Special Contributor Bob Sturm answered questions in a chat Friday. Here are some highlights.
Question: In the Deflategate story, I find it interesting that HOF QBs Montana and Aikman came out early and often with their HSOs that Brady had to have known something about the ball deflation. Those three guys occupy the rarified air of all-time elite-level QBs. Methinks Montana and Aikman know something the rest of us mere mortals do not about this whole thing. Your thoughts?
Bob Sturm: I don't know what to think about it all really. But, I do know athletes are very proud humans and very aware of their places in history. So, if a player who has a legacy secured has comments about a player who is approaching a similar spot in history, it is human nature to defend your position by weakening theirs. For that reason, Aikman or Montana being somewhat suspicious of Brady did not surprise me anymore than Emmitt saying some critical things about DeMarco Murray recently. It is just how football legends generally express themselves.
Question: Last year's defense was no doubt aided by the offense's time of possession. Are you aware of any studies done on that? We hear every Sunday that the defense is on the sidelines getting rest or the offense needs to get this first down to at least get the defense some rest, but I have never seen anything that correlates most recent drive lengths (or maybe the 2 most recent) to points scored or something similar on the opposing teams next drive.
Bob Sturm: Well, there are many ways to look at this. I always look at defensive snaps - an idea that Rod Marinelli confirmed the other day on the show. Last year, the Cowboys allowed 978 snaps. The year before it was 1,094 snaps. Now that difference of 116 plays may not impress you very much, but trust me, in the eyes of the coaches that means a ton. This team faced about 68 plays a game in 2013 and just 61 a game in 2014 on average. In fact, there were several games where the opponents snapped under 55 plays against the Cowboys. This shortens the games. This protects from injuries. This protects weak players from being attacked. Time of possession is a great indicator of defensive strength simply because the less they have to defend, the less they can be exposed. Now, the offense can't do it all - but when you add the offensive possession to the defensive ability to get off the field with 3rd downs and takeaways, you have a winning formula. The Cowboys leading the NFC in takeaways was huge and a huge part of lowering snap counts, too.
Question: is there any way possible that Dallas will be able to retain this line going forward? Its exciting that we finally have an identity and something to build around, but its also scary to think how much cap space that they can potentially eat up. Thanks.
Bob Sturm: Luckily, they have everyone on contracts that do not end simultaneously. Leary is up this year. Frederick is the next to free agency in 2017. 2018 is Zack Martin, Doug Free, and La'el Collins. Surely, the priorities are Frederick and Martin (with Collins needing to prove himself). Tyron is locked up until 2024, if you can believe that. With the cap going up, I am not saying 72 and 70 are going to be cheap, but I assume they can pay 3 of the OL handsomely and then fill the other 2 spots with youth or lesser players over the long run. Let's just say this is a great problem to have. The OL is fantastic and young and for now, cheap.