Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

  • The middle linebacker battle.

  • The belief in Rod Marinelli.

  • The win total.

  • The Gavin Escobar touchdown total.

If you want to read Part 1, click here.

Away we go:

@toddarcher: Well, it will start for real next week when the Cowboys get to Oxnard, California. Justin Durant enters as the front-runner, for sure. Perhaps Rolando McClain gets in the mix if he shows up in shape and wanting to play football. Maybe DeVonte Holloman or Anthony Hitchens get in the mix, too. But Durant has the inside track for the job. The coaches like what he did last season and believe he can handle the spot. He is athletic enough. He is smart enough. Is he Sean Lee? Of course not. But he's not a poor player either. He doesn't have a lock on the job, but he is the closest to figuring out which key to use for that lock. Last season he had a difficult time staying healthy -- so did a lot of defenders -- so that could be worth watching this summer.

@toddarcher: It's a little bit like what Bum Phillips said about Don Shula: "He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n." So I think Marinelli will make a difference over what Monte Kiffin brought to the table. I saw where Brian Urlacher said the Cowboys will run more Cover 2 this season with Marinelli in charge. Actually, the feeling I get is they will run more Cover 3 and put pressure on the cornerbacks to perform. We will see more Barry Church in the box. We will see more pressures. Now "more" is a relative term. They won't become a gambling defense when Marinelli preaches "fundamentals," but I think you will see a more aggressive defense. I believe Marinelli has a better feel for what he doesn't have on defense and will coach accordingly.

@toddarcher: I understand the pessimism. I do. But they had the worst defense in the league last season and went 8-8. They had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17 with the worst defense in franchise history. If Marinelli -- see answer above -- can make them a tick better, then why can't the Cowboys compete for a playoff spot again? That is the Cowboys' view. It's an optimistic view for sure. But they have an offense that ranked near the top of the league in points last season and I believe will be better this season. (Note: As long as Tony Romo is healthy.) I believe they will stay on the field more with a better third-down offense, which will keep the defense off the field. I believe we will know what type of season the Cowboys will have early on in the year. They need to get off to a fast start with three of the first five against the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans, and six of the first nine at home. If they can come out of the first five weeks at 3-2 if not better, maybe a surprise Week 1 win vs. San Francisco, then they will be in the race.

@toddarcher: Escobar had two touchdowns as a rookie last season and played little, so I guess it is possible, but I would also point out the other playmakers on offense that will be more featured than him: Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and DeMarco Murray. I know people look at what Scott Linehan did with Joseph Fauria last season with the Detroit Lions and believe Escobar could be a red-zone threat like Fauria, who had seven touchdowns among his 18 catches. Possible? Yes. Probable? No. Bryant will be the biggest red-zone threat. Witten should be No. 2. And the better red-zone teams run the ball into the end zone, so that puts Murray in the mix. To me, if Escobar gets you 30 catches and five touchdowns, that is a good season for him in his second year.