It’s become a ritual for media local to the Cowboys and nationally. Build the Cowboys up, cover the various repetitive stories as they fall, and bury them when they fail. It’s laughable how many people say the Cowboys are one of the favorites out of one side of their mouths, and underachievers out of the other side. The media actually create the debate and then have the debate among themselves. This year however there are strong indications that the team is ready to compete for a Super bowl run. There appears to be a theme flowing from Valley Ranch of increased urgency and competition which may be coming at a time when the talent is perfectly aligned.
Urgency. The notion of a window closing could be lip service and a reaction to unattained 2011 goals but there are concrete examples this offseason that seem to indicate that the urgency is real.
DeMarcus Ware is taking on a more vocal and public profile which places accountability directly on his shoulders. He has been a passive beast thus far in his career but seems ready to shoulder the responsibility of representing Cowboy success or failure. He has been on the NFL talk show circuit over the last two weeks on radio and television and has stated directly that there is urgency. He also came out and stated that Mike Jenkins must remain here and not traded.
Ware has also backed Jones’ proclamation that the time is now. That is significantly more than we usually get from the future hall of famer. You can’t jump in and out of this kind of Cowboy spotlight without incurring some responsibility. Should things head south, Ware’s name will be one of the labels placed on this demise.
Another good indication that these players have been sobered up and are feeling the pressure to get it done is Dez Bryant. He has come under some scrutiny on his preparation and he has not backed away from it.
This key player on the Cowboys offense is showing the accountability that has been missing through his first two years. He has made references both to his physical readiness and his command of the playbook. That is a good indication that the two biggest concerns about Dez are on his mind as well.
Competition and the offensive line have not been used in the same sentence in years. The Cowboys did not acquire a top flight guard or center in the offseason but they did generate tremendous competition with their acquisitions.
Whatever guards start for the Cowboys, they will have earned it through determined and gritty play through training camp but they will find themselves on a short leash. Without a sexy name or pro bowler among the group, there will be players waiting to jump into a starting guard or center role with each mistake made by the starters.
A hungry lineman without job security is the ideal player for Romo to motivate, direct and lead throughout the season and I expect to see stronger hand from Romo in leading and motivating this interior group during the week and on game days.
Better, Faster, Stronger. It took some time. Replacing Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Martellus Bennett, Kyle Kosier, Terence Newman and Marc Columbo left the Cowboys with major vacancies to fill. These losses presented an opportunity for Jones and company to get stronger, faster and more motivated at the vacated positions. In some instances, they improved in all three areas at once.
They upgraded in overall ability at each spot including the #2 TE spot where they did not provide a replacement. Getting rid of Bennett was an improvement even without adding another body in his place and his lack of intensity hurt this offense.
It takes years to acquire the talent needed to compete at a Super Bowl level. That’s not to say that the Cowboys need to be the most talented team. The Giants, Patriots, Packers and Saints all had talent deficiencies on at least one side of the ball. However, there is a baseline level of talent needed that in conjunction with character and clutch play down the stretch can propel a team to the highest level. The Cowboys have not had that baseline level of talent in recent years until now.
The right kind of guys. Garrett’s instincts have been right on target from the beginning. Find the right guys who want to work and play the right way. Translation: Physical, hard workers who don’t mind competition. It sounds cliché and it’s boring to hear presser after presser but it’s the most important characteristic this team needs to have. This is Garrett’s signature on the team regardless of the success of his tenure; high character and quality men who will fight through adversity.
This roster slowly is being filled with high character, workers who are ready to compete. There may still be a couple of players left that need to be replaced including Mike Jenkins and Kevin Ogletree. However, the anchor positions on the team are now held down by DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Sean Lee, Tony Romo and Tyron Smith. I can’t think of a better set of players to take into battle in 2012.
The DeMarcus Ware and Tony Romo of today is a different version than the Ware and Romo of the last 2-3 years. Brandon Carr is a better player than Newman. Sean Lee is a better player and leader than James. Tyron Smith is a better player than Free.
The Cowboys and Mr. Jones are certainly hoping for a perfect storm this season where the talent, urgency and forging of a complete team converge. A Super Bowl season is no easy task and the scrutiny on this team would only increase if they begin to even show hints that they are sniffing a super run.
For Lee, Ware, Romo, Carr and Smith, the responsibility to lead this team to fight and win is not too big for them. In fact, theirs are the perfect set of shoulders for this to fall on. The time is now and these Boys seem ready.