FORT WORTH (CBSNewsTexas.com) – It's finally here! It's week one of the NFL season, and for the Dallas Cowboys, the58 in Las Vegas goes through New York the first two weeks of the season.
The season opener is Sunday night at the New York Giants, and the home opener is the following Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets.
Oddsmakers in Vegas have listed the Cowboys with a 15-1 chance to break their 27-year. That's the sixth best odds in the league.
At the outset of training camp six weeks ago, we asked theas the Cowboys opened camp. We have already figured out a few of those, but the real answers come in the regular season:
Will Zack Martin hold out? The nine-time Pro Bowl offensive guard held out for about half of the pre-season,. And the best news is that Martin re-joined the team the last week in Oxnard and has had plenty of time to get ready for the season. The Cowboys also signed right tackle Terence Steele to a five-year, $86.8 million contract extension. Steele's return from ACL surgery last December might have been the best thing that happened in the pre-season.
How much pressure is on Dak Prescott? When you're the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, there's always pressure. Now 30 years old and coming off a season in which he threw a career high 15 interceptions and two critical picks in a second straight playoff loss to San Francisco, the focus intensifies on Prescott as the Cowboys try to snap that Super Bowl drought.
What effect will new play-caller Mike McCarthy have on the offense? It's not like the Cowboys weren't scoring points with Kellen Moore calling plays, but as McCarthy himself said, "I'm not about lighting up the scoreboard. I'm about winning games."
Can Tony Pollard carry the load at running back? Coming off ankle surgery in January, the Cowboys need to, and he looked both healthy and explosive in training camp practices.
Is there any chance the Cowboys bring Zeke Elliott back? No. Elliott signed with the New England Patriots, leaving the backup running back duties to Rico Dowdle and rookie Deuce Vaughn.
What impact will Brandin Cooks have? The Cowboys needed another playmaker at wide receiver. They never found a replacement for Amari Cooper last year. With CeeDee Lamb coming off his first 100 catch season and Michael Gallup 18 months removed from ACL surgery, Cooks showed in camp that he provides the Cowboys with a triple threat — three versatile receivers who can line up anywhere.
What impact will Stephon Gilmore have? Even nearing his 33rd birthday, the five-time Pro Bowler figures to give the Cowboys one of the best secondaries in the league. With Gilmore and Trevon Diggs at cornerback, plus Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson at safety, and Daron Bland and Jourdan Lewis holding down slot corner duties, it's hard to find a better secondary. However, Wilson is still nursing a calf strain sustained the first week of camp and Lewis is just returning to practice this week coming off a foot injury last season. Jerry Jones has been busy securing key parts of the secondary for the future, signing Diggs to a five-year,, and Hooker for three years, $21 million in training camp. Wilson got the same deal as Hooker in the off-season.
What impact will 1st round draft pick Mazi Smith have? The Dallas Defense became the first team since the 1973 Steelers to lead the league in takeaways in consecutive seasons, but one thing they didn't do well last year was stop the run. Smith got plenty of snaps in preseason games with lukewarm reviews, but he should make an impact in a rotation with veteran Johnathan Hankins.
Where will Micah Parsons line up? After amassing 26 1⁄2 sacks his first two seasons, Parsons spent much of the off-season conditioning his body for the rigors of a long season as a pass rusher.. He wreaked havoc in training camp practices, leaving one to wonder if the Cowboys offensive tackles are that bad or is Parsons that good? He is that good.
Who will be the most exciting player in pre-season games? That was easy. Diminutive Deuce Vaughn, the dynamic 5-foot-5 running back who was drafted in the sixth round out of Kansas State, was a fan favorite. And the best is yet to come. Expect McCarthy and offensive coordinatorto get the ball to Vaughn in a variety of ways.
What is this team's most glaring need? A KICKER! Brandon Aubrey, a former Major League Soccer first round draft pick out of Notre Dame and Plano Senior High School, won the training camp battle. He closed out the preseason with a 59-yard field goal. But now we see if Aubrey, and his teammates, can do it when the bright lights come on Sunday night against the Giants.
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