Ken Whisenhunt (Matt York/AP)
The Dallas Cowboys travel west this week and the Cardinals may be catching one of the NFC’s top teams at an opportune time. In the midst of injuries and off-field distractions, Dallas may find the current state of affairs difficult to overcome. Brad Wilbricht previews this week’s matchup and breaks down the Cowboys roster.
The Dallas Cowboys will bring plenty of star power to the desert on Sunday, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Cowboys’ offense is led by QB Tony Romo, who is currently fourth in the NFL with a QB rating of 100.5. Although Romo has looked pedestrian during the past two weeks, he’s managed to complete 64 percent of his passes for 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
Romo has had plenty of time in the pocket thus far, as he’s been sacked only four times in the team’s first five games. The Cardinals' pass rush has been vastly improved and will look to pressure Romo in order to help out the secondary. Free-agent acquisitions Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans have proved to be worth the investment as Arizona is currently tied for third in the NFL with 15 sacks.
The thunder and lighting combination of running backs Marion Barber and Felix Jones has been outstanding. Barber is a bruising runner who gets better as the game progresses while Jones is a legitimate home run threat out of the backfield. On the season, Barber has rushed for 395 yards and has reached the end zone four times. Meanwhile, Jones has racked up 244 yards while averaging a staggering nine yards per carry. Although the Cardinals' run defense has been solid allowing 98 yards per game, both backs should receive plenty of work this week.
Like the rest of the NFL, Arizona will have its hands full against WR Terrell Owens. Owens has reeled in 19 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns so far this year. After being targeted 18 times two weeks ago against the Washington Redskins, Owens was thrown to only three times last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Look for Romo to get Owens involved early and continue to glance his way several times throughout the afternoon.
WR Terrell Owens
As important as Owens is to the Cowboys offense, TE Jason Witten may be more valuable. Witten is a tremendous threat in the passing game and is an exceptional blocker. Witten currently leads Dallas in catches (35) and receiving yards (442). With opposing defenses often geared towards stopping Owens and the Cowboys’ running game, Witten is regularly left in favorable matchups one-on-one against linebackers and safeties.
On defense, the Cowboys will be without starting CB Terence Newman and possibly CB Adam Jones. Newman is suffering from a sports hernia and reports have surfaced regarding Jones’ involvement in a fight at a Dallas hotel. Given NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s no tolerance stance, any off-field issues will more than likely keep Jones off the playing field. More details on the altercation should be released in the coming days. Regardless of the outcome, the distraction certainly does not bode well for Dallas.
If Newman and Jones are both out, look for WR Larry Fitzgerald and company to have a big day. Rookie CB Mike Jenkins would likely fill in for Newman while CB Anthony Henry would defend the other half of the field. Even with Dallas short handed at cornerback, the Cardinals’ offensive line will need to protect QB Kurt Warner. The Cowboys' defense features several capable pass rushers including DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis. In addition, Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears are disruptive upfront and will need to be accounted for at all times.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at email@example.com