Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com, a closet baseball fan who covers the Dallas Cowboys, was looking over his 2012 Cowboys' schedule the other day. Calvin was probably planning travel, and deciding which restaurants to patronize in the various road cities to which the Cowboys will be traveling, but while he was doing this he had an idea to list five opposing players who stand out as potential problems for the Cowboys in 2012. These are individual players Calvin thinks will cause matchup problems for the Cowboys, mind you, not necessarily games he's predicting them to lose.
Anyway, the guys over at ESPNDallas.com are real good about plugging my stuff, so in the spirit of symbiosis, I like to give you a look at theirs when it seems appropriate. And on a slow, rainy offseason day such as this, it did. Calvin's list includes Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, Baltimore rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw and two players from the NFC East -- Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Here's Calvin's take on Davis:
The Redskins tight end had seven catches in two games against the Cowboys last season. He's a threat to the linebackers and safeties who might cover him. Does Brodney Pool cover Davis? Gerald Sensabaugh? Anthony Spencer? Davis is athletic enough to provide matchup problems and with Robert Griffin III moving around the pocket, Davis becomes a target to find on the run.
And here's his take on Pierre-Paul:
The New York Giants defensive end is the new Cowboys killer. In two games last year, Pierre-Paul had 13 tackles, three sacks and a blocked field goal. The Cowboys couldn't contain this man. Last year, Doug Free had trouble with Pierre-Paul. Now, Tyron Smith gets his turn at one of the better young defensive players in the game.
I think Smith is fantastic, will have no trouble transitioning to left tackle and can be one of the best in the league at the position in short order. But I agree with the sentiment that Pierre-Paul seems like the kind of player who raises his game when the lights are brightest, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him terrorize the Cowboys again this year, even if they are better at left tackle. His talent is such that he always finds himself in the middle of the big play, and he's the kind of player around whom the Cowboys and the rest of the division are going to have to game-plan for years to come.
And yeah, on Davis -- his size and athleticism at the tight end position are an under-discussed advantage for Griffin in his rookie season. Davis was the Redskins' best receiving threat in 2011, and it's no slight against the upgrades they've made at wide receiver to predict that he could be again in 2012. People may have forgotten about Davis after his four-game drug suspension at the end of last season. But assuming he can stay clean, there's little reason to think he won't be a difficult force with which to contend for opposing defenses.