The summer days may be lazy and boring where we are, but in Big D the Dallas Cowboys are probably packing for their trek from the great state of Texas to California for the start of training camp. When the Cowboys hit the field for the first time, all eyes will undoubtedly be on quarterback Tony Romo to see how his surgically repaired back holds up. The other obvious attention grabber will be Rod Marinelli and this year’s cast of Cowboys defenders to see if any life has been breathed back into the dismal defense of 2013. Ironically, it may be a third cog in the wheel that determines whether or not Dallas is able to play past December 2014…the Cowboys rushing game.
It would be hard to imagine anybody doubting whether or not running back DeMarco Murray has the tools to keep the Dallas ground game chugging along. The only question mark with Dallas’ star running back has been whether or not he can stay on his feet for a complete season. So far, unfortunately, the answer has been ‘no.’ In 2013, though, Murray finished the season ranked 11th in rushing and passed the 1,ooo yard mark despite missing two games due to injury.
It is pretty unlikely for the Cowboys’ opponents to score any points if they are riding the pines on the sidelines. Consequently, keeping Murray healthy will do wonders for the Cowboys, not only in taking pressure off Romo, but in keeping the defense off the field. A good deal of how that plays out will rest on the shoulders of the Cowboys improved offensive line. The continued development of center Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, as well as the ability of Dallas’ stable of tight ends in blocking effectively will all be key factors in determining just how successful Dallas ground attack turns out to be.
Having a consistent rushing game is probably the best medicine the Cowboys could give their ailing defense. Free agency and the loss of Sean Lee to injury have already put Dallas in the unenviable position of trying to fix what is broken with some of the pieces missing. Henry Melton will hopefully be able to make his presence known early and often. However, if the Cowboys are able to opt for chewing away the clock with their rushing game as the fourth quarter ticks away it will be far less likely that Dallas will make rookies and second stringers look like pro bowlers as was too often the case in 2013.
Even if Marinelli turns out to be a miracle worker, it will take time for his defense to find its footing and develop some much-needed confidence. Getting a few victories under their belt early in the season could go a long way in doing just that and for that to happen they will need a little help from their friends on the other side of the ball. After all, having the offense, defense and special teams rely on each other to achieve the desired goal is what being a team is about.
If Dallas’ run game gels, the Cowboys might be able to surprise the San Francisco 49ers when kickoff comes on opening day. That’s of course if the good commissioner doesn’t find a way to get rid of kickoffs before then…but that’s another story.