TAMPA BAY, FL — The NFL season kicks off tonight at 7:20 p.m. with a match-up between the two high octane offenses of the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This game features the return of Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott whose 2020 season ended prematurely due to a gruesome ankle injury in Week 5.
Prescott will certainly be testing the surgically repaired ankle as All-Pro guard Zack Martin will miss the game with COVID.
Conner McGovern, a 3rd round pick from 2019, will start in Martin’s place.
Other than Martin being out, All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith is back at 100% and having Ezekiel Elliott, who prides himself on his pass blocking, will help Prescott get the ball out to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and phenomenal second year wide-out CeeDee Lamb.
Elliott and back-up Tony Pollard will have their work cut out for them as Tampa Bay finished 1st in run defense last year.
On the other sideline sits one of the best to ever play the game, Tom Brady.
Brady, who is recovered from offseason knee surgery, is looking to go back-to-back as Super Bowl Champ. Brady also has the team to do it. With big time receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, Brady has the caliber of weapons that most quarterbacks never get.
Defensively, the Bucs were 1st against the run last season and will be looking to stop Zeke. On the edge, Shaq Barrett, who had 8 sacks last season, resigned with the team this offseason and Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 9.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions with 3 fingers on one hand after a firecracker accident.
Antoine Winfield Jr., a 2nd round pick in 2020, won his starting spot as a rookie and never looked back. The other Tampa Bay starting safety Jordan Whitehead is dealing with an injury and is out for the opener.
This will also be the first game to see what Dan Quinn has done to the Dallas defense. The Cowboys have focused on the defense all offseason and added a lot of youth.
During the 2021 NFL Draft, Dallas’s first 6 selections, all their picks from round 1 through 4, were all on defense. Matter of fact, of the 11 players selected, 8 were defensive players, and all the draftees made the team.
Of the defensive picks Dallas made Micah Parsons looks like the real deal. The 1st round pick out of Penn State, PFF (Pro Football Focus) had Parsons graded as the best run defending linebacker in the preseason. With DeMarcus Lawrence, who doesn’t get enough credit for his run defense, Tampa Bay could have some trouble on the ground.
When you add in rookies Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna, who made plays all preseason long, you can’t help but get a little excited.
Where the Cowboys could get shredded is in the secondary.
Trevon Diggs looks the part and while he did take his share of getting burnt last season, he had a decent rookie season.
Across the field will continue to work itself out as veteran corner Anthony Brown competes with rookies Nahshon Wright and Kelvin Joseph.
Wright was picked in the 3rd round of the 2021 draft and was seen by just about everyone as a reach. Wright silenced doubters with his training camp and preseason performance.
You can catch the game at 7:20 p.m. tonight at The Penny Tap House where they will be giving away Cowboy memorabilia.