The title is somewhat misleading. There are many keys to victory. However, for the Dallas Cowboys and the first game of the 2018 NFL Season, the key to victory is the same it's been for quite a few years. The difference is, this year they may actually hold the key.
Rafael Vela and myself have both gone on record stating the biggest missing piece for a Rod Marinelli defense to work in the modern NFL is a Brian Urlacher "type" MLB.
Dallas had the puzzle solved on the field at least while Rolando McClain was with the club. He had the requisite skill set. Unfortunately, he didn't have the mental discipline to handle the NFL life.
Enter Jaylon Smith.
With Jaylon Smith finally on the mend, it is looking like the Cowboys may have their guy. This changes things in a big way for the Cowboys on game day.
Remember back to when McClain was still holding onto his head? The 'Boys had an MLB who could range from sideline to sideline, stuff the run and used his range to deny the ball in the middle of the field. He did this all with subpar talent along the defensive line and in DB's. Smith is now doing all that AND is able to carry receivers up the seam with aplomb. The talent in front of him is considerably better than when McClain was manning the middle.
With Lee and Smith flowing free in the second level Dallas should be able to effectively to stop the run setting up long second and third down situations that favor the defense. These same two guys are effective stopping the second level passing attacks. Throw in a sticky slot cover CB and the middle of the field is taken away from teams that have used this part of the field to break the fanbases heart on a consistent basis. I'm talking about you Green Bay. Though to be frank, plenty of teams have taken advantage of the Dallas middle field defense for years.
A healthy, dynamic MLB changes everything for the Cowboys on defense. Throw in the best talent I've seen along the defensive line in years and the Dallas defense isn't going to be the weak sister to the offense anymore. Not in a few years. Now. This Sunday.
I have a lot of respect for Cam Newton and the Panthers. Solid coach, some great players and they have guys that can score and hurt you on both sides of the ball.
It won't matter. The team will get the credit, as they should. Jaylon Smith will be a huge key to the effort.
If Smith and Lee stay healthy all season it will be a bad year for opposing offenses and very, very good for Cowboys Nation.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter - Steven Van Over