Cowboy Nation, does this off season feel different? There is often a quiet calm before a storm, but I will remain cautiously optimistic and enjoy it. For the first time in a while, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t making headlines for the wrong reasons. Well, there is the lone exception of Josh Brent which I will address later. Otherwise, the Cowboys have left us with positive vibes heading into training camp. We haven’t signed any controversial free agents with character issues. We have been lucky in regards to injuries, so if you’re near a piece of wood, feel free to knock on it.
Networks will still reach to find a story because we’re the Cowboys and the spotlight is always upon us. If the fact that former Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus revealing that receiver Dez Bryant had the worst background of any player he had ever seen coming out of college is big news, I’ll take it. Center Phil Costa getting engaged to Brooke Hogan, daughter of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan doesn’t compare to the Tony Romo — Jessica Simpson era. By not having every analyst predicting that we will win this year’s Super Bowl, perhaps we can play quality football without the pressure that comes from high expectations.
This off season is full of promise. Let us celebrate that the Dallas Cowboys’ roster has gotten younger, yet improved with depth at the skill positions. That depth may not come with a boatload of experience, but it’s difficult to obtain both. At the running back position, we currently have five players: DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle and Kendial Lawrence. Their ages range from 21 to 25 and although the last two listed are rookies, I believe they can all contribute if they make it to the final roster.
Our running backs could benefit from an improved offensive line. If our youth movement continues, it is possible that our offensive line could consist of: Tyron Smith (22), Ray Dominguez (24), Travis Frederick (22), Ronald Leary (24) and Jermey Parnell (26).
Our wide receivers are also a young, yet talented bunch. Miles Austin is the old guy at 29, while Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams and Danny Coale are 25 and under. With player development and more in-game experience, our present and our future looks bright.
We can also expect a lot of production from our defensive ends, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Spencer is playing this year under the franchise tag. It might be his last year as a Cowboy. If he wants to earn big money in free agency next season, he will need to attract the attention of other teams by being a dominant defensive player this year. Spencer will have to over-perform because he doesn’t fit the measurables of a defensive end. Spencer stands 6’3”, 262 pounds which makes him short and underweight when compared to elite defensive ends like: Houston Texans J.J. Watt (6’5”, 289), Chicago Bears Julius Peppers (6’7”, 287) or Minnesota Vikings Jared Allen (6’6”, 270). Unfortunately, Ware is also technically undersized by measuring 6’4”, 258 pounds.
What gives me confidence in Ware’s ability to have a big year is his reduced role in pass coverage combined with his pass rushing skills. I’m not claiming that Ware was awful when covering a running back or tight end in the flat. During Ware’s nine year career, he has recorded 111 sacks and 1 interception. Hearing that Ware is going to be allowed to focus on pressuring the quarterback in the new defensive scheme is a positive. It also helps that the read-option / pistol offense used by the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49’ers was properly defensed by the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII. When you come off the edge, never turn down an opportunity to hit the quarterback.
This year, I see the Cowboys with a better play caller armed with younger, quicker personnel. That is going to make for a good year. A simpler defensive scheme designed to generate sacks, interceptions and quarterback pressure is going to make for a good year. An off season free of unnecessary distractions and injuries (knock on wood) is going to make for a good year.
That brings me to my final message. To be free of distractions, I’m hoping that we find a moment to distance the team from Josh Brent. His situation reminds me of lyrics by Kanye West who wrote,
Man it’s so hard not to act reckless.
To whom much is given much is tested.
Get arrested, guess until, they get the message.
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny,
and what I do? Act more stupidly.
Unfortunately, Brent isn’t the first NFL player to be in this situation. As a rookie, defensive end Leonard Little was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth also pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter. Little and Stallworth played in the NFL afterwards, so I don’t think that Josh Brent’s NFL career is over. Head coach Jason Garrett has stressed the importance of having a roster filled with players that have high levels of character on and off the field. If this is true, then Josh Brent doesn’t belong. Let him play for someone else, perhaps give him a fresh start and allow Cowboy Nation to concentrate on what we love — Dallas Cowboys Football.