Tonight’s matchup against the St. Louis Rams will be the most “regular season-like” of all preseason action for the Cowboys. The coaches have developed a game plan just as they would for a “real” game, and the starters will play the majority of the contest. Thus, it will be a great opportunity for us to really see this revamped Cowboys team in action. Here are three things to watch. . .
Will the Cowboys come out throwing?
Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys (and the majority of NFL teams) don’t actually run to set up the pass. Instead, the ‘Boys generally throw the ball early in games and run it late if they are winning, creating the illusion of a balanced offense.
I explained that idea more in an article I did on why the Cowboys should actually pass more
often in 2012, showing that rushing attempts are only correlated to winning, not a cause of it. Over the past four seasons, the Cowboys have just a .278 winning percentage when they throw the ball on more than 57 percent of plays. Yikes, better run the rock, right?
Not so fast. The majority of those high-volume passing games were the result of the ‘Boys getting down early and being forced to chuck it. In reality—and how about this for a stat—the Cowboys have racked up a .636 winning percentage when passing on more than 57 percent of plays through the first three quarters alone.
With the loss of wide receiver Laurent Robinson and DeMarco Murray’s presence this year, however, I have a feeling Jason Garrett might try to pound the ball early in football games. This week is the closest Cowboys have to a regular season game, so it will also be the closest we can come to surmising how Garrett will approach the real thing.
Will Tony Romo continue to look downfield?
In my Cowboys-Chargers film study
, I noted that the average length of Tony Romo’s passes this preseason is up around 20 percent from previous years. He has also thrown the ball at least 20 yards on 15.7 percent of his preseason passes (compared to 6.6 percent in 2011), albeit in limited action.
With a banged up offensive line that has struggled early, it’s somewhat surprising we’ve seen Romo throw the ball deep at all. If the trend continues on Saturday night, there’s a good chance it will extend into the regular season.
Can Tyron Smith handle Chris Long?
Smith will be just fine at left tackle this season, but Long will be one heck of a challenge on Saturday night. Quietly, Long has become one of the NFL’s more dominant defensive ends. A terror for offensive tackles, Long totaled the most pressures
—58—of any player in the NFL last season. Outside of the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul, Long might be the most talented player Smith will face all season.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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