On the morning of each Cowboys game, you'll get a chance to take a sip of Joe's gridiron insights with our 'Morning Cup of Joe.' He'll offer five storylines to follow when the Cowboys take the field and his thoughts on what to expect.
1.Wade Phillips vs Cowboys offense
I'm looking forward to the back and forth between Rams defensive coordinator and former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips and the Cowboys offense. Bum's son would like nothing more than to throttle the Cowboys.
Dak Prescott and company played an ugly but effective game against the Cardinals. And 10 weeks from now, I wonder how important that game will be in the larger scheme of things? Despite gaining just 57 yards in the first half, the Cowboys stuck with their ground-chewing, run-first mentality and it paid big dividends.
Phillips will try to take away Zeke Elliott, and I'm looking forward to how the Cowboys counter. Or more to the point, how much they'll stick with their staple.
2.Can Aaron Donald wreck the game?
In keeping with that same thread, how will the Cowboys offensive line try to neutralize Rams all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald?
Donald held out until the first week of the season, but with two games and three weeks of practice under his belt now, it figures that he's rounding into shape and will be a headache for the Cowboys offensive line that you'd expect.
Donald is one of the best interior defenders in the league and when he matches up against Cowboys right guard Zack Martin, it will provide the best the league can offer.
Look for Phillips to try and get Donald isolated on Chaz Green or Jonathan Cooper, depending on who starts for Dallas. Travis Frederick will have to be at his best because you can't help enough on Donald.
3.Will Tank keep rolling?
I'm looking at Demarcus Lawrence for a couple reasons. Now that he's leading the league in sacks, got named defensive player of the month, and is just the third player in league history to notch more than one sack in the first three games of a season, he will be the focal point for the Rams offense.
I want to know how he will handle the extra attention. Will the tenacity we've seen so far this season wane? I doubt it. Lawrence, with his 6.5 sacks, is not only in line for a huge payday, but Harvey Martin's Cowboys single-season sack record of 23 is a source of motivation, as well.
More attention for Lawrence will also translate to more opportunity for others on the Cowboys defensive line. I'm doubling down on my call for Maliek Collins to wreak havoc. Collins doesn't say much, but he'll benefit from opposing offenses focusing on Lawrence, and his production will increase, as well. Don't be surprised when he picks up more multi-sack games this season.
4. Is it time for Dez's breakout?
Dez Bryant created one of the high highlight moments so far in this early season when he took a pass at the 13-yard line and went into absolute beast mode to score a touchdown. He faked Patrick Peterson out of his cleats and then bulldozed his way into the end zone through a slew of Cardinals defenders with an assist from Travis Frederick.
That moment can only begin to make up for Bryant's slow start this season. He has faced three of the top cornerbacks in the league - Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib, and Patrick Peterson. Now, it's time for Bryant to work against Trumaine Johnson.
Johnson, recall, squared off in quite the trash-talking back-and-forth with Bryant in Oxnard during the Cowboys joint practices with the Rams in 2015. Look for Bryant to be more than motivated to finally notch a breakout performance against a talented corner.
5.Can Bulter become a legit deep threat?
Brice Butler's two catches for 90 yards against the Cardinals turned a ho-hum night for Dak Prescott into one with a pair of touchdown passes and a 141.7 QB rating.
Butler showed strength on both catches to elevate and hold onto the ball, which should prompt offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to give him more opportunities.
Butler says it was at times difficult for him to keep the proper focus when he's often one of the last options for quarterback Dak Prescott. But he's shown a better ability to stay locked in and that could mean big things for the Cowboys offense.
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