To get ready for Sunday's Detroit Lions game, I exchanged five questions with Dave Halprin from Blogging The Boys, SB Nation's Dallas Cowboys blog. You can check out his answers below.
1. After getting a big contract in the offseason, Tony Romo has put up excellent numbers so far this season (2,010 yards, 15 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions). What are his biggest strengths as a quarterback?
Romo has a few skills that are his big keys to success. The main one is his accuracy. Romo is very good about putting the ball on target and usually putting it in a place where the receiver can catch it and easily get yards after the catch. If a player is open Romo will usually always hit him. And he's very good with placement on back-shoulder passes and dropping the ball in just over a defender. He really has nice touch with his passes. The next big strength is a lightning-quick release. Romo ranks among the best in the time it takes for him to make a decision and then to get the ball out. He has a very compact throwing motion. Finally, he's very good about sensing the pass rush and moving to avoid it. He gets a lot of big plays from breaking out of the pocket while eluding a defender and hitting receivers downfield. He doesn't run the ball a lot, but he'll drive defensive linemen crazy by scrambling in the backfield to make a big play.
2. The Travis Frederick draft pick raised a lot of eyebrows back in April because he went in the first round. How would you evaluate his play so far?
I would rate Frederick's play as a rookie center as very, very good. His pick did raise eyebrows everywhere but apparently on this one the Cowboys scouting staff knew exactly what they were talking about. Frederick has come in and from day one of training camp assumed the starting center role and has been a huge upgrade for the Cowboys. He makes all the line calls and has been physical enough to hold his ground in the middle. He's just a rookie but his play is more like a three-year vet. He'll have his hands full this week but his play has been one of the reasons the Cowboys offensive line is so improved this year. Dallas fans couldn't be more pleased with the way that pick has turned out.
3. The Cowboys have already forced 15 turnovers so far this season. Is it safe to say that the Monte Kiffin hire has been a big success?
I would say it's been a "qualified" success. Even though the Cowboys have gotten a lot more turnovers this year they have struggled on defense in a number of games. Recently the defense has definitely gotten better; they've gradually changed up the way the defense plays and that has helped; Kiffin has tailored the scheme more to the skills of the individual players. So there are a lot of things Kiffin has done that are starting to go right. But I think in general we're waiting for some more evidence that this defense is really turning the corner. We need some consistency through a number of games before we're ready to say we have a real quality defense. We know we have the talent to do it, but somebody needs to make them gel as a unit; hopefully Kiffin will get that done.
4. What one matchup will be key for the Cowboys to win on Sunday if they are going to beat the Lions?
Let me cheat and give you two. I'll be watching the Cowboys cornerbacks on the outside, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, against Calvin Johnson. Carr has been really finding his groove recently and has shut down Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in successive weeks. Those are some pretty good receivers but they aren't Megatron. Claiborne has struggled early in the season with technique, confidence and injury but has been improving lately. How these two match up with Calvin will be huge. The second one will be the interior of the Cowboys line against Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The one thing Romo hates, and many QBs do, is pressure up the middle where they can't step up in the pocket and power all the way through their throws. The Cowboys' guards and center need to keep that area clean.
5. Much has been made about the NFC East and how down the division seems to be this year. Do you think the Cowboys will run away with it, or do you think any of the other teams will make things interesting?
I would like to think the Cowboys will run away with it but I just don't have that kind of confidence in this team yet. They have been too up and down for me to say they will run away with the division. Now if they win this week, that will be a three-game win streak, so that will start to give me more confidence they can run off a string of wins. I also think the other teams in the division are going to get better. Washington is starting to look a lot more improved now that RG3 is moving around better. And the Eagles could be good if their defense can get better. It's hard to say. The Cowboys should win this division but that's about as far as I'll go right now.