that much about the inner workings of the Dallas Cowboys, so we decided to enlist the help of Steven Mullenax, the Site Expert of The Landry Hat (FanSided’s Cowboys site). Will Lomas and I previously did a five-question Q&A with Mullenax for a Titans perspective, which you can find here!
Let’s get some insight into the Cowboys before the game.
1) What is the vibe on Demarcus Lawrence in Dallas? Do they think he is underrated or overrated and are they willing to pay him $20M a year next offseason?
SM: I think the team has a good feel for what Lawrence brings to the defense and his worth. For years, the Cowboys have been searching for their next premier pass rusher to replace DeMarcus Ware. I think Dallas believes they have found their War Daddy in Lawrence and will get him signed to a long term deal this offseason.
2) Dak Prescott has had his ups and downs since a stellar rookie season. Does the fan base think he’s the future at the position and just needs more help around him, or will it be time to find a successor very soon?
SM: When Prescott entered the league in 2016, no rookie had more around him. Dak had the top running back in the backfield in Ezekiel Elliott. Two premier pass catchers in wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten. And a top-end offensive line with three first round picks protecting him. Since then, the talent level around him has dropped. But great quarterbacks are supposed to be able to lift their teammates play to another level. That’s not really been the case with Prescott. With the Amari Cooper trade, these next nine games will determine if Prescott is the Cowboys franchise passer for the foreseeable future or simply a placeholder for someone else.
3) It seems like every year the Cowboys have one of the most underrated and overachieving defenses in the NFL. Has it been because of their defensive players being overlooked or due to Rod Marinelli’s scheme, which appears to maximize talent?
SM: Neither. In my opinion the rise of the defense in Dallas has been due to the slow development of their players. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and cornerback Byron Jones are perfect examples. Likely the top two defenders on the team right now were both former high draft picks that struggled for years to live up to their lofty draft status. But Lawrence came on last season after injuries had plagued his career previously. And Jones made the switch back to corner from safety this offseason, which has unlocked his potential.
4) How big of an impact will newly acquired Amari Cooper have for what has been a somewhat struggling WR corps, and do you believe he will jump right in as the WR1 as soon as Monday night?
SM: Cooper will start for the Cowboys as their top receiving option against the Titans. The team gave up a first round selection for his services and are now throwing him into the fire. As for how he’ll perform in his debut, I believe Dallas will make a concerted effort to get him the ball early and often in an attempt to justify their investment. No other single Cowboys player in recent memory has more to prove than Cooper on a primetime stage, Monday Night Football. I think Dallas will make every attempt to be sure he has a newsworthy debut.
5) The Cowboys like to slow the pace down and melt clock with their running game, which doesn’t bode well for the Titans, who have been subpar in run defense and haven’t been putting up many points on offense. Do you think this game will play out like that (a low-scoring bore) or could a high-scoring shootout break out?
SM: The Cowboys have played really well at home and terrible during away games. And things that should translate on the road, like a solid rushing attack and a top-tier defense, have struggled at times this season. But you are right. Dallas wants to run the ball and often gets criticized for not doing it enough. I really think it comes down to the play of their offensive line. If they are able to open up running lanes for Elliott, the Cowboys coaching staff will keep their offense grounded. If this O-line and Zeke struggle, even a just a little bit, Dallas will often quickly call Dak’s number. And with Cooper in tow, I’m sure this coaching staff is eager to test out their newest toy.