The last two times the Cowboys opened with consecutive wins (2008, ’15), they failed to make the playoffs.
No, there’s no wondering if a loss to the Broncos would actually be a good thing, but there are Five Wonders.
Away we go:
DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries in the opener. He was as dominant as he has been since joining the Cowboys in 2014. He is also entering a contract year. I don’t want to be cynical and say that’s why Lawrence will have a big year. I think more of it will have to do with health. He wasn’t really healthy all of last season when he knew he needed another back surgery. But here’s the wonder: let’s say he has a 10-sack season. I wonder how far the Cowboys go in breaking the bank for him on a new deal. They say they don’t want to pursue big-money free agents because the risk is hardly worth the reward. Would the fact that they know Lawrence, injury risk and all, make them stretch a little bit financially to keep him in 2018 and beyond?
Kellen Moore was Dak Prescott’s backup in the season opener, and he will be the backup in Week 2 as well. I sort of wonder if he will be the backup all season or if the Cowboys will go with Cooper Rush eventually, but I really wonder this: If something were to happen to Prescott, would the Cowboys make Rush the starter over Moore? Hear me out. It is difficult to come off the bench with no real practice work with the first team during the week and succeed in a game. Moore has more experience and understands the Cowboys offense better than Rush, which makes him a better fit as a No. 2. And I know what most of you are thinking right now: Tony Romo would get the call if something happened to Prescott. That might be the case early in the year, but I don’t think that’s something that would happen later.
I wonder if one of the more underrated moments in the Sunday win came in the second half when right tackle La’el Collins got into a tete-a-tete with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Collins didn’t back down from JPP. He stood up to the New York Giants defensive end, effectively saying he wouldn’t let Pierre-Paul bully him. Pierre-Paul finished with five tackles, a quarterback hurry and a tackle for loss, but he didn’t seem to make much of an impact in the game. Give Collins, who was making his first regular-season start at right tackle, a ton of credit for that. But now realize he will face Von Miller a lot this week. It only gets more difficult for Collins.
Since we talked about the backup quarterback, let’s talk about the backup running back. I wonder if the Cowboys’ decision on Ezekiel Elliott’s No. 2 will be made week to week. I was surprised Alfred Morris was the backup and Darren McFadden did not dress against the Giants. All summer the Cowboys prepared McFadden to be the guy. Morris took more third-team snaps in training camp. Morris had a productive preseason, but so did McFadden. Could it come down to the defense they face each week? Is Morris more of the choice for the stout defenses and McFadden the choice for faster defenses? Honestly, I don’t know, but this decision might have been the most odd of Week 1.
I wonder if people realize how good of a job punter Chris Jones did in the season opener. He averaged just 34.8 yards on four punts against the Giants and had a net average of 34.5 yards, but his work helped the defense tremendously. The best field position the Giants had after Jones’ four punts was their 10. Twice. They started their other drives at their 6 and 9. The Cowboys signed Jones to a four-year extension through 2021 in training camp, so they clearly understand his value. Forcing an opposing offense to drive the field to put up points makes the defense’s job easier. Jones has improved his flip-flop punts the last few years. In the past four years, he has had 103 of his 281 punts stay inside the 20.