There is something big on the horizon for those of us that call ourselves Cowboys fans. It’s the 2013 football season. After all the years that have gone by since the last time the Dallas Cowboys made it to the super bowl, I know it’s easy to be cynical. This lack of recent success also makes it easy to buy into what the many naysayers in the media believe, and that is that the Cowboys will never make it to the super bowl as long as Jerry Jones is the general manager. But I believe there’s reason for optimism, let’s break it down.
Jason Garrett is entering his third season as the Cowboys head coach. Even though the record for his first two seasons was the same at 8-8, you would have to be blind to not see there was improvement from one year to the next. There was no doubt a learning curve we had to all endure with Garrett’s on the job training, but I believe 2013 will be the year we see what he’s learned. We have already seen Garrett’s fingerprints all over the draft since he’s been the head coach and that’s been a real positive.
Somehow they have been able to succeed at picking the “right kind” of player in Garrett’s vernacular, that being a player with all the necessary skills and talent to go along with a great attitude and positive behavior. And it’s no coincidence that the last few drafts have been much better than those that preceded it. It is also a stretch to believe, as some do, that Jerry was behind the firing of Rob Ryan and the hiring of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. Evidence suggests otherwise.
After all, it was defensive lapses that accounted for some of last year’s losses, so reason enough for Garret to fire Ryan, if he wanted to keep his own job. And the connection with Kiffin was not with Jerry, but with Garrett, having been a backup at Tampa while Kiffin was there. And while we are on the subject of coaching the defense, how can you not be impressed with the NFL track records of both Kiffin and defensive line coach, Rod Marinelli? Just look at what Marinelli’s Bears defense did to the Cowboys, and many other teams, just last year.
That leads us to the subject of the Cowboys defense in 2013. Out is the 3-4 defense that put too little pressure on the opposing quarterback and did not put the defensive backs in position to make interceptions, not to mention all the times there were too many or too few men on the field because the scheme was way too complex. In is the less complex Tampa-2, 4-3 defense, that puts a premium on getting to the quarterback by, among other things, rushing with two defensive ends, instead of one outside linebacker rushing the passer and the other one dropping into coverage.
Anthony Spencer showed us a glimpse of what he can do as a pure rusher last year, when he was used more as a pass rusher than had been the case previously. Expect DeMarcus Ware kinds of numbers from him this year. In addition, defensive starters that were hurt last year are once again healthy. Expect big things with the return of Barry Church, Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, as well as Ware once again having two arms to work with. And Morris Claiborne will be better this year, now having a year of experience as an NFL cornerback.
On offense, there might, or might not, be a new play caller. But what we do know is that Tony Romo will be much more involved in the game plan and that’s a good thing. Just look at how the offense performed last year with the many comebacks engineered by Romo in the two minute offense when he had complete control of the play called. In addition to that, some new weapons were added on offense. Terrance Williams will be a threat to opposing defenses on the other side of the field from Dez Bryant, with Miles Austin in the slot.
Expect to see Williams emerge as the second outside receiver and for Austin to come in as the slot receiver. That’s where he has done the most damage during his career. New tight end Gavin Escobar gives the Cowboys another big target in the end zone. There will be more success in the red zone as a result of this addition. New center/guard Travis Frederick shores up a leaky line that will protect Romo much better in 2013, as well as to help the team put up some great numbers in the running game, which has also been strengthened with the addition of draft pick Joseph Randle.
So there you have it. You can choose to be afflicted with the doom and gloom you read about the Cowboys everywhere you look, or you can be infected by the enthusiasm I feel in hardly being able to wait until the 2013 season begins. I presented evidence that supports the latter approach but, ultimately, the choice is yours.