Every week, I hope to bring you a quick Q&A with someone who covers the Ravens’ opponent that week. On Sunday, the Ravens will take on the Dallas Cowboys at M&T Bank Stadium. Rainer Sabin covers the Cowboys for The Dallas Morning News, and he was kind enough to answer a few of questions heading into the game.
MV: Tony Romo wilted in the Monday night spotlight the last time we saw him, throwing five interceptions against the Chicago Bears, though they weren't all his fault. Do you expect Romo to bounce back against the Ravens, and how do you see the Cowboys attacking the Ravens defense?
RS: It’s difficult to predict if he will be able to bounce back because it’s impossible to forecast how the players around him will perform. In order to do well, Romo needs adequate protection, his receivers to catch the ball and a functional running game that will prevent defenses from attacking him at will. At times, he hasn’t had any of the above.
To answer your second question, I think the Cowboys will try to rely on tailback DeMarco Murray at the outset. If they can get Murray going, then the offense stands a chance against Baltimore.
MV: The Ravens were interested in Dez Bryant when he came out in the draft two years ago. In your opinion, why hasn't he met expectations?
RS: For a number of reasons, Bryant hasn’t developed into the superstar many thought he’d become. First and foremost, he isn’t always disciplined. He tends to run sloppy routes and isn’t always in the spot where he needs to be when the ball is thrown in his vicinity. He also has had problems with his stamina.
At times last season, he became more ineffective as the game progressed. The coaches say his endurance has improved this year. But at the same time his hands, which have been generally reliable, have failed him in 2012. He has four drops. Only four players in the NFL have more. This is Bryant’s third season and he has yet to establish any consistency in his performance.
MV: The offseason additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne appear to have transformed that secondary. The Cowboys are ranked first in pass defense, though the Bears had success against them. Is there any concern about them keeping tabs on Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin?
RS: Of course, there are concerns. Boldin and Smith are a potent receiver tandem and the Ravens lead the NFL with 26 completions of 20 yards are more. The Cowboys’ secondary will be challenged. But Claiborne and Carr shouldn’t be overwhelmed. After all, they held their own against the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, who together made 10 receptions for 96 yards in Week 1. In total, Carr and Claiborne have allowed 16 completions on 29 passes thrown in their direction this season. They have fared pretty well.
MV: How helpful has this bye week been for the Cowboys from a health standpoint, and do you expect Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff to play?
RS: The bye week came at an opportune time. It does look like both Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff will play. That’s a very positive development for the defense. Spencer, who missed the loss to the Bears with a strained pectoral muscle, leads the team in quarterback pressures with nine despite the fact he has played in only three games. Ratliff, meanwhile, is a four-time Pro Bowler who did not play in the first four games after suffering a high-ankle sprain Aug. 25. When he has been on the field, he has made a major impact. He often occupies multiple blockers, freeing up other defenders to make plays. He should provide inside linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee with more opportunities.
MV: Jason Garrett was a candidate to be head coach of the Ravens in 2008 but he chose the Cowboys (the Ravens then hired John Harbaugh). In your opinion, has the hire worked out for the Cowboys, and will he be in any danger of losing his job if the Cowboys miss the playoffs again?
RS: Up until this season, when the offense has regressed, it seemed the Cowboys were making incremental progress. Garrett has slowly changed the culture of the franchise. The controversial figures that used to crowd the Cowboys’ locker room are no longer there. The organization has a more business-like approach. But they have yet to establish any consistency on the field under Garrett. That’s disconcerting. However, even if they fail to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season, I don’t think Garrett will lose his job. I think team owner Jerry Jones has a lot of faith in Garrett and wants to give him every opportunity to succeed.