Austin On Dallas: No Surprises Here, Cowboys Are Who They Are
By Brad Austin
Only four games into the 2012 season and the Dallas Cowboys have already unveiled exactly who they are. The types of games these Cowboys have played in a mere month have displayed their typical, multiple personalities. As usual, there is no way to predict which one will take the field on a week-to-week basis.
WEEK 1 – HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS
In the first week, the team showed the huge national audience they can compete with any team in the league and win big games when supremely focused, confident, and fully motivated to win.
The energy Dallas displayed against the Giants in their own stadium was electric. The players had a chip on their shoulder and were loaded with motivation to prove they are much improved and a force to be reckoned with.
The highly apparent extra bounce in their steps, along with the victorious outcome proved these Cowboys are very talented and can compete with anyone when determined.
WEEK 2 – NEVER GOT OFF THE BUS COWBOYS
The very next week in Seattle, the Cowboys reverted back to what they do best. Instead of capitalizing off strong momentum going into the contest, Dallas clearly sleep-walked into Seattle. Ill-prepared, completely unfocused, and even seemingly disinterested, these Cowboys never showed up.
Instead they chose to enter with a false sense of entitlement and lackadaisical attitude that they were good enough to just show up and beat Seattle. Gotta love it when 8-8, non-playoff teams are delusional enough to carelessly trust their false notions of invincibility.
The ensuing complete domination at the hands of a fellow, potential wild-card hunting team was nothing short of embarrassing. Even worse, the lack of motivation and focus was quite typical under the Jason Garrett regime.
WEEK 3 – JEKYLL AND HYDE COWBOYS
In Week 3, the Cowboys hosted their home-opener. Seeking redemption after laying a huge egg in Seatte, they fortunately faced off against a punchless Tampa Bay offense struggling mightily with passing the ball. Just when you think the home team would be firing on all cylinders, they were split into dual-personalities.
The defense was killing it and providing the offense chance after chance to take control. The offensive line responded with being virtually abused and violated all day long. DeMarco Murray finished with a paltry 38 rushing yards. Tony Romo scrambled for his life all game enduring 4 sacks and turning the ball over 3 times.
The highly inferior, interior offensive linemen firmly demonstrated they will never be able to stand up to dominating defensive tackles like Gerald McCoy. All in all, it took the inept offense almost the entire game, save 2:43 when they finally took a 16-7 lead and firm control of the game. Anything short of a dominating defensive performance and the Cowboys would have exited 1-2.
WEEK 4 – LAND OF CONFUSION COWBOYS
Against the visiting Bears the