It’s finally here. The Dallas Cowboys will play a regular season football game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday evening at 4:25 p.m. EDT at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Throw last year out the window. It’s a new day. As seen on one of the big walls at the Cowboys the Star facility, “All that matters is what we do now.”
Dallas will be thrown right into the fire with a tough matchup against a very solid Panthers squad. Here’s a handful of things that we’ll be keeping our eye on this Sunday:
Looney will have some big shoes to fill as he will be starting at center in place of the best center in football, Travis Frederick. Frederick’s loss will be vital to the offense, and Looney will at least need to play stable football at the pivot in his absence. If he can open up some holes for Dak and Zeke, things should run pretty smoothly. He’ll be up against a rather large defensive tackle in Dontari Poe, who weighs in at 346 pounds. Not to mention Pro Bowl DT Kawann Short lines up next to him.
The Dallas Defense
Let’s get excited. The Cowboys defense is going to be much improved this year, even after a year where they weren’t truly awful. (Okay, there were some truly awful moments without Sean Lee.) Anyway, the pass rush has a chance to be even better than it was last year. Randy Gregory has arrived, with sack master DeMarcus Lawrence opposite of him. If the improved linebacker core can shut down the Carolina run game down, expect those guys on the line to pin their ears back and get after Cam Newton.
At the moment, it’s looking like Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier will be the two starting safeties for the Cowboys on Sunday. Frazier’s status was in doubt until Friday, but now he looks to be good to go, which is good news for Dallas. Neither Heath nor Frazier have ever been great in coverage, so how the front seven plays in terms of help situations will be huge. Dallas could be in trouble if either of those guys needs to cover either of the two Panthers we’re about to discuss below.
Greg Olsen/Christian McCaffery
After Cam Newton, these two will more than likely be the x-factors of the Carolina offense. Dallas is going to need to contain both of them if they hope to come out on top. Making Cam go to his suspect wide receiver core and forcing him into some bad throws will be just what the Cowboys ordered come Sunday. Here’s hoping Sean Lee can handle one of the two — the other athletic linebackers will have their hands full with the other. Assuming Heath or Fraizer won’t be able to handle one of the two one-on-one.
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