Less than a month away before Training Camp with The Dallas Cowboys will commence in Oxnard, California. Though there will be many of the pundits and media figures in attendance, I can also confirm that yours truly will be there tweeting like crazy for everyone who needs information. Talk for Training Camp will be coming soon enough but I would like to put that aside for now and begin the chatter about which Cowboys are going to be the most important come Kickoff. There are many different players and coaches on this team that will have many different roles to fill once the official kickoff to the season begins on September 8th at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
With a new season on the rise there is like Jim Nantz would say “A sense of renewal in the air.” For some on this team it is a chance for redemption and a chance to re-write the labels that this organization has worn over and over again in recent memory. With that said every team in The NFL has weaknesses and can’t expect perfection. In fact, if the past few seasons’ have proven anything its that with so much parody in the league all you have to do is make the dance; how you get there doesn’t mean as much as just getting there.
The Dallas Cowboys have some pieces that if put together correctly can make a very formidable team for their opponents. Talent though worth noting doesn’t necessarily mean that these Dallas Cowboys are going straight to The Meadowlands next February, but anything is possible which is why America loves The NFL. For The Dallas Cowboys to avoid another 8-8 campaign there will be some Cowboys that will need to shoulder their portion of the load. Without further ado here are the 10 Most Integral Cowboys for this year’s Season:
10. Dan Bailey- Mr. Automatic, Dan Bailey has kicked 7 game-winning field goals now entering his 3rd Season. Before Bailey, The Dallas Cowboys struggled mightily in the Kicking Game as there was the complete breakdown of Nick Folk and the inconsistencies of David Buehler. The Dallas Cowboys picked the right guy in the 2011 Offseason when they decided to go with the former Oklahoma State Cowboy and former Lou Groza Award winner. 7 game-winners is impressive even though most would like for this team to not put themselves in those situations; nonetheless having a Quarterback like Tony Romo who can get you down the field and Kicker who can have a 96% conversion rate is a good weapon to have in your back-pocket.
9. Rich Bisaccia- If the kicker comes in at number 10, than it’s only right the Coach makes this list. Rich Bisaccia is much like the former Cowboy’s Special Teams Coach in his demeanor being tough and very boisterous on the field. Bisaccia has a long track record of good Special Teams units which is going to bode well for a team that has struggled in that area recently. For instance, when he took the San Diego Chargers position he took them from 32nd to 23rd in the first year and graduated to 8th in his second year. The objective is simple; win the field advantage, but playing Special Teams is not often given the credit it deserves. Over the last 11 seasons Bisaccia’s units have outranked the Cowboys 8 times. The positive for Bisaccia is that the Unit he is inheriting gradually got better over the course of last season. There is no guarantee that this team is going to be dominant in this area of the game, but just watching and reading Broaddus’ reports coming from practice gives you the notion that there are some physical and committed players waiting in the wings to shine.
8. Rod Marinelli- Monte Kiffin, though he is the Defensive Coordinator and has earned the respect of many NFL-types over the years; I will ruin the surprise by saying he doesn’t make my list. Nothing against Kiffin, but the hire of Rod Marinelli means a lot more than many media-types are taking into consideration. Rod Marinelli comes over from Chicago in which his unit finished +20 in turnover ratio and a scoring differential at +120 which obviously led the league. Marinelli has made it his identity to cause disruption by using fast and athletic linemen, instinctual and intelligent linebackers, and opportunistic driven Secondary players. His impact could be the most visible in the organization by seasons end. Though Rob Ryan should be commended for what he was able to do with guys off the street, it still is a major upgrade in my humble opinion. Kiffin’s delivery of Marinelli to this organization was by far the best hire they’ve made in some time. His work will be cut out for him but at least he has 3 Pro-Bowlers on this current Defensive Line.
