I was pleased to be joined by David Halprin again, our Dallas Cowboys affiliate, who does a top-notch job running Blogging the Boys, to preview Sunday's game. Enjoy!
Chris: "The Browns and the Cowboys have somewhat of a relationship when it comes to trading draft picks. When the Cowboys traded their first-round pick in 2007 to the Browns in exchange for our first-round pick in 2008, the only thing Browns fans saw right away were Dallas fans ecstatically screaming "We're going to get Darren McFadden now!" Unfortunately for Dallas, the Browns became a football team, dropping the Cowboys' pick down to No. 22 where Felix Jones was selected. Looking back, how disappointed are you that the pick wasn't higher?"
David: "Highly disappointed! We rooted against you guys every game last year and I remember the frustration level rising as the season went on, every Sunday we'd be bummed that you guys won again. Now, I'm not disappointed in the player we got at #22, Felix Jones, he looks like the perfect complement to Marion the Barbarian. I'm also not disappointed that we didn't have to pay the kind of money you have to pay top-5 draft picks nowadays. So there were silver linings to the cloud, but most Cowboys fan would tell you we were expecting a much higher pick when the trade was made; we were excited about the possibilities, until you kept winning."
Chris: "For the past few years, the Cowboys have featured Marion Barber and Julius Jones in the backfield. Now, rookie RB Felix Jones has replaced Jones. Explain the upside that the "new" Jones brings over the "old" Jones, and how we can expect to see him used this Sunday."
David: "The immediate upside to the "new" Jones is that Marion Barber is elevated to starter status, something that should have happened at some point last year, earlier than the playoff game. Barber is a better back than Julius Jones. As for the comparison between the "old" Jones and the "new" Jones, it's a matter of using your ability correctly. Julius Jones was fast and had moves, but he was the opposite of "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down," just touch him and watch him fall. He also had the amazing ability to find the only defender within a 5-yard radius and run right to him, he just didn't find the hole well. I termed it run to darkness.
We'll see what the "new" Jones will bring, but he looks to be more accomplished already in the passing game, and his vision and ability to turn the corner were displayed in preseason, now we get to see that for real. Expect Felix Jones to get 10-12 touches in the game; a combination of outside runs, swing passes and screens, maybe a few pass patterns from the slot, and some on kickoff returns."
Chris: "Former Browns defensive back Anthony Henry has been with the Cowboys for several years now, and there were rumblings of him being dealt in the offseason. Is this due to Henry not being as good of a player as the team would like, or simply having a surplus of cornerbacks?"
David: "Watching Henry in Dallas for the last few years I've come to a few conclusions. One, you can expect him to come up with a nagging injury that will hamper him for part of the season. Two, he's a decent corner as long as you use him right. He's a big corner and doesn't go backwards well; you can't leave him alone with speed receivers regularly because they will get behind him. Three, when he's moving forward, he's a very good corner and has a knack for picking off passes. Four, he's good in run support. I think the rumors about him being dealt were way overblown, but there is the idea of him moving to safety in the future with the arrival of Adam Jones and the two corners picked up in the draft. In fact, you'll see him in a semi-safety role in our dime defense on Sunday."
Chris: "Imagine you're the Browns. Knowing the Cowboys' defensive strengths and weaknesses, what area of the defense should the Browns attack (run vs. pass, a certain player, etc.)?"
David: "The Cowboys secondary was the problem in the past, so you might as well test it to see if it has improved with the new additions. Cornerback Terence Newman is still a little hobbled by injury and might not start in the game. Teams will always try to isolate safety Roy Williams in coverage. The Browns will try to force him into coverage on Kellen Winslow which is a total mismatch but the Cowboys will counter by pulling Williams off the field in obvious passing situations. It's hard to run wide on the Cowboys defense, teams that were successful running the ball on us tended to do it up the gut. If you can get the NT moved with double-teams and get the other guard on an ILB, there could be room. The Cowboys are an aggressive, one-gap 3-4 team so misdirection – counters, bootlegs etc. can help slow them down."
Chris: "The Browns were 6-0 at home under Derek Anderson last season. Who do you anticipate winning the game, and what's your current projection for the final score?"
David: "Of course, I'm going with the Cowboys to win the game, as I will most of the year unless things start to go really wrong. On paper, I think they're one of the most-talented teams in the league and they are coming off a 13-3 season, so I'm confident they can win any game although I know they'll lose some along the way. I do worry about opening up on the road against a team that can score a lot of points; I think it will be a high scoring game but I'm betting on the Cowboys defense to outplay the Browns defense. Let's say the score will be 31-20, Cowboys win."
Once again, I'd like to thank David for taking the time to answer my questions. I will have my answers to a few of his questions on Blogging the Boys tomorrow.