There probably isn’t a coach the Dallas Cowboys are more familiar with than the Chiefs’ new head man, Andy Reid. The longtime Eagles coach will look strange wearing Kansas City’s bright red, but the Cowboys will be plenty familiar with how he coaches and what he likes to run.
The season obviously started well for Dallas with a Week 1 win, but there’s got to be at least some concern about New York’s offensive output – Eli Manning bombed away for 450 yards and connected with three different 100-yard receivers. It’s doubtful that will happen this weekend at Arrowhead Stadium, as the Chiefs achieved much more balance with 173 passing yards and 121 rushing yards in their rout of Jacksonville last week.
Two big names could play a role in how the Cowboys handle the challenge. But as always, that decision might be a secret until it’s time to kickoff. Sunday could serve as a homecoming for newly-acquired guard Brian Waters, who practiced as a second-teamer when the Cowboys practiced at AT&T Stadium this week.
Waters, a six-time Pro Bowler, spent the vast majority of his career anchoring the offensive line for Kansas City. His presence could help offset a Chiefs defense that notched six sacks against the Jaguars.
The Cowboys are also hoping to get some production from defensive end Anthony Spencer, who finally returned to practice this week after sitting out two months. Spencer said he won’t be ready to play a full game for a couple of weeks, but his presence in a situational role could pay dividends.
One story that is sure to dominate the conversation before the game, during the game and after the game is the production of Dez Bryant.
Bryant also suffered a minor foot sprain in the win, which limited him at practice this week.The Chiefs will likely try to make him a non-factor. Dallas will work him into the gameplan.
We’ll see just how long it lasts, but 2013 is off to a fantastic start for Kansas City after an abysmal 2012 campaign. The Chiefs are halfway to last year’s win total after scoring one of the most lopsided wins of Week 1 – a 28-2 rout of Jacksonville. Of course, it’s worth noting that their opponent was a fellow 2012 cellar dweller, but a win is a win in the NFL.
Tony Romo, who is a lock to play even with bruised ribs, will provide quite a different challenge for the Chiefs after the hapless Jaguars offense. But Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Co. in Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme may provide the stiffest challenge of the Cowboys’ early season – especially with a raucous Arrowhead crowd behind them.
The biggest question for the Chiefs will be the health of All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles, who left the Jaguars game early with a quad injury after tallying 77 yards and a touchdown. Reid said Charles is likely to play, but how effective he’ll be is another question.
This weekend is the Cowboys’ first trip to Arrowhead since the fall of 2009, also remembered as the game when Miles Austin became a household name. Austin caught 10 balls for 250 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score, in a 26-20 overtime win. There’s no way to know for sure, but maybe we’ll see another unlooked-for hero in Kansas City.
IRVING, Texas – Any doubt about Lance Dunbar’s ability to play this weekend seems to be gone now.
The backup running back was a full participant in practice, and he said he’s finally able to do everything he needs to do to suit up on Sundays.
“That’s what I’m planning on,” Dunbar said. “I was able to do everything. (The foot) feels fine. I really don’t even think about it.”
Dunbar said earlier in the week he thought he’d still feel the sprain but could play through it. It sounds like he’s gotten past that mental block now.
“I was able to run and cut,” he said. “I went full speed and did everything, the whole practice – special teams and everything.”
With Dunbar absent last weekend, Murray took 20 of the 21 rushes by the running backs. Phillip Tanner took the other carry for two yards. If the preseason and offseason are any indication, Dunbar will play a more vital role as the Cowboys’ backup running back. He could also be a factor in the return game.
“Seeing all the guys get ready to play was tough,” Dunbar said. “But I look forward to being out there with them this week.”
IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant used as few words as possible, maybe in hopes of stopping the questions quickly.
How does Bryant’s foot — the one he sprained against the Giants and had an MRI on this week – feel?
“The foot feels great,” he said.
Was there ever any concern it would be an issue for the Cowboys’ Week 2 clash against Kansas City?
“No,” he added. “Never.”
Well, then. With those worries tossed aside, Bryant was free to field queries about the disappointing nature of his debut against New York last Sunday. This season comes with a high standard for Bryant – a standard that was placed there by himself as well as others.
The 2013 campaign didn’t get off to a rollicking start, with just four catches for 22 yards, but Bryant said patience is the key.
