STATE OF THE TEAM
Let’s take a closer look at the 2012 Dallas Cowboys position by position (minus special teams) and the age of its key players.
Tony Romo is the future, plain and simple. Which means the distant future looks completely uncertain at the moment when his skills begin to erode. I honestly wouldn’t expect that to happen within the next three years. Tony came into the league in 2003, yet didn’t become the starter until the 6th game of the 2006 season.
Which means the NFL wear and tear on his body may be even less than his new backup, Kyle Orton. Just to put a little perspective on where Romo stands in regards to NFL batterring, Tony has started 78 games. Drew Brees in comparison is still humming along at an elite level with 11 years in the league and 154 starts under his belt.
Kyle Orton was drafted in 2005, yet he began starting immediately, a year before Tony did. While Orton may be almost three civilian years younger, his body is a ‘football year’ older. The year before Romo began receiving significant starter snaps, Orton attempted 368 passes and absorbed 30 sacks.
So while Orton in theory could provide Dallas a starting year or two to bridge between Romo and his successor, I seriously doubt that would be the case. When Tony goes, Orton will have already left or be less than capable to start at a decent level.
Stephen McGee is not by any stretch of the imagination the next starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, nor was he ever capable of such a feat. Entering his fourth year in Dallas, McGee was again passed over by his handler Jerry Jones for the job of second fiddle for the next few years.
That’s about as close to Jerry admitting the failure of one of his wacky personal experiments as we’ll ever get. I’ll take it, but there is also an old adage that pops in my head, ‘if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards’.
I’ll admit, a team could have a much worse third string quarterback. If the idea was to maximize the ability of the third guy, McGee is good for that role. However if the goal is to develop a future successor for Romo, which it should be going forward, then McGee and decisions like this are progress stoppers plain and simple.
- Running Back / Fullback
Running back is in ideal standing with a young DeMarco Murray as the feature. Fullback is of minor concern being a rotating position by nature now in the NFL, with guys moving in and out frequently. Last year and for the next two seasons, the Dallas FB was/is a productive player operating on a short-term contract.
- Wide Receiver
Wide receiver is far from an age concern. Miles Austin is by far the oldest at 27, and has only 3 seasons of heavy starter snaps in Dallas. Aside from a penchant for injuries, his age shouldn’t worry anyone. The rest of the crew are all mere puppies, with even Dez Bryant still seeking to approach the height of his skills.
- Tight End
Tight End is certainly a future concern as beyond Jason Witten there is great uncertainty. John Phillips has yet to show what he can truly offer, yet he has also been buried under Witten and Martellus Bennett since he arrived. This upcoming season will give a glimpse into his potential as he takes over the #2 role. The rest are green rookies that no one is sure what to expect of. The bright spot is all of the guys behind Witten are youngsters. And also, finding a capable starting tight end if made a top priority is certainly not impossible by any stretch.
- Offensive Line
The offensive line is in monumentally better standing than the last few years with the age concern department. In 2010 the elevated age and wear and tear on key veterans Andre Gurode, Kyle Kosier, Leonard Davis, and Marc Columbo had Cowboys fans anticipating an offensive line apocalypse brewing on the horizon.
None of that bunch presently wear the star, and while some growing pains remain evident, the team as a whole didn’t implode or even regress as expected. Doug Free and Nate Livings are the new village elders, as both have logged a modest five seasons in the league. And with a year under the belts of the many youngsters, there is nowhere to go but up for the new crop. Even depth is becoming a greater strength than it has been in a while.
- Defensive Line
On defense, the defensive line is a revolving door in the NFL. Dallas has been a prime example over the last three years. And as said before, replacing stars in this area is not a monumental task. Basically the 3-4 defense can remain highly effective with one dominant player somewhere on the frontline, starting alongside two quality players. It’s ideal to field more dominance across the front wall, but not a necessity of the defense as long as you have a very potent, complete starting linebacker core.
Replacing DeMarcus Ware at OLB can be seen more along the lines of replacing both starting OLBs in 2012 as a group…Ware and Anthony Spencer. If Ware has 18-20 sacks in 2012, and Spencer collects 5-6 as usual, that’s a total of 23-26 sacks from the starting OLBs that need to be duplicated annually in the future.
So the task is not to replace Ware down the road, yet to replace the sack total by those two. Which is much more reasonable of a task to complete in the next three years. Finding two guys than can annually produce around 11-13 sacks each is not simple by any means, but certainly very doable. The ILBs are just fine and as talented as you can wish for from players that green in experience.
At the cornerback position the Cowboys are also in very good shape with 3 of the main guys just beginning to touch the prime years of their career. Brandon Carr, Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick all came in during the 2007 NFL Draft and have five years of experience.
It’s highly unlikely all three will be in Dallas and pertinent to this topic in the near future, yet according only to age, there’s no reason why they couldn’t, and playing just as well then as next season. And as everyone knows likely future superstar Morris Claiborne is a raw rookie with brand new tread on the tires.
Your guess is as good as mine as to the direction Dallas will go at safety in the future. As of now they seem to enjoy a revolving door of free agents with slightly above marginal skills. Certainly this is not the best approach but in order to fix other parts it may have been a necessary sacrifice. My next order of business in 2013 would be to lock down a top flight safety at one of the spots to go along with the revamped secondary.
Tags: Cornerback Defensive Line DeMarcus Ware Fullback Jason Witten Jay Ratliff Linebacker Offensive Line Quarterback Replacement Running Back Safety Star Players Tight End Tony Romo Veterans Wide Receiver Window