There’s a lot to like about the way the Cowboys have played during their 2-1 start, but there are a few concerns going into this weekend’s matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
1. Saints Offense
Fans in New Orleans might be nervous about the Saints’ 1-2 start, but it’s definitely not because of the offense. The Saints are the third most efficient offensive team in the National Football League this season, averaging 6.1 yards per play.
During the last two years, head coach Sean Payton has shifted his offensive approach from a primarily spread attack to something more contemporary. The team is averaging 4.8 yards per run, which is comparable to Dallas’ 4.9 yards per run this season.
2. Cowboys’ Slot Cornerback
In addition to run-pass balance, the Saints diversified their passing game when they drafted wide receiver Brandin Cooks out of Oregon State. So the task of covering the slippery Cooks, big-bodied wide receiver Marques Colston and match-up nightmare Jimmy Graham out of the slot falls on the weak link in the Cowboys’ secondary.
Forward-thinking teams have placed greater importance on the slot corner recently, often using their best coverage defender in that position. If Dallas decides to use disgruntled Morris Claiborne or undrafted free agent Sterling Moore in that role Sunday, quarterback Drew Brees has a chance for a big day.
3. Romo Miscues
The Cowboys seem to think they have quarterback Tony Romo’s physical issues under control, but that’s only been part of the problem. Romo has made several questionable decisions during the last few weeks, and the pick-six he threw to Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins is a good example:
I understand looking for Dez Bryant when he’s in one-on-one coverage, but Romo’s first read on the interception seemed to be wide receiver Cole Beasley running toward the middle of the field on a pick. Romo was looking at an open Beasley when he turned and threw to Bryant, who ran a 5-yard hitch.
Jenkins played Bryant’s route perfectly, but even decent coverage would have been enough to break up that play. Missing a wide-open receiver is one thing, but Romo must get the ball out more quickly on a short route in tight coverage.
The Cowboys and Saints are pretty evenly matched, and the team that loses the turnover battle will likely lose the game as well. The Saints haven't forced many turnovers during the last two seasons, but Romo has to make better reads to continue that trend.