After two back to back 8-8 seasons without a playoff appearance, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones vowed to invoke changes that would make everyone at Valley Ranch “uncomfortable”. Those changes came in the form off a majority of the Cowboys’ coaching staff being let go, including defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Jones elected to keep head coach Jason Garrett and now says his job is not on the line this season. If you believe that, I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. After what some consider to be a less than stellar draft, let’s revisit the Cowboys’ upcoming schedule and try to predict where Dallas could rank in the standings at the end of the year.
First, let’s look at Dallas as a team. Compared to last year, did their offensive line get better? Marginally, perhaps. The addition of Travis Frederick should help, but he’s a rookie and still has a long way to go. The Cowboys decided to retain a cheaper Doug Free, which changes nothing really. I’ve heard rumblings that Nate Livings looks in better shape and Ronald Leary could make a move to starter. Whatever. The line is basically made up of the same dudes from last years’ squad. Really, Dallas? Did you learn nothing from the last two seasons?
Tony Romo remains the same, just richer. The backfield is the same, just swapping veteran Felix Jones for unproven rookie Joseph Randle. And I’m not sure the addition of another pass-catching tight end in rookie Gavin Escobar does much for the offense either. It’s hard to pass to “another” target when you’re being chased down in the backfield because your O-line is sub-par. Without major improvements made to the offensive line in free agency, the team is simply hoping they get better as a group collectively under Bill Callahan.
Defensively, all the injured key players like linebackers Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and safety Barry Church return. But they now have an entirely new coaching staff and an entirely different scheme to learn under new coordinator and AARP member Monte Kiffin. Regardless of the talent returning, the learning curve will be an issue again this season. All in all, this team is only marginally better than last year unless the coaching staff can do an amazing job “coaching them up” this off-season. I’m not convinced that can happen with head coach Jason Garrett still at the helm.
WEEK 1 – New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
Prediction: WIN (1-0). Although the Cowboys are not the best home team in the league, they seem to play well against the Giants early on in the season. New York is essentially the same team. They are the biggest roller-coaster in the league, so you really never know what you are going to get from them. As with all the Cowboys NFC East foes, I throw the stats out the window and figure they’ll split their season series. Dallas wins this one, even though their playing in Cowboys Stadium. (you know what I mean)
Checkout the next week, on the next page…