As you can see from the picture above (courtesy: @MichaelDavSmith), the NFL world is pretty fired up about the schedule this weekend. Luckily, NFL teams will still charge their fans full price to witness games that both teams are actively attempting to avoid by not allowing any player to participate who has average-to-above-average value to the roster. Someday, this league will either eliminate this weekend of games altogether or at least allow $10 admission to those fans who just want to be inside a stadium while the lights are on who would not normally attend in person. But, we complain about this every year and nothing changes, so look for this discussion in about 52 weeks all over again.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys host the Texans tonight in a ride-it-out game that will surely be the least interesting thing you have seen all year. Expect all the Jameil Showers, Darius Jackson and Devin Street that you can handle, but not just a whole lot else that you would call interesting. I think there are probably 13 roster spots that are not set in stone at this very moment, so perhaps someone can wrestle spot No. 51 away from their buddy here at the gun. But, from the looks of your emails, nobody is too worried about that right now. Let's check out some of your questions:
Q: How much different do you think things will be for Dak Prescott when he lines up Sept. 11 vs. Giants? Is he in for a rude awakening or does the OL and run game bolster him?
I think we certainly better manage our expectations. QB ratings of 150 seem unreasonable and scoring on nearly every drive seems silly, too. But, with the ability he has shown at both the college and preseason levels, combined with the elite talent that he has at so many spots around him on offense, I think it is reasonable to hope for a season that can see him put this team in a position to win. If he only starts a month or two, but avoids elite defenses for most of it, it sure seems that he may have a chance to put the team in a position to win most weeks.
I really like him. He has some decision issues with some throws, but what QB -- including Romo -- doesn't? I think his best attribute is his poise. This guy has a chance to be good if they can get him to play within his skill set. With Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott and this line, I think the pieces are there for this experiment to be much better than awful. Of course, 2015 will always be a curiosity for how bad the QB play was without Romo, but I think the organization has properly planned to not screw that up so badly again.
Q: If Prescott has to play 10 games, what odds do you give the Cowboys of winning the NFC East?
If Prescott has to play the first 10, he has to get them five wins. If he does that or more, then Romo would need 4-2 for a 9-7 record. That might win this bad division. I fear Washington, but I think the Giants still have massive OL issues and the defense will only be ordinary. I think the Eagles will be very poor on offense as their skill positions are just not up to grade (besides TE) and their OL is a mess, too. Washington is good, but I rate Dallas very close to them.
Q: Why draft Rico [Gathers] as future development and then put him on [practice] squad? Risking another team snagging him.
Rico Gathers had not played football since 8th grade. There was a chance that he could pick it up between April and August and make the team, but that was always a long shot. The hope was certainly to develop him on the practice squad and then if anyone else offers a 53-man spot during the season, the Cowboys would generally be offered a chance to match that. I have no issue with a late 6th on a hope play. I think they understood the risks and, given the low probability of a late 6th making your roster, were cool with it. So am I.
Q: What advice would you give Tony Romo in wake of his latest injury?
My advice is to stay off the field until you are sure you are right. He has rushed back too many times and to see him hurt last Thanksgiving seemed completely unnecessary if he (and the doctors) had waited a bit longer to be safe. But, they wanted to save the season and risked further injury. They lost that risk. I would stop doing that. Don't rush back. That position requires too much punishment to flirt with disaster any more than you must.
Q: How worried should Cowboys fans be about Sean Lee having a bit of a gimpy knee?
Very worried. He is Sean Lee. In some ways, he is the Romo of the defense in that he is a special, special player who raises everything with his mere presence. But, like Romo, his body may not be built for this level of punishment as the continuous availability issues are always looming.
Q: Running ability seems to be a major part of Prescott's skill set. Is he a good slider? If not, seems Cowboys should avoid putting him at risk with designed runs.
His decision making at the mesh-point -- the spot in a zone-read play when he decides to give the ball to the runner or take it back and keep -- is very strong from his time at Mississippi State. The SEC has future NFL defenders in every direction, so he knows the punishment of a poor decision and the value of self-preservation. Obviously, he only has to be wrong once to mess this all up, but I would say that overall, you don't play as much as he played in college -- 37 starts and 48 games -- without getting the decision right most of the time.
His football IQ is high. Let's hope it stays that way.
Q: The preseason is just killing NFL teams. Is there a better way, maybe two preseason games just for non-starters? Seems veterans don't really need or get much preseason time anyway.
I sure hope so. The time has passed. Stop with the preseason games. Two would be plenty. But, we will see college teams survive with none when they play for real this weekend in their first actual competition. Unfortunately, to cancel two preseason games, they will want to add regular season games and move it to 18 games in the regular season. I don't think that will happen soon, either. It feels like we are stuck here.
Q: If "Dak" is short for Dakota, why isn't it pronounced duck?
This is a fantastic question.
Enjoy the game tonight, if you can. Otherwise, read a good book.