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5 Questions with the Cowboys

This week I exchanged questions with Dave Halprin, the author of the great Cowboys blog Blogging the Boys. My answers to his questions can be found in enemy territory.

BGN - I'd think most people would agree that the second half of the Cowboys season (which basically kicks off this weekend) is much harder schedule-wise than the first half. Do you think the Cowboys can keep up the pace they've started with?

It would be really hard for the Cowboys to keep up the pace they've set the rest of the year. Since they only had one loss in what we're calling the first half of the season, extrapolating that over the second half would mean a 14-2 record. I think that might be a little ambitious for the Cowboys. But, I don't think they will go into the tank or anything like that, I don't think we'll see a repeat of the bad play we've shown down the stretch over the last two seasons. In fact, while we might get better as a team with several players returning to the field, we do play some tough games, some of them on the road, so the paradox of being a better team in the second half but not with a better record could happen.

BGN - The Cowboys' strengths are well publicized. So what are some things that you'd like to see improved by year's end?

I would like to see the secondary play more consistent. We've had injuries to both our starters at CB and that has kept the secondary from gelling as a unit. Over the second half of the season, now that we have Terence Newman back and are getting Anthony Henry back, I want to see the secondary do a better job. The Cowboys also need to start games on offense faster instead of playing even in the first half and then scoring a ton of points in the second half. That kind of play can backfire and lead to unexpected losses. Finally, I'd like to see an even more explosive pass rush. Greg Ellis is back on the field and healthy so I want the Cowboys to turn into a terror in the pass rush.

BGN - I have not looked at the numbers and I do not know the Cowboys run/pass ratio. That said, just watching some Dallas games this year I've gotten the feeling that Jason Garrett may have went to the Andy Reid school of playcalling because you guys seem to throw a lot... Is that accurate or has the offense been pretty balanced?

The offense has been somewhat balanced. It's true we throw a little more than we run, but I don't think we qualify for the Andy Reid Honors Graduate Program just yet. Jason Garret runs an offense that believes in power-running and the vertical-passing game. While he tries to establish the running game in most cases, if it's not working early he has no problems going to the pass. But come the 4th quarter, if we have any kind of lead in a game, we hand the ball off to Marion Barber and try to run over the opposition to close the game. In one game recently, in the 4th quarter with a lead, we handed the ball nine straight times to Marion Barber to kill the clock. So if we can run on a team we will, if not, we'll loosen them up with the pass, but Garrett wants to run a very balanced offense. Even leaning to the run game if possible.

BGN - The big news in Cowboy-land this week was obviously the locking up long term of Tony Romo. I know when I talked to you last year before the Christmas game your one concern with Romo was turnovers. This year he leads the NFC in TD passes, but has also thrown the 2nd most INTs. He also has a couple fumbles. Do you think he's made strides in protecting to ball or do you still have the same concerns?

Romo has made huge strides in protecting the ball, but every once in a while he'll revert to bad habits. As far as the INT's go, I usually don't do things like this, but if you remove the Buffalo game (which was a total aberration) Romo has only thrown 4 INT's over 6 games. That's not bad at all. So while the Buffalo game obviously happened and he did throw 5 picks, outside of that he's been very good with the ball when he throws. As for the fumbling, it's gone away for the most part, although two weeks ago against the Vikings we had a minor re-occurrence of it. He holds the ball loose in one hand when moving around in the pocket and that can cause trouble. It's just something we live with because he does so many other things so well. But he has definitely improved his ball security from last year.

BGN - In the end, we all want to see good football. Last season's Eagles/Cowboys game at Lincoln Financial field was pretty epic. Back and forth, defensive TDs, big plays, amped crowd... it was everything it was built up to be. Do you think we'll see a good game this week or will it get lost in the Pats/Colts drama?

It may get lost in the Pats/Colts drama overall, but for us NFC East guys, I think this will be a great game. It looks like you guys just played one of your better games of the year (besides the Detroit game) last week and it looks like McNabb is recovering from his injury somewhat. With Dawkins back on defense, you guys should be ready to go. Dallas is coming off a bye week, so we should be refreshed and somewhat healthy, I see all the makings of an epic clash on Sunday night.

Bonus - Any advice for when the Eagles travel to New England in a few weeks? Does any NFC team have a shot at beating them? How about just covering the spread?

To beat the Patriots, you have to have a couple of things. You must go three deep at CB with all three having above-average to superior cover skills. You can't have a weak link in the secondary when you go to your nickel/dime packages. If you do, Brady will find it. Second, you have to create pressure on Brady, it's the only way. You can't sit back in a shell defense trying to zone-up all their receivers, it just won't work. Throw caution to the wind and attack Brady. On offense, try to keep Brady off the field and work the middle of the field in the passing game. We found a lot of success there.