7. Offensive Line- This entire unit makes the list because of the many problematic issues that occurred the past two seasons. The two Veteran Guards played equally as poor last year which made “Tony Romo the Escape Artist” have to come to the rescue more often than these Coaches would have liked. Doug Free who now has had half of his salary cut will need to prove that he is able to return to the level of play that awarded him such a salary 2 years ago. Tyron Smith did experience his own set of growing pains last season but still played very well and is on the Pro-Bowl radar of many gurus around the league. The 1st round pick of Travis Frederick gives a solid presence in the middle with the intelligence and mauler style of play that this team really needs. The Guard spots are still a major question as both Livings and Bernadeau are still on the mend. Continuity will be the key for this unit, and paired with more effort and aggressiveness should help keep their $108 million dollar investment from 36 sacks. The best five will survive; hopefully a clean bill of health is on the horizon.
6. Bill Callahan- The man who will be in charge of the entire offense and calling the plays on gameday is a necessity for this list. Callahan like Marinelli also comes highly touted in his now 2nd season with The Dallas Cowboys. Though many have ridiculed his offensive line the past two seasons, it may be worth noting that he may not have been dealt such a great hand in the beginning. He will have to make his presence known immediately with his new responsibilities now out in the public. A steady commitment to the running game will be a start, as The Cowboys were dead last in rushing last season. The difficulty for Callahan will be evident as it’s not exactly like Jason Garrett was awful at his previous position making appearances in the Top 10 a few times if memory serves me correctly. What Callahan will do is allow Jason Garrett to grow into the Head Coach this organization believes they have. In fact that is most likely his biggest contribution, that paired with a toughness factor and maybe more of a killer instinct in certain situations. If Callahan is successful it is really going to elevate Jason Garrett’s status as a Head Coach and vice verse for Bill Callahan.
5. Morris Claiborne- This posed some difficulty at first making the list as I had to evaluate this position’s importance in this scheme but I’m becoming more confident in its place. Some guys like Bryan Broaddus and Rowan Kavner have spoken on Brandon Carr’s presence in this scheme and how sometimes Man-Corners find difficulty in adjusting to the Tampa-2 Defense. There have been a few reports thus far this offseason that give optimism in regards to the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. His competitive nature with Dez Bryant and his dedication to his body and skill-set over the offseason have many fans and coaches smiling in recognition of his potential. I don’t want any of this to be a jab at Brandon Carr by any means because he’s a very good player and leader inside this locker room. The Tampa-2 has not been known for man-coverage over the time of its existence, but that’s not to say that these Coaches aren’t prepared to make it another strength. With that said Claiborne is the guy at this position that can take this secondary to the next level. He is that opportunistic-type of Corner that can really make opposing offenses pay on the back-end. Last year he came along pretty well under the guidance of Carr and Coach Jerome Henderson, but this year he’s looking to make that jump. If his hard work and preparation can translate to this scheme, then this team could possibly be looking at something they’ve been searching for quite some time; a shut-down Cornerback.
4. Dez Bryant- Dez really came along in a strong way last year making enormous strides in his development on and off the field. In many cases he was downright unstoppable. He has all the tools needed from a number one receiver; he’s big, tough, agile, and can make incredible catches in traffic or when being contested. His competitiveness drives this offense and gives them that threat that every opposing Defense has to respect. Dez Bryant has had a great offseason thus far and has even been very influential to other players on this team such as Morris Claiborne. Having those two types of athletic specimens going at it each day in practice will only create the environment that these Cowboys desperately need. He has the potential to reach the level of Hall-of-Famer Michael Irvin with the right dedication. Bryant’s rapport with Tony Romo is nothing short of amazing, after not too long ago he was being labeled “immature” and not a consistent “route runner”. Not to mention the fact that with many Defenses preoccupied with stopping Dez Bryant it will surely open up opportunities for other receivers such as Austin, Harris, and Williams.
3. Sean Lee- Hands down Sean Lee is the most important defensive player on this team but also for the scheme in which they’re playing. If his skill-set doesn’t translate to the Tampa-2, it frankly has no shot to succeed. However with a linebacker the caliber of Lee there is plenty of room for the optimists. Sean Lee has that instinct and quickness that a Middle Linebacker is required to have. His ability to recognize audibles and opposing Quarterback’s cadences is uncanny. The MIKE has so many things he is required to accomplish and Sean Lee is the prototype player for the position. With his extreme talent in tackling, a little luck with his health, and having Bruce Carter at his side; this combination could mold into one of the best Linebacking Cores in The NFL.