“You always want to catch the ball and make the play. But at the same time, we’re trying to win – you’ve got to play smart football. And you’ve just got to be patient,” he said. “There will be a time where Miles might get doubled, or Witten might get doubled. Like I said, when your number is called you’ve just got to make the play.”
Jason Witten and Miles Austin certainly did make the plays while the Giants focused on Bryant. The pair combined for 18 catches, 142 yards and two touchdowns – a type of firepower Bryant said makes it hard to be selfish about the ball.
“Come on, man. We’ve got, what? I don’t want to mess it up – an eight-time Pro Bowler? Nine? In Jason Witten – he makes plays,” Bryant said. “Miles is a Pro Bowler – he makes plays. Terrance Williams just came off a 1,800 yard season at Baylor – he makes plays. Whenever your number is called, you’ve got to make a play.”
Bryant’s attitude might not have been so selfless in the past, prompting the question of his well-documented maturation with the Cowboys.
“I guess you could say that — I agree with you,” Bryant said.
All of that aside, Bryant is going to have his opportunity to take the spotlight against the Chiefs. Witten said the Cowboys are committed to getting their playmaker the ball, regardless of the attention paid to him.
“He’s always going to get a lot of attention. That’s from now until he stops playing, because he’s that type of player,” Witten said. “We’re getting the ball to him. I think we’re trying to get him the ball. Really, in practice you watch and you can’t get it to him enough. That’s what type of player he is. I don’t see that getting in the way moving forward. I’m sure teams are going to try to take him out of the game, but we’ll find ways like we did last year and we’ve done for the last four years of getting the ball in his hands.”
With his foot apparently in the clear for the approaching weekend, Bryant echoed those sentiments.
“I promise you, my time is coming, and when it comes I’m going to take advantage of it,” he said.
Cowboys center Travis Frederick versus Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe:
This will be rookie center Travis Frederick’s first experience playing with a man on his nose the entire game. He has had to deal with shades, but in training camp and during the preseason games, he was largely uncovered.
Dontari Poe is an interesting player because when he came out in the draft two seasons ago, he had the tag of boom-or-bust. My observation of him then was that he had more boom because of his natural ability. I did not see him play all that well with his technique, but I felt like once he got into the league that would all change.
Poe has always been a powerful, point-of-attack player, who if you attempted to run the ball at him, blockers were going to have a difficult time moving him. That is still the case today.
Where Poe has made his biggest improvement is in how he is playing with his hands. He is doing a much better job of quickly working them inside to control the blocker. He is shedding blockers with more consistency, and then working to his left or right to find the ball.
Frederick will also need to be on guard for Poe’s swim move, run or pass. For a big man, Poe is surprisingly very nimble with his footwork. If he does have a weakness, and this is where Frederick can take advantage of him, it’s that he tends to be a tick late off the snap.
Frederick is smart enough and savvy enough to find ways to work the edges on Poe but also put himself into position when getting help. This should be a good battle inside between two young players.
Cowboys defensive ends George Selvie and Anthony Spencer versus Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher:
Eric Fisher is making his second career start, and after a week against Jacksonville where he had some questionable moments at right tackle, these Cowboys defensive ends should be anxious to attack him. There is no doubt that one day Fisher will be a factor for the Chiefs, but right now he has struggled when he has had to face a rusher that plays with power.
Technique-wise, Fisher can put himself into position to secure the block. Finishing it, though, is where he gets in the most trouble.
From what I have seen in George Selvie, I do not believe that he can play with the same power as Anthony Spencer, so that might be a wash for the Cowboys defense.
Look for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to find plenty of ways to get Spencer off the edge in this game, which will allow him to take advantage of Fisher. Spencer will also be able to attack Fisher with more pass-rush moves, which is always difficult for a rookie to deal with.
I fully expect to see DeMarcus Ware move to the opposite side and take some cracks at Fisher as well. Selvie will then move to the right side and face Brandon Albert, who I feel like is the best of the Kansas City offensive line. Ware, like Spencer, can present a whole set of different challenges as well. We have talked about this before in that Ware has that ability to turn speed into power and get blockers off balance.
As long as Selvie can hold up at the point of attack against the Chiefs, then Kiffin can continue to move these rushers around to create the best possible matchups and get pressure on Alex Smith.