August 13, 2012; Oakland, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (49) carries the ball against the Oakland Raiders during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Dallas Cowboys' Hope Floats (Because It’s Filled With Hot Air?)

Dear Incredibly Talented and Attractive Reader,

I have a confession to make.  I am human.  Now, I know that my preternatural proficiency with the English language may have led you to believe otherwise, but alas dear reader, it is true.  I would never lie to you, because, frankly, we’ve been through too much together.  And it must be known… you’ve sort of grown on me.  Not so much you over there.  I’m sure you’re a lovely person, but you just don’t do it for me.  I’m so sorry, but would you mind just stepping outside for a minute?  Thanks.

Aug 15, 2012; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (right) and quarterback Tony Romo (9) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Ok, they’re gone.  Now we can continue.  I wrote last week that I wasn’t going to be discouraged by the failings of our beloved Dallas Cowboys based on a preseason game, which amounts to little more than a scrimmage.  Yes they are important to a football team, but I think we all logically know that preseason success is basically irrelevant to success in the regular season, and even more to the point, in the playoffs.

If one has excluded judgment to the negative from the proceedings of exhibition play, the logical extension must also exclude the same judgment to the positive.  This, my most esteemed muse, is where I have failed you.  I began to write this column with every intention of objectivity, with the journalistic creed firmly entrenched in my mind… but it was not in my heart.  You see, I was emboldened by a great many things I saw on that Saturday night now passed.  I saw answers to some of my questions being answered before my eyes.  I saw the identity of this team revealing itself to me.   But is it all an illusion?  Am I merely seeing what I want to see due to my predilection for the NFL team near and dear to me?

The answer is as sincere as it is irresolute.  I don’t know.  This is why I leave it to you to decide, my attractive, intelligent, and discerning readers.  Without further caveat, I present my notes to you in full.

(Awkward stylistic transition)

Offensive Line 

All I have to say is thank god.  The interior line really seemed to band together and make sure to keep the defense off of Romo.  There were several plays where he had a ridiculous amount of time to survey the field and make a play.  As we know, if Romo has time to make plays, the sky is the limit for this offense.  As soon as Romo came off the field, things got a little shaky, but I was relieved to see #9 protected so effectively.

With Livings and Bernadeau back in the fold, hopefully the offensive line can begin to build the chemistry required to have an elite level offense.  We still need Phil Costa to get healthy, but the prospects are improving.  I have faith that Bill Callahan will get the job done with this unit, but I have obvious reservations with the interior line.  That is not to say that I am particularly thrilled with the talent of this unit… but I have hope.

Wide Receiver

I think a lot of hearts in the DFW area collectively stopped for a moment when the news of Dez Bryant’s knee injury made their circulation on Monday.  Thankfully it isn’t severe, and only requires rest, but the injury should cause some concern still.  Not end of the world concerns, but concerns nonetheless.  Patella tendinitis is considered an “overuse injury”, which is particularly important when you consider Bryant’s history of fading deep into games.  It seems that his cardio was a focal point coming into the season, and now with this setback, it seems unlikely that this area of his performance will improve considerably.  One can only hope the amount of rest required to heal the injury isn’t significant enough to hinder his physical progression.

On the other hand, did you see that one handed catch?!?!  It was a catch that didn’t count in a game that doesn’t count, but that was just a reminder of what a physical specimen Dez is, and just what kind of upside he has.

Same old same with Miles Austin.  I sincerely hope they can give him enough rest during the preseason to get his hammy healthy again, though I’m starting to become a little bit pessimistic about Austin’s prospects.  We’ve all seen what he can do when he’s right, but this lingering injury is reminding me all too much of last year.

It looks like Kevin Ogletree just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and the 3rd WR spot is his.  My main concern with him right now is for his safety from Babe Laufenberg and the distraction that his constant wooing might cause.

I know, I know.  Cole Beasley.  He looked very good in the 4th quarter against the dregs of the Chargers’ defense, but I’m reserving judgment until I see more from him as the preseason progresses.  I think he needs to find a way to significantly contribute to Special Teams, an area he has next to no experience with, to be considered a lock to make this roster, much less move into the 3rd spot in the rotation.  He is a nifty slot receiver, but I’m not sure how comfortable I would be with him being the guy behind injury prone Miles Austin and Dez Bryant in the rotation.  We will see.   Feel free to insert a vomit joke in that paragraph, if you so please.

Defense

We started to see some cracks as our 2nd and 3rd teams hit the field, but I really liked what I saw from our first team.  Brandon Carr made two huge interceptions, which was really nice to see.  If we’re being completely honest, the only reason he had a shot at the first one is because Rivers under-threw Meachem by quite a bit, but it was exciting to see a Cowboys CB make a play on a ball for a change.

Victor Butler is going to be interesting to continue to watch, as he seemed to be involved in every play in the first half.  I really think we’re going to see him emerge and become a real contributor this year.

There wasn’t really a lot to say about Morris Claiborne, but I’m willing to give him a pass.  This was the first time he played in NFL game situations, and there is some rust to be expected with his injury issues and inexperience.  I don’t think there’s much of a question that the cornerback position has been dramatically upgraded.

As preseason goes on, I would like to see an improvement in play of the defensive line, particularly when Rob Ryan implements four down linemen more.  Though teams generally implement simplified “vanilla” game plans during the preseason, I think it will be interesting to see how the defense evolves.  This unit could be stronger than anyone realizes.

Running Back

I don’t think there is much contention that Demarco Murray is very talented running back when healthy.  His history with leg injuries is particularly concerning, but we can only wait to see if he is able to play a full season at this level.  If he is able to stay healthy and the offensive line is able to get it together as a unit, we should see a very potent running game for the Cowboys.  I realize that is a lot of if’s, but at this point, that’s the best we have.

I started to write a little blurb here about Felix Jones, but decided to follow the maternal adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

It’s really early to have much of an objective opinion on Jamize Olawale, but I liked what I saw.  His 60 yards on 14 touches (4.28 YPT) aren’t out of this world, but what he could potentially bring to this team is vital.  If he can continue to develop, he fits very nicely into a niche that we don’t have right now- a solid goal line back.  He needs to develop his skills at pass protection and find ways to contribute to Special Teams, but a lot of his raw skills are there to be honed.

(Insert segue here)

Fireside Chat

I have been accused of being an eternal optimist when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys.  I suffered through the early 2000s as our team performed equal to the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions of old, but I stayed with them.  I still feel the sting when I remember the “diamond surrounded by trash” quote of Emmitt Smith, but I have found it in my heart to forgive him for his transgression.

I’ve been carried to the pinnacle of excitation when the Cowboys made the playoffs, only to be crushed under the weight of a first round ouster.  But I nurse my wounds and re-embolden myself for the coming season.  I do these things, because I know that one day that dedication will once again be rewarded.  I know that the darkest hour is just before dawn.

Every year we see players emerge from nowhere to achieve brief greatness, only to descend back into the fog of anonymity again.  Then again, sometimes players who were previously considered to be marginal talents seize their opportunity on the big stage and prove to everyone they belong.  I hope over the next few weeks that we find a few players of that caliber, because there are holes on this team.

I feel like I keep repeating the mantra over and over again- “preseason doesn’t matter”.  The truth is that preseason does matter.  It doesn’t count toward the official record.  It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does matter.  I am the eternal optimist, but I am not stupid.

There is much yet to be determined about this team and the clock is ever ticking down to the impending game against the defending world champion New York Giants.  I want to believe that this team is ready to meet that challenge head on and seize their appointed spot at the head of the NFC East class.  I want to believe, but I would be lying if I said that I was certain.  There is nothing certain in this world except death and taxes, and the fact that I will keep watching and hoping.

 

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Tags: Cole Beasley Dallas Cowboys Defense DeMarco Murray Felix Jones Jamize Olawale Offense Tony Romo Victor Butler

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