Injuries, injuries and missing players are something that the 49ers and Cowboys both share as they enter Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season. There becomes question marks an uncertainty as to how both teams will look defensively.
This has not been an easy offseason for either team on defense with the loss of several key players who will not be seen on Sunday.
For the 49ers, LB NaVorro Bowman is still recovering from a torn ACL, LB Aldon Smith is suspended while NT Glenn Dorsey is recovering from a bicep injury. Even though Ray McDonald is being investigated for felony domestic abuse, it appears he will be playing, according to Jim Harbaugh.
The Cowboys have a similar problem as LB Sean Lee was lost for the season with a torn ACL during OTAs. CB Orlando Scandrick was suspended for the first four games of the season for performance enhancing drugs while longtime defensive players LB DeMarcus Ware and DL Jason Hatcher were lost in free agency as cap casualties.
Dallas switched to a Tampa-2 style defense last year under Monte Kiffin and they were one of the worst in the NFL. This year under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys will start Rolando McClain at middle linebacker, who has not played a game since 2012. He was a former first round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2010 before he initially retired from football in 2013.
On paper, the Cowboys defense should regress with the several aforementioned players not returning in 2014. Colin Kaepernick said he doesn't want to overlook them, saying it is a new season.
"They’re physical in nature. They play fast, they play hard," Kaepernick said of the Dallas defense. "Last year really doesn’t mean anything when you start a new season. So, they’re going to have a new defense, revamped defense. So, it’s not something that we’re looking at as far as them being bad. We’re trying to focus on what we have to do to counteract what they’re doing.”
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said teams don't show anything on defense in the four weeks of preseason football. Even with the questions that arise for both teams, he said that things must go on.
"We just have to do our best to try to sort out what we think they’re going to do, and then adjust when the game starts,” Garrett said in a conference call with the media. “And that’s no different than any team when you’re playing the opening game. Rarely do teams show a whole lot during the preseason.”
This Sunday will be the 49ers first NFL regular season game in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The last time they set foot in the building was a preseason game in 2009.
Garrett said he isn't paying attention to what critics are saying about the Cowboys. The team has its identity and they will be ready for Sunday.
“We don’t really concern ourselves very much with what a lot of people say and a lot of people are talking about,” Garrett said. “We understand the kind of football team we have, how hard everyone has worked, the improvements that we’ve made, not only on defense but throughout our team.”