2. DeMarco Murray- This team is 8-0 when Murray is a heavy dose of the game plan resulting in 20 carries or more. Murray is a One-Cut runner that has the ability to make his own holes, his injury past has him labeled as injury-prone which may be a bit premature. Murray is that running back that can open this offensive playbook wide open. As much as the Cowboys threw the ball last year and successfully might I add; that is not the recipe for this team’s success. A balanced offense can alleviate much of the pressure on Tony Romo but also add more dimensions to the arsenal of Bill Callahan and Jason Garrett. Just to be on the safe side these Coaches will most likely try to implement a more dynamic rushing attack by getting Randle, Dunbar and Tanner involved. The NFL is so different these days with running backs that insurance becomes a major factor with as short as their shelf-lives have become. The only fact that can be presented is that The Dallas Cowboys are a totally different monster with Murray in the fold.
1A-Tony Romo- Who else? Tony is the most polarizing figure currently sporting the silver and blue. Everything he says and does, or anything that even remotely affects him is criticized and analyzed. It makes you wonder if any other undrafted free agent has garnered so much attention; I doubt it. Tony, love him, or hate him is this organization’s quarterback until he retires. His new found role in the game planning will serve this offense well in my opinion. Not that his role will really be any different than it was prior but that’s the way it will be perceived. Say what you will, but Tony Romo has been an upper echelon Quarterback since he broke on the scene in 2006. This team rides with Tony Romo at the helm and with the right balance maybe they’re capable of great feats. The one thing about Romo you have to love is his competitive drive. I mention that competitiveness a lot in this column because I believe that’s how this team is going to get better and take those steps away from mediocrity. Tony will be a major catalyst in that respect, this team is behind him 100% and with the right drive and ambition things will be looking up for number nine.
1B- Jason Garrett- The number one spot became a two-parter because frankly these two men are the most critical components to the success rate of the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. Jason Garrett has had the confidence and support of Jerry Jones since he was brought on in 2007. However, maybe the trust in Jason Garrett stems from a much earlier period in which Jerry so funnily described as “The Glory-Hole” days. Jim Garrett, the father of Jason, has always been a longtime confidant of Jerry Jones and Company, which is a big reason why he ended up playing in Dallas. Coaching was in Jason’s blood and he was a complete sponge during his playing days because his ultimate goal was still ahead of him. Jason Garrett has a real shot this year to make his many detractors scoff in disbelief. After the Cincinnati Game last season we learned that these players will fight for this Coach; that readers, is a beautiful thing. Garrett came in red-hot in 2007 with his 13-3 performance, and has consistently put forth good offenses since; however when that doesn’t transfer into playoff success then it doesn’t mean a rip. Coach Garrett will get his chance to focus solely on being the Head Coach, which in turn will help make him better in game management and decision making. If you look at all the guys on this coaching staff, you find a list of very distinguished men with the ability to help Garrett grow into that leader he is capable of. All of this mess that has surrounded him the past few seasons can really be cleared up in a short period of time. Jason Garrett will need to find that fiery mentality that he came to this team with and I believe that he will.
There you have it, my opinion of the Most Integral Cowboys going into this season. Some of these Cowboys were left off individually because frankly DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten may be some of the most consistent players to wear the star and that goes without saying. The Dallas Cowboys will have five weeks of Training Camp to build upon their offseason thus far. In these weeks there will most likely be plenty of shuffling around as this team sorts out their Depth Chart, but I have confidence in these coaches. The truth is that to win a Superbowl it doesn’t take a Pro-Bowler at every level, but these Cowboys have their share of those anyhow. It takes an extreme effort and competitive drive to constantly get better, those who don’t share that sentiment won’t be in Dallas very long. The message is clear, now these players and coaches have to go turn their efforts into wins and as always anything is possible in The National Football League.