The Dallas Cowboys kick off the regular season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are coming off an 11-5 record in 2017. So Sunday will not be a walk in the park for Dallas. If they want to start the season off on the right foot, they will need to do these five things.
1. Contain Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey is a major weapon in the Carolina offense. He is not only their number one running back, but he is arguably their best wide receiver as well. McCaffrey did more damage last season as a pass catcher than a runner, totaling 80 receptions for 651 yards and 5 touchdowns. So which Dallas defender will be tasked with the daunting challenge of containing McCaffrey? It will most likely be Sean Lee or Jaylon Smith. Christian McCaffrey isn’t the type of player that can be shut down completely, but if Jaylon Smith or Sean Lee can contain him in the passing game it will go a long ways toward a Cowboys victory.
2. Take away Greg Olsen
When Cam Newton isn’t throwing the ball to Christian McCaffrey, he will most likely be targeting TE Greg Olsen. I believe Dallas’ best option to take away Olsen is CB Byron Jones. Byron has played very well against other top TE’s the past few years. If he can play well against Olsen on Sunday, Cam will be forced to look at other options and that bodes well for the Cowboys.
3. Get pressure on Cam Newton
Carolina has multiple offensive linemen that are banged up and questionable for this weeks game. Dallas must take advantage of the fact they have injuries and put pressure on Cam early and often. The best chance of getting pressure is with Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Those two need to spend the majority of the afternoon in the backfield making Cam Newton uncomfortable.
4. Make an early big play in the passing game
Dallas wants to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and everyone knows it. Carolina knows that as well. That’s why it’s imperative that Dallas completes a long pass early in the game in order to back the Panthers defense off. That will allow more space for Ezekiel Elliott to run, run, and run some more.
5. Make a big play in the return game
Dallas has had very few dynamic plays in the return game the past few seasons. Dallas traded for Tavon Austin in the offseason and he will be the primary return man for them this season. If Austin can flip the field with a big punt or kickoff return it could be a game changer and help Dallas leave Charlotte with a 1-0 record.
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