The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to get back on track this week, as they head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Zac Taylor’s crew seemingly has an easier task than originally thought, with Cooper Rush taking the snaps on the other side.
We had a sit-down with David Halprin of SB Nation’s Blogging the Boys site. He provided some great insight to get us prepared for the contest this week.
1.) AC: Tell us about the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of Cooper Rush. How high is team and fan confidence in him that he can place-hold for Dak Prescott and even sneak in some wins?
DH: If I were to describe Cooper Rush in a short sentence, it would be that he is a semi-competent game manager. He’s decent at reading a defense and making the make-able throw. He’s not going to dazzle you with arm strength, or he’s not going to throw a receiver open with an incredible dime most of the time. And he is not really mobile, so he’s not going to win a game with his feet. What he will do is deliver a catchable ball to an open receiver and (hopefully) not make a lot of mistakes.
There is a little bit of confidence in Rush because last year he went on the road to Minnesota and won a game when Dak Prescott had to sit out. The Cowboys had a lot of help from their defense on that day, but Rush put up a decent stat line (325 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and actually executed a game-winning drive in the closing minutes of the game to pull out the victory. He threw the winning touchdown with just 51 seconds left in the game. So that gives a bit of confidence, but most fans think the running game plus the defense will be counted on to win this game and future games.
2.) AC: It’s hard to get a gauge on Zeke Elliott. He was the next big star a few years ago, had some injuries and then disappointed at times with Tony Pollard shining. What’s the plan of attack there and is Zeke close to being the same guy that took the league by storm a few short years ago?
DH: Zeke looked very good in Week 1. 10 carries that resulted in 52 yards, and he was running with power and moving piles. Unfortunately the Cowboys got away from the run.
Some of that was because penalties kept putting them behind the chains and forcing them to pass. The other part was Dallas decided to give Tony Pollard more playing time, and he wasn’t as successful, especially when it came to his pass protection.
I don’t think Zeke will ever be the back he was in those first couple of years, the burst and speed just aren’t there like back in those days. But he can still be a very effective runner and if he runs this year like he did in Week 1, the Cowboys will actually be able to win some games without Prescott.
My guess is Zeke is going to be featured on Sunday.
3.) AC: Some folks are already proclaiming Tyler Smith a better guard than tackle early in his career. What have you seen from him so far and agree/disagree with a possible position move?
DH: I’m not sure who is claiming that, but anybody who watched the game on Sunday had to come away impressed with Smith’s first game as a left tackle in the NFL. Of course, he wasn’t perfect, but he was actually much better than most people expected. In fact, there is already discussion about having Jason Peters play at right tackle when he becomes available and leaving Smith at left tackle.
I would have no problem running Smith back out there at tackle. He’s a devastating run blocker with incredible strength. His pass protection is still being worked on; communication on stunts and keeping the speed rush pushed to the outside are some issues. But I think almost every Cowboys fan was pretty pleased with his first effort at tackle, especially since he practiced at guard for almost the entire offseason.
4.) AC: Give us some relatively-unknown/little talked about players on the Cowboys’ defense who may have an impact this Sunday.
DH: Donovan Wilson is a safety that is going to have to play a lot more this week because of the injury to starter Jayron Kearse. Last week he picked off Tom Brady and has a knack for finding the football. He’s a big-hitter and can help change momentum.
Also, defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa seems like he may be on the brink of breaking out and having a big game. He is quick in the middle and can get penetration to disrupt plays.
5.) AC: Even with CeeDee Lamb on the roster and Michael Gallup returning sometime in the near future, is Dalton Schultz set to be the go-to guy for the backup, Rush?
DH: That’s entirely possible. Schultz is just a machine at getting open, and he rarely drops passes. He is about as dependable of a player as you can get. All of that adds up to the perfect go-to safety blanket for a quarterback. It’s hard to know who Rush will trust the most because we’ve only really seen him play one game, and he and Schultz couldn’t really connect in that game. But, our WR corps was stacked then, not so much now.
Our thanks to David Halprin and Blogging the Boys!