McCarthy-era Cowboys open on road vs. Rams
A pair of teams in the midst of change will take the field Sunday night amid the backdrop of a new $5 billion stadium as the Los Angeles Rams play host to the Dallas Cowboys at Inglewood, Calif.
The Cowboys will usher in the head coaching era of Mike McCarthy, who takes over after Jason Garrett was fired. There will be no settling into the job, even after the Cowboys’ 8-8 season last year, since Dallas is considered one of the better teams in the NFC.
The Rams are in the midst of some coaching changes as well following a 9-7 season that saw them miss the playoffs following a Super Bowl run.
Head coach Sean McVay will have some new personnel to work with as Brandon Staley takes over at defensive coordinator from Wade Phillips, Kevin O’Connell takes over at offensive coordinator and John Bonamego is the replacement for John Fassel as special teams coordinator.
On the field, Dak Prescott remains the Cowboys’ quarterback, with the exclusive franchise tag after negotiations for a long-term deal were unsuccessful, while Jared Goff remains under center in Los Angeles.
Prescott, 27, continues to move forward after passing for 4,902 yards last season and 30 touchdowns, both career bests. He also has Ezekiel Elliott at running back and three big-play wide receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb.
McCarthy said he will put an emphasis on the early portion of the schedule, which includes a number of winnable home games through October against teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals.
“I think a number of teams lose games early in the season as opposed to getting beat,” McCarthy said. “We need to focus on the things we have accomplished in training camp. Our expectation is to keep the focus tight, win today and prepare to win in Los Angeles Sunday night.”
Goff, 25, appeared to regress last season with 4,638 yards passing, 22 TDs and a career-high 16 interceptions. He tied for the league lead in passing attempts, but his yards were 50 less than in 2018 and he had 10 less TDs.
“Of course you always want to get better from the year before — and statistically speaking it wasn’t my best year,” Goff said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And I do want to play better. I do want to be more efficient. I do want to get the ball to receivers a little bit better, and I expect to, and expect to stay on an upward trajectory.”
The Rams’ offense took a hit in 2019 from the limited use of running back Todd Gurley and the less aggressive running style he displayed when he did get chances. He was released in the offseason. There were also injuries to a rebuilt offensive line.
The Rams will debut a rotating mix of three running backs: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, and rookie Cam Akers.
Both teams are relatively healthy. Henderson (hamstring) was a full participant in Rams practice Wednesday. Cooper (hamstring) was a full participant for the Cowboys, as was cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (knee), while linebacker Luke Gifford (hamstring) was limited and cornerback Jourdan Lewis (ankle) was out.
Also to debut Sunday night is SoFi Stadium, one of two new NFL venues on the West Coast, along with the new stadium built just off the Las Vegas Strip for the Raiders.
“Never seen anything like it,” McVay told reporters.
The Rams will open the season with no fans in the stands for home games as a precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
–Field Level Media