The 2012 Dallas Cowboys record to date is not what been hoped prior to the beginning of the season. The team is sitting at 3-4 and will reach the halfway point of their season after their road game Sunday evening in Atlanta with the undefeated Falcons. Football is a game of inches, and the final outcome can be decided by a handful of plays each week. Of the Cowboys four losses, all spectators can say “what if”, so let’s take a look at just a few of these.
Week 2 @ Seattle
What if Felix Jones doesn’t fumble the ball on the opening kickoff? What if the punt block on the second possession doesn’t get run back for a touchdown and the Seahawks are up 10-0 early in the first quarter?
Weak 4 vs Chicago
What if Dez Bryant’s reads the defensive blitz at the end of the first half and cuts in for Romo’s pass instead of heading straight up the field? The game prior to that moment had been a defensive battle and the score was 3-0. After the pick six due to Bryant not knowing what to do, the score was 10-0, and gave the bears momentum at that point.
Week 6 @Baltimore
What if Dez Bryant catches the two point conversion to tie the game at 31-31? What if the line was able to protect Romo and Dez is able to get by his man on the play on the play run with :26 on the clock in the fourth quarter?
Week 8 @ NYG
What if Dez Bryant cuts his route sharper on the play at 9:24 of the first quarter and makes the catch, or at least causes a deflection so the ball is not intercepted? What if Miles Austin on the play at the 5:58 mark of the first quarter is at least able to deflect the ball instead of letting it get picked off?
The aforementioned plays are just a small sample of “what ifs”. Had had the individual play had a different occurrence, maybe the outcome of the game is different. The Cowboys defense has played great this year and is the strong point of this year’s team. They have lost defensive star Sean Lee and Barry Church for the year as each player has been placed on the season ending injured reserve. Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, and Kenyon Coleman have all missed significant time.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it’s been the offense that has been underwhelming this season. The offensive line has been subpar and DeMarco Murray has missed time. However, it’s the receiving corp that has been most disappointing. Although there is talent there, it just hasn’t meshed and time is running out to salvage this season. With four losses already in the books, the team can only really afford to lose three more for the remainder of the season (which means finishing 6-3). Even at a total of seven losses, the playoffs aren’t guaranteed.
In Kevin Ogletree’s first game of the season he had 8 catches for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Giants. In the next six games, he has had a combined 13 catches for 134 and 0 touchdowns. He won the third receiver battle, and the Cowboys haven’t really given anyone else a shot since the season has started. The man that Ogletree has replaced in 2012 is Laurent Robinson, who had the role in 2011. In 14 games played last season, Robinson put up the following stats:
To put it lightly, Robinson has been missed. The Cowboys have been reluctant to look at any veteran receivers. The team wanted to let the young guys grow, and did not want to bring in any “drama” to the locker room with some the available personalities. They have also wanted to protect these younger players and keep away any possible negative influences these veterans could bring. Some options sitting at home waiting on a call are Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens, and Plaxico Burress.
The current receiver the Cowboys most wanted to keep away from this influence is Dez Bryant. However, with Bryant in the middle of his third season, the Cowboys will need to review if they want to extend him when his contract expires and keep him as a building block and give him the huge payday he will be seeking. Bryant has all the talent and tools you would want in a receiver. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, he is still making the mistakes he made as a rookie in his third season. Problems that still exist are incorrect route running, not knowing the entire offense and the options in it, and playing way too loose with the ball. There has been recent outside of the organization speculation that Bryant may be losing favor within the Cowboys. Critics and analysts have wondered aloud that this is who Bryant is, and who he is going to be. While he will make the spectacular play, he will also make the boneheaded play that offsets the great play he made prior. If he is not going to be the franchise receiver for the next ten years, then the influence around Bryant isn’t so important.
I believe the Cowboys should roll the dice and bring in Plaxico Burress. Although he has been negatively portrayed in the press, I don’t think he is as self-absorbed and as bad an influence as the others mentioned. I think the head coach needs to be able to bench guys who aren’t performing up to par and send a message. If Bryant wants to continue to not be accountable, he can sit until he can be. Although I like Miles Austin, he has just not been healthy in 2011 and 2012. Burress is a huge target, runs good routes, and can make big plays. In 16 games 2011, Burress put up the following stats:
Burress spent nearly two years in prison and was released in June 2011. He signed with the New York Jets in late July 2011. He put the stats up that season and was effective although there was no way he was in the proper condition after spending that much time away from the proper training program for an athlete at that level. He has prepared diligently this past offseason and is said to be in great shape. He is desperate to make his mark as he knows his time in the league may be over. Of any of the guys available, I think he by far has the most left in the tank. If he gets one shot and does not perform, it could be all over for him.
The Cowboys are in the bottom half of the NFL in team red zone touchdown scores. Their percentage is less than 48% on these opportunities. New Orleans, Green Bay, and Denver are all in the top three, with the lowest percentage of these three being 68%. If the Cowboys could improve this, the offense would get more touchdowns instead of field goals, and the margin for error would go up.
Jerry Jones has made it clear that he wanted success THIS SEASON. While we can talk about play calling, coaching, and accountability all day long, those are changes that will only take place after it’s too late for this season. This move can be one that salvages the season, and it would be a low cost move as well. Hopefully the Cowboys can see that this need exists, and make the move. The clock is ticking, and time is running out on the 2012 season.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH