No Ware, no Austin, no Lee, no Hatcher, no Ratliff and no sign of improvement. Looking at the schedule the Cowboys would be lucky to win six games in most eyes, while others will settle down and say they’ll make it to eight wins. The schedule is hard. Romo is one major hit from being out and the defense is still disgraceful. Despite all of that there is still a reason to believe. Am I saying they could make a run a the Superbowl, HELL NO. But what I am saying is that they could at least be formidable.
Here in the offseason the Cowboys did a few good things.
- Improved the O-Line
- Brought in a new play caller
- Switched Defensive coordinators
- Got younger
- Didn’t throw money at anyone
- Made the right football decisions
- Committed to Romo (Meaning no QB distractions or tanking)
Letting go of Ware was smart. His play didn’t match his pay over the past few years and didn’t seem to be getting any better. Hatcher was already in his 30’s and you don’t overpay age, so letting him go was ideal as well. Cutting Austin was a smart decision too, because he was killing the cap and couldn’t stay healthy. In the end drafting an offensive lineman instead of Manziel was the smartest thing that was done. (This could be argued at a different time.)
By bulking up the O-line the Cowboys have assured three to four things. Romo will be protected, he’ll be more accurate, they’ll run the ball more and the offense will be much better. New play caller Scott Linehan will help the offense a lot more as well and expand the games of many players as well as the dynamic of the playbook which was often viewed as too simplistic.
With Linehan on board the Cowboys will be able to utilize Dez Bryant, Escobar and Dunbar in ways that weren’t apprehendable before. Dez will be moving/lining up all over the place in ways that Calvin Johnson did. Dunbar will be used in screen plays like Reggie Bush and Escobar will become a big redzone threat. Williams will only improve and Witten will still be there in bail out time. The O-line now has three First Rd. picks on board and should be to protect Romo and create holes for Murray. Most believe this O-line will blossom into a top three or five group which could create a lot of problems for opposing defenses.
There have also been a lot of talk and hype from the Cowboys camp as well. Romo has been saying he’s better than ever and that his best years are in front of him. Dez has been talking about how high of ceiling he has and how he’s ready to take the next step. Murray also said he’s ready to carry the load. Even Jerry Jones came out and talked about how confident he is in this offense. All of the talk has to equate to something right?
After glossing over the offense and how there’s hype surrounding it I forgot to mention cornerback Brandon Carr and the comments he made during the off-season. Carr came out and said it’s basically time for him to come out and dominate the league. Let that sink for a second… Dominate the league he says. DOMINTAE THE LEAGUE. The same guy who allowed Calvin Johnson to break a single game record and who got burnt by damn near every receiver has the audacity to come out and say it’s time for him to dominate the league, wow. Just wow. But in all honesty I can’t blame him for those comments.
Carr needs to dominate every receiver that steps opposite of him if the Cowboys want to improve defensively. Carr needs to become one of, if not the vocal leader of the Cowboy’s defensive unit now that Ware is gone and Sean Lee is out for the season. (Tragic I know.) The Cowboys are paying Carr like a top notch and corner it’s now time that he plays like it. Same could be said for Morris Claiborne as well; its now time for him to play to his potential and stay healthy as well. J.J. Wilcox is another guy in the secondary who should have an impact as well. Last season personal issues and injuries kept him from being consistently good. If those three guys along with Scandrick and Church perform like we know they can the secondary could be a strong point.
As far as the linebacker and D-line go the Cowboys have way too many question marks. They could be a better group than last season but who knows. Rookie DE, Demarcus Lawrence, is already out for a portion of the season; former Pro Bowl DT, Henry Melton, is just coming back from injury; Anthony Spencer is still a huge IF and Amobi Okoye is still too far off gauge where he’s at. With that being said the only sure thing on the D-line is George Selvie who led the team in sacks this past season. Sure, the Cowboys have a lot of other defensive line on board but none of them are guaranteed to have the same impact on the game as some of the guys mentioned above would. Nevertheless, the D-Line could prove to be a strong point as the season progresses but as of now its deemed as putrid.
Last but not least, well maybe least, we have the linebacker core. When Sean Lee went down so did this group. Guys like Bruce Carter and Justin Durant just aren’t consistent enough to be viewed as good or respectable. This is just a sorry group of linebackers point blank period. But there could be a bright spot. Twice retired linebacker Rolando McClain could prove to be a huge pickup. He was star a few years back in college with Alabama and was still nice upon joining the league as a top pick. He has tremendous upside and could help this defense significantly. ( Might be a nice guy to pair Lee with in the future as well.) Having hit rock bottom last year as a defense, the Cowboys can only improve. It may not be much better, but an improvement is still positive and could bold well.
Looking at the schedule many people thought it would be hard for the Cowboys to reach six wins. Hell someone came out and said they’d go 2-14. I don’t understand why many presume the schedule is extremely hard. Yes the Cowboys play the NFC West and AFC South along with the Bears and Saints I get it but if you really look at it it’s not as hard as last years. (This years schedule http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/schedule/_/name/dal/dallas-cowboys)
The 49ers look as vulnerable as ever. Outside of the Colts no one in the AFC South can do any type of damage. The Rams lost Bradford for the year and now they’re in a frenzy. No one in the NFC East really improved outside of Washington, but the question on if RG3 is going to be healthy still remains. In all honesty outside of the Saints, Seahawks, Bears, Colts and maybe the Cardinals no one really jumps out. At best I can see them losing six games. Worst case scenario I see them losing eight. ( I’ll take 9-7 go ahead and chalk it up as my prediction baring injury to Romo.)
Why do I feel so strongly about the Cowboys? This is why.
Last year the Cowboys finished:
- 14th in Passing
- 24th in Rushing
- 16th in Total Offense
- 27th in stopping the run
- 30th in stopping the pass
- 5th in scoring
- 32nd in Total Defense (worst ever)
- Finished with a record of 8-8
- Went 5-1 in division play with Romo missing the sole game they lost.
Eight and eight with the worst defense in NFL history and the Cowboys still managed to own their division. Incredible. Why can’t they replicate that again this year with a more dynamic offense and slightly improved defense?
After bottoming out at a league low defensively I don’t see any reason on why the Cowboys can’t improve on that end. . If the defense can stay healthy, be resilient, show toughness and play with an edge they could be formidable. Improving the O-line and changing play callers plus expanding the playbook can only enhance the offense and make them more dynamic. If the offense can stick to the run and Murray does his job the Cowboys could very be put in position to scare a few people. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. The Cowboys have the guys and enough of the power to do so. However the real question is, do they have the mindset or the will to do it? Time and time again they showed us they didn’t but maybe things have changed this time around.