Anyone who knows me or has read my articles can tell that I am generally a positive Dallas Cowboys fan. And I like that. As a fan, it is acceptable to be optimistic about your team and to expect the team to compete every year. But as a coach, general manager, or talent evaluator, it is more important to focus on and identify the teams’ weak spots.
As I see it, the biggest weakness that the Dallas Cowboys have is their mediocre offensive line. And unfortunately for Cowboy fans, this team will likely only go as far as the offensive line takes them. Tyron Smith had somewhat of a down year in 2012 while transitioning to the left tackle position and Doug Free was a major liability on the right side. Free led the NFL in penalties (13) in 2012 and Smith finished eighth (11) among the league leaders in this dubious category. While Dallas did draft Travis Frederick in the first round in April’s draft, I am still quite concerned about the interior of the line. Will Frederick be ready to start from day one at center? While I am thrilled that Dallas used their first round pick on Frederick, it remains to be seen how he fits into Bill Callahan’s offense. While there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic and excited about the upgrades the team has recently made to the offensive line, I believe this line still has a long ways to go to even be considered “average.”
While I don’t worry about the talent that the Cowboys offensive skill players possess, I worry about their ability to stay healthy. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, and Miles Austin have all routinely missed games throughout their careers and if any one of these players (specifically Romo or Bryant) misses a significant amount of time in 2013, the Cowboys could be drafting high again in 2014.
On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest worry of mine is the age of the defensive line. At the start of the 2013 season, the average age of the Dallas Cowboys defensive line will be 30.8 years old. And with all four defensive line starters learning new positions in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-Two defense, the Cowboy defense could look very shaky early. And with no real experienced backup at any of the defensive line positions, injuries absolutely cannot be afforded with this group.
While I believe that Sean Lee and Bruce Carter have the talent to be considered one of the best linebacker duos in all of football, both need to be able to show that they can stay healthy for an entire season. Lee and Carter have missed 22 games in the last two seasons. With the recent switch to the 4-3 defense, Lee and Carter need to stay healthy for the defense to become successful.
The safety position has had a recent influx of talent compared to other years, but will anyone step up and become a playmaking player in the secondary? In March, I wrote about the Dallas Cowboys need for a playmaking safety. The safety position for the team has only produced four interceptions in the past two seasons. The Cowboys are desperately hoping that Barry Church, Matt Johnson and rookie J.J. Wilcox can upgrade a position that has been dreadful since Darren Woodson and a young Roy Williams patrolled the back part of the secondary.
So the basic theme of this article is this: If somehow the Dallas Cowboys can avoid injuries and have a couple pleasant surprises on the offensive line, this could be a team that can contend for the NFC East title and a potential Super Bowl bid. However these two areas are also the very same spots that have hurt the team for the past three seasons. Will it be different in 2013? As fans, we can only hope so.