Over the course of the season we like to try and take advantage of the built-in relationship we have with the rest of the SB Nation blogs. Each week we'll have the FanPost Q&A (NN, BTB), which allows you guys to get involved with the other site's readers. I'm also looking for other ways to get the expertise of the opposing blog and for this week we're going to do a basic Q&A. I answered five questions for Blogging the Boys and below Dave Halprin has provided some answers to my questions about the Cowboys. If you disagree with some of my assessments over at BTB, feel free to chime in with your thoughts.
The 49ers and Cowboys rivalry used to be one of the biggest in the NFL. Things have changed a bit now, but that's not going to stop the fans from enjoying it. There are plenty of question marks for both teams heading into this matchup. For the Cowboys, Tony Romo is coming off a brutal fourth quarter showing against the Jets, Dez Bryant is battling through a quadriceps injury and their secondary is banged up to the point that they have brought in some reinforcements off the street.
Big thanks to Dave for taking some time to discuss his beloved Cowboys.
Niners Nation: Tony Romo...discuss. But seriously, Romo has some great moments and has some truly WTF moments. At this point in his career, how do you describe him as a QB? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Blogging the Boys: The Tony Romo debate has dominated this week, and it's a debate that we've had before. Romo is an elite QB most of the time, if you look at his career stats, they rank near the top of active guys, and he's set multiple franchise records. And he's lead a lot of 4th quarter comebacks. It his mistakes that stick in people's minds though; when he fails, he has to do it in a grand way.
Personally, I'm good with Romo at QB, he gives us an excellent chance to win each week, much bigger odds than of blowing the game. If you want to sum up his strengths and weaknesses, you could do it by saying - he has every skill in the book needed to succeed at QB, but occasionally will get careless with the football. He can make any throw, he's accurate, he throws great on the run, he has good pocket presence, he has all that. And over his career he's gotten much better about protecting the football. But, every once in a while, he has a game like Sunday night. He was brilliant for three quarters, but got loose with the football in the fourth.
NN: What has Rob Ryan brought to the Cowboys defense?
BTB: It's been a huge change. Ryan has brought energy, passion, but most of all he's brought a unique scheme. That scheme could be summed up as organized chaos. Under Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips, our 3-4 defense was very static in the sense that guys usually lined up at the same spot, and the same players generally always played the same position. It was predictable with a philosophy of win your individual battle and we'll win the play.
Ryan rotates players in and out, he'll have guys line up in places they've never lined up before, he'll blitz from everywhere. You just don't know what he's going to call play to play. In week one, it worked very well until the injuries to our cornerbacks started to mount. Ryan's defense seems to energize the players, they love the attack nature of it, they love being moved around and taking on different responsibilities. In week one, the change was a positive one, so I'm looking forward to building on it as we move through the season and the players learn the scheme more and more.
NN: Can you describe the type of running game Felix Jones brings to the table? Also, will we see much of his backups?
BTB: Felix Jones is the kind of back you want to get in space. He can go between the tackles, but unless there's a hole, or at least a crease, it's not his strength. But on counters, off-tackle runs, pitches, screens, things like that, he's dangerous. He displays all the skills you think of in that type of back. Speed, vision, balance, quick-cut ability, patience when needed. The Cowboys just need to find him a little space. As for the backups, we didn't see a whole lot of them in week one, so it's hard to say what Garrett's intentions are, but I'm thinking we'll see more of rookie DeMarco Murray as the games progress.
NN: Dez Bryant has been dealing with a quad injury that has held him out of practice. If he plays at less than 100% how much does he lose? Between Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, who should 49ers fans fear most this Sunday?
BTB: The Cowboys are holding Bryant out of practice as a precaution, everybody expects he'll play. As for what he loses, I can't say, I'm not sure how severe the injury is. As for who you should fear the most of Bryant, Austin or Witten, it's a pick your poison thing. Those guys are the strength of the offense, as good a trio as you'll see around the league. It all depends on how a defense plays it as to who should be feared most.
If you try to single cover Witten with a linebacker, he'll go off. If you rotate a safety down to help, then either Bryant or Austin will be single-covered, and that's trouble. The permutations go on and on, I think the more effective strategy would be to disrupt Romo before he can find one of those three. Also, if you stop the run, then you can load up against the receivers.
NN: The Cowboys offensive line features three new-newcomers. How did the line perform against the Jets and what are your thoughts on the offensive line moving forward?
BTB: The Cowboys line performed average for a regular line, but for a line that hasn't practiced together a lot, features rookies and first-timers, they played pretty well. It was enough to make me think that going forward they're going to be able to handle the job.
We are likely starting vet Derrick Dockery in place of rookie Bill Nagy this week, Nagy had the poorest game of the five starters last week. Romo was sacked four times last week, but a couple of those were his fault, in his first game back from injury he looked a little unsure in the pocket early in the game. He settled down, and the pass protection ended up being good. The run blocking wasn't there yet, part of that was Nagy not getting it done, but overall I came away satisfied with their play, and thinking they might be alright, all season.