Our writer, Noah Gonzalez is doing our first game preview of the season making sure you know what to look for. The Dallas Cowboys face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week One for the second consecutive year. This time both offenses look very different, but both defenses are returning most players and are projected to be stout for this upcoming year. Here’s what to expect in this Sunday Night prime-time match-up.
We finally made it. Week One of the 2022 NFL season has arrived. Now all football fans can rejoice and enjoy or be stressed on their Sundays for the next five months or so.
Opening Day Game Preview
Cowboy fans must feel a little déjà vu when facing Tampa Bay again for their season-opening game. The 2021 matchup didn’t go exactly how the Cowboys would’ve hoped. A signature Tom Brady comeback led the Bucs down for a game-winning field goal as the Cowboys lost 31-29.
Catching up to the present day, both teams have had some big changes to their teams from the 2021 season. The Bucs have a new head coach in Todd Bowles after Bruce Arians retired. Since 2019 Bowles has been the defensive coordinator for the Bucs, so the team won’t be drastically different under the new coach. The offenses for both teams have a lot of new pieces inserted in the line-up. While the defenses will have a lot of familiar faces. Let’s dive into what to expect come Sunday with our game preview.
Dallas Replacing Wide Receiver Keys
Both teams’ offenses are coming into the 2022 season licking some wounds and trying to replace a lot of offensive production.
The Cowboys lost offensive players to free agency, cuts, trades, and injuries. Amari Cooper (Trade), Cedrick Wilson (Free Agency), La’el Collins (Cut), and Connor Williams (Free Agency) were big contributors in 2021. All on new teams going into 2022. Injuries are keeping Micheal Gallup (Torn ACL) and Tyron Smith (Torn Hamstring) out of the starting line-up which pushes the offense to change even more.
Ceedee Lamb takes over as the number one wide receiver with a slew of unproven receivers behind him such as Noah Brown, Jalen Tolbert, Dennis Houston, Simi Fehoko, and KaVontae Turpin. With 165 vacant targets from Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson leaving alone, someone will have to step up behind Lamb.
Dallas’ Retooled Offense
It will be interesting to see how head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore run the offense with new starters all over the offense. Rookies Jalen Tolbert and Tyler Smith are set to start against a tough Buccaneers defense for their professional debuts. Both rookies have big shoes to fill. Tolbert is likely to run as the number two wide receiver behind Ceedee Lamb. All signs are pointing toward Tyler Smith to start in place of Tyron Smith at left tackle. Recently signed Jason Peters won’t be ready for week one against the Bucs as the Cowboys ease him back into game shape.
Expect more runs and half-field passing concepts to the right side of the field since Zach Martin and Terrance Steele are the veterans on this offensive line. This will take pressure off the young left offensive line with Tyler Smith and Connor McGovern.
Lamb and Dalton Shultz will get targeted more than they ever have since they are the only receiving threats that are healthy and returning to the starting line-up from last season. The running back combo of Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard will get a lot of work, especially through the air.
Buc’s Offense Replacing Players
For the Buccaneers, they are also trying to replace players who had major contributions to their 2021 season. The major pieces they have to replace are Ryan Jenson (Undisclosed knee injury), Aaron Stinnie (torn ACL/MCL), Ali Marpet (Retirement), Alex Cappa (Free Agency), Antonio Brown (Cut), Rob Gronkowski (Retired), Ronald Jones (Free Agency). Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL late in the ’21 season but he is expected to be a game-time decision.
To put into perspective how much they lost, last season in week one, the duo between Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski combined for three touchdowns, 13 catches for 211 receiving yards out of a team total of 379 receiving yards. Brady will have to use new targets Julio Jones and Russell Gage to replace those vacant catches.
The Bucs also have three brand new interior linemen between Shaq Mason (right guard), Robert Hainsey (center), and second-round rookie Luke Goedeke (left guard). With that new trio, Brady must command and use his pocket presence to help to gain good chemistry with the new linemen.
The Bucs arguably lost even more production compared to the Cowboys. Although this is a lot to overcome for any player, there’s always a chance when you have Tom Brady at quarterback. Expect the Cowboys to be aggressive and try to get after Brady up the middle of the offensive line.
A Familiar Cowboy Defense Returns To The Field
The defenses for both teams are the opposite of the offenses with many returning productive players from last year.
The Cowboys are coming off of an average season when it comes to total defensive stats. Their takeaways made this defense feel much stronger. They lead the league with a +14 differential and overall had 34 turnovers on the year. The team as a whole was incredibly successful, especially with Trevon Diggs being a takeaway machine with a league-best 11 interceptions. It will be difficult to repeat those team stats since turnover rates year over year are very volatile.
Nonetheless, Micah Parsons is the reigning defensive rookie of the year and already a special player. Using a player at both standing linebacker and an edge rusher is rare. A deep interior defensive line with Osa Odighizuwa, Quinton Bohanna, Neville Gallimore, and Trysten Hill all returning as young defensive tackles is a huge plus for the team.
Changes For The Cowboys
The biggest change for this Cowboys defense is the loss of edge rusher Randy Gregory. He signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency. His replacement is yet to be set in stone as Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. battled all training camp to start.
This defense was very aggressive last season. Expect defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to stay that way and utilize his best player in Micah Parsons everywhere on the field.
The Identical Tampa Bay Defense?
The Bucs are looking almost identical on defense as they had an above-average defense that played fantastically at times last year. With Bowles taking over as head coach, there won’t be much change except for a few additions to make up for subtractions.
Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Sun are older but productive last year. The Bucs thought it would be best not to sign both of them. Instead, the front office went out and signed Akiem Hicks who had a great stint with the Chicago Bears. Replacing Pierre-Paul will be the Bucs ’21 first-round pick, Joe Tyron-Shoyinka who showed flashes but will now be the clear starting edge rusher.
Safety Jordan Whitehead was a solid free safety who left for the Jets through free agency. The front office turned around and signed Logan Ryan, who had a good showing with the New York Giants last season for being 31 years old. They also signed former Cowboys Keanu Neal, who is moving back to strong safety.
With only three major contributors leaving and having good replacements for the lost production. Expectations for the Bucs’ defense remain high. Especially with one of the best linebacker duos in the league, Lavonte David and Devin White, leading the team again into the new season. They’ll be a great test to see where Dak Prescott and the Cowboys stand with their new-look offense on Sunday.
Game Preview Analysis
Expect a comparative game with the offenses making some mistakes along the way since there are many new pieces involved for both teams. Both teams also have to go against defenses that only lost a couple of pieces, but for the most part, they have their core together.
The biggest X-factor in this game is going to be the wide receivers. The new chemistry that will be on display between the veteran quarterbacks with new players at wide receiver will be interesting to watch. The top targets such as Ceedee Lamb and Mike Evans should get fed this game. Ultimately, this match-up should be competitive and a fun one to watch.