Your Dallas Cowboys are a 2-1 football team at this juncture of the season. I mentioned last week how they have shown improvements on the defensive side of the ball, but inconsistencies and penalty problems continue to plague this team and the offensive line really could decimate any chances of competing this season if they continue to underperform week after week.
Here is an A-M analysis through three games, N-Z will come next week after the Bears game on monday night.
Atrocious-There is really no other word to describe the play of the offensive line so far. Right tackle Doug Free has been an absolute mess (by his own admission) so far, accounting for a number of holding and false start penalties with his opposite, left tackle, Tyron Smith. Smith leads the NFL in false starts at five, Free is right behind at three. Some of the sloppiness can be contributed to center Ryan Cook filling in for Phil Costa and it throwing off the “connection” of the line, I call shenanigans on that. They better fix things before they start playing teams like Baltimore and Atlanta every other week or Romo will be on IR before we know it.
Barry Church- Losing starting Safety Barry Church for the year is a crushing blow for a team that actually had some depth at the position for the first time in awhile. During the Buccaneers game, cornerback Brandon Carr played some safety and it would not be outlandish to suggest that Mike Jenkins do the same, he has the build for a guy and was always a hard hitter at his alma mater, South Florida. Dallas needs to continue to see physical play from the safeties and overcome this injury.
Carr is performing- Everyone knew that Dallas HAD to get a cornerback in free agency this summer, so it was no surprise when they picked up the top corner on the market in Brandon Carr. What people didn’t expect, however, is for Carr to be as great as he has been. He has shut down Victor Cruz, Sidney Rice and Vincent Jackson, three top wide receivers who normally would have torched Dallas. Say what you want about not going after a consistent third wide receiver, but nobody can argue about Carr being the best off season acquisition for the Cowboys.
Defense, defense defense- Did you recognize the personnel on the field last sunday against Tampa Bay? Did you recognize the team that kept stopping them and forcing them back time after time following a Dallas turnover or crucial penalty? This unit is SOLID. It is very obvious so far that the secondary is vastly improved and that Rob Ryan is earning his stripes in Dallas as a defensive coordinator. Go look at NFL.com and see who the leader is at 250.0 YPG allowed in total defense, that’s right, it’s the DALLAS COWBOYS .
Eagles, Giants and Redskins all look mortal- I am not saying Dallas is without their problems, but the rest of this division is very beatable. Eagles QB Michael Vick is playing very poorly and there have even been talks about him being benched. The Giants showed up in Carolina last thursday and pummeled the Panthers, but early on, they don’t look like the Super Bowl champions, and the Redskins are decimated defensively and look like they will have to rely solely on rookie QB Robert Griffin III to lead them to wins. Dallas can win this division they stop beating themselves, the schedule is very hard, but it will be good for this team to be tested week in and week out; it will benefit them in the long run.
Felix Jones has lost his way- You all knew he would be the one for F. Oh, Felix, where art thou? He just doesn’t have the explosiveness and he looks out of shape when he runs. Sure, he is good for a few dump offs that can gain some yardage, but don’t expect him to take a HB stretch for a 40-yard gain like we were accustomed to seeing a few years ago. It is only a matter of time before he is completely phased out of the offense.
Giving teams too many opportunities will eventually bite Dallas- This is not a slight on the defense, it is a slight against Romo and the offensive line. There were way too many blindside hits on Tony against the Bucs and his three turnovers were not as costly as they should have been thanks to the defense hounding Josh Freeman all game. But against a more seasoned team, Dallas has to take care of the ball and protect Romo. Not many quarterbacks can be criticized for fumbling the ball when they are smashed on both sides by two big defensive players. Same goes for special teams, Dwayne Harris fumbled a punt last week -but quickly pounced on it- and Felix fumbled the opening kickoff against the Seahawks, you have to protect the ball.
Have some patience with Dez Bryant- A lot of people think that Dez has been pretty overrated so far and some may have a point, but his flashes of brilliance are evidence that he is getting there. We are all still waiting for that 12 reception, 160 yards and 3 touchdown game from him, but his value exceeds just the receiver position. I was against him on punt returns for health reasons until his game-changing return last week against Tampa Bay that really sealed the win for Dallas. He is a special talent and can definitely stretch the field. That being said, Romo has to throw it up to him more in single coverage and let him get it. All of the great wide receivers (Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald) have quarterbacks who will just throw a jump ball and see what happens. If you throw an interception on a bomb then it is just like a punt, but you have to take some more chances on offense to get results.
Interceptions up for quarterback Tony Romo- This is a little nit-picky, but i didn’t know where to go with this letter so we will stick with this. Romo has been a little cavalier early in games so far this season, throwing into double coverage too often and trying to make too much happen in the beginning. The good thing is that once he knows that the defense has his back, he has made much better decisions. He was 10 of 23 in the first half against the Bucs last week and really looked off, the second half he was 14 of 16, he missed two passes and ended up throwing for 283 yards. Romo is allowed to take some shots early, but he also needs to persuade head coach Jason Garrett to let him go vertical in a 10-7 game to try and swing momentum, the offense has been way too conservative these first three games. A lot of that is due to the line not giving him time.
Jason Garrett should not be the offensive coordinator- If there is any evidence that proves this more than anything, it was last week. So your offensive line has been really really bad, yet you keep running DeMarco Murray on stretch plays to the left and right and think that your poor line is going to be able to pull east or west and get the blocks set. The result: 18 carries for 38 yards for Murray, a very, very measly average. Garrett should not be doing this, he is way too conservative as I mentioned above and he refuses to use screen plays or end arounds or halfback passes. Not saying that I want gimmick plays to dominate the offense, but I would prefer to spice things up a bit and not just have the receivers running out’s and in’s.
Kicking game as solid as ever- Kicker Dan Bailey continues to be a huge asset to the Cowboys. He made all three of his attempts last week –granted from short range– and made up a little bit for the Cowboys inability to punch it in the end zone. Bailey will be called upon a lot this season if the defense keeps performing well and keeping games low-scoring affairs. Don’t expect Garrett to be aggressive in his play-calling duties in a 13-9 defensive struggle.
Laurent Robinson has been missed- Since wide receiver Kevin Ogletree’s breakout game week one at New York, he and the other reserve receivers have been very quiet. Ogletree had one catch for 26 yards against Seattle, but recovered a bit with five for 57 yards against the Bucs. What is missing, however, is the end zone presence that Robinson brought last year. I can remember numerous passing plays inside the 20 that broke down, but Romo bought time and hit Robinson coming across the back of the end zone for a touchdown. It seems that this crop of receivers don’t possess that same ability to lose a defender in a tight space like Robinson did. Miles Austin and Bryant are both very strong guys, but neither of them seem to be red zone targets so far this season. I personally would like to see rookie tight end James Hannah used in play action situations inside the 10, he can catch the ball and is a very good athlete. Then again, athletic tight ends don’t necessarily pan out for the Cowboys. We’re looking at you, Marty B.
Miles Austin is having a great season so far- One huge touchdown against the Giants in week one, the only touchdown Dallas scored against Seattle in week two and a great, momentum-shifting 45-yard catch against Tampa Bay last week to get Dallas’ offense moving. Yeah, Miles Austin looks the part again this season. There was plenty of talk of him maybe being the Cowboys most overrated player considering the sample size for his sizable contract was a franchise-high 250 receiving yards against the Chiefs in ’09 and then the rest of that spectacular season. But he only played 10 games last year and had 579 yards and 7 touchdowns. Hamstring injuries had been a recurring problem with Austin, but it hasn’t slowed him down coming out of camp this year and he is a vital cog in the Cowboys offense.
Check for N-Z next Wednesday!