The Arizona Cardinals host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Kevin Kolb should be back for the Cardinals. Beanie Wells and Sam Acho are coming off of career games. Patrick Peterson has a couple of new awards. The Cards have won three of their last four and have the home stretch of the season with a bunch of home games. The team is actually in a good place.
Having the team in a good place, it makes it a lot easier to ask good questions. Dave Halprin, the big boss over at Blogging The Boys, was kind enough to answer some questions. Hit the jump to read the questions and responses.1. Just how good has DeMarco Murray been for the Cowboys offense?
Since Murray has become the starter, the Cowboys have been a different offensive team. They now have balance, and that means Tony Romo doesn't have to be called on so much to lead us to victory. This has allowed Romo to put together a string of efficient, winning efforts. Murray is a complete back; he can run between the tackles, he can break tackles, he's a violent runner, but he can also get outside and he can take it to the house. He's a major threat in the passing game, too. The one caveat is that he won't have his regular fullback Tony Fiammetta, who has been out for a few weeks, and Murray's numbers are down some when Fiammetta doesn't play.
It doesn't look like Miles Austin will go as I'm writing this, that could change, but I'll assume he's out. That means the duo of Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson. Robinson has been a huge surprise. We picked him up just before the season started, cut and re-signed him, and now he leads us with 7 TD receptions. He's just had great chemistry with Romo from the start, and is one of our unsung heroes so far. He keeps plays alive and gets to open spots allowing Romo to improvise out of pressure. Dez is always a threat, but hasn't had quite the breakout year we expected. Still, he's a great receiver and can dominate a game.
Robinson's success in Dallas has a lot to do with Romo, they're just in sync as a duo. Why Austin came from undrafted free agent to where he is today? Hard work and a terrific set of athletic abilities. Tall, strong, fast, he's got it physically. Early on in his career, he dropped some passes and also suffered through injury, but perseverance and talent won out.
3. How much do fans trust Tony Romo to finish strong and lead the Cowboys to the playoffs?
At this point, the Cowboys are definitely within reach of the playoffs, and I think the belief is that this team will get there. Romo has lead us to the playoffs most of the seasons he's played the full year, so there's not much doubt he has the ability to lead us to the playoffs. It's what happens once we get there that all-things-Romo are measured against. If you just look at his career stats, they're pretty amazing, but it's winning in the playoffs that really make reputations for NFL QBs, so that's what he needs to do to get rid of any doubt.
4. How has Rob Ryan's defense performed compared to expectations?
I think we're basically in love with the Rob Ryan defense. The Cowboys 3-4 defense had for years operated as a very controlled defense, one with little movement and a lot of conventional looks. Imagine how much we're enjoying watching the circus that is Ryan's defense. Of course, if it wasn't successful, we wouldn't like it. But so far it's a work in progress that is working. Getting a nice quantity of turnovers certainly helps. Ryan likes to move guys around pre-snap, overload one side when he blitzes, and will throw the secondary into the pass rush. He also plays just about everybody on the defensive roster, rotating guys in and out liberally.
5. What player has been the biggest surprise for Dallas? The biggest disappointment?
We just discussed some of the biggest surprises on our site recently. DeMarco Murray won the poll we took, and it's hard to argue with that. He's been amazing. Sean Lee has become a star at middle linebacker so he got some support, and rookie kicker Dan Bailey has been a Jedi on kicks. We've re-named him Darth Bailey. And of course, Laurent Robinson.
Disappointment? That's tough. Early on it was left tackle Doug Free. He was coming off a great season, and he was bad early on. Lately though, he's righted his game. I think the middle of the line has been up and down all year, but it also seems to be getting better.
Cowboys 28 - Cardinals 17