IRVING, Texas -- I’m not a big rollercoaster fan, but I wonder if being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys is like riding one of them.
Last week the reaction after their 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was, “They’ll never win again.” This week’s reaction to their 31-7 win against the St. Louis Rams is, “Print the playoff tickets.” The media is as guilty as fans in this up-and-down belief, but the ride can be a doozy.
With that quick wonder it’s on to this week’s Five Wonders:
** I wonder if the Cowboys will decide to keep Orlando Scandrick in the starting lineup even when Morris Claiborne is back to full strength. Sometimes it is as if a player is born into a role based on draft status, free-agent money or past achievement, but maybe this staff is different. It did not wait a week too long (or multiple weeks too long) to make the switch at safety from Will Allen to J.J. Wilcox. Scandrick has played well in his two starts and will compete to the end. Claiborne was much better against the Rams and that came two days after impressive work in red zone one-on-one drills. His confidence is high. Competition drives everybody. In the end if Scandrick plays well, then Claiborne will know he has to play well to get this job back. That’s the way Jason Garrett should want it.
** I wonder if the Cowboys are starting to form some sort of home-field advantage at AT&T Stadium. The $1.2 billion stadium has never been too friendly to the Cowboys. They are just 19-15 now in the regular season (20-15 overall) in the five-year run of the place, but they have won their first two home games in a season for the first time there. They are averaging 33.5 points a game. They have seven takeaways (six against the New York Giants) and nine sacks (six of the Rams’ Sam Bradford). There’s a long way to go and better teams are coming: Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers and teams that should be better than they are, like Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings and Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. But these first two games are a good start.
** I wonder if fans will recognize the Cowboys’ decision to sign safety Barry Church to a contract extension last season even after he tore his Achilles. Whenever Jerry Jones spends his money people are quick to bring up the supposed bad deals (Nate Livings, Jay Ratliff, Doug Free, Roy Williams the safety and Roy Williams the receiver) but never really acknowledge the good ones. Church is looking like a good one. The Cowboys signed him to a four-year, $9 million deal that could escalate to $12.4 million and included $3.8 million in guaranteed money. He has shown no signs of the Achilles’ injury that ruined his first season as a starter. In fact, Church has displayed more lateral quickness and the ability to make some big hits than he did before the injury. Is he a finished product? No, but the team felt so well about Church being a calming influence on the secondary that they did not hesitate to make the move to the rookie Wilcox.
** I wonder if the Cowboys will keep the rotation going at right guard between Mackenzy Bernadeau and Brian Waters. They alternated series Sunday against St. Louis after Waters played two series in each half the previous week at Kansas City. The Cowboys have showed they are willing to play this rotation game having done it last year late in the season at right tackle with Free and Jermey Parnell. The Cowboys believed it made Free a better player and kept him fresher. Maybe that helps Bernadeau and Waters, who is still getting used to things after not playing football last season. Continuity is an issue with the constant in and out, but maybe the Cowboys are on to something here.
**I wonder if it’s too early to talk about this year’s rookie class. First-round pick Travis Frederick has been a stabilizing force at center. Gavin Escobar, the second-round pick, has a touchdown catch and can be a factor in the passing game. (His blocking, however, needs a lot of work. A lot). Wilcox (a third-rounder) is now starting at strong safety. And the other third-rounder, receiver Terrance Williams, has shown the ability to make some plays but also has work to do. Frederick, Williams and Wilcox have started games. Last year the only draft picks to start were Claiborne (15) and tight end James Hanna (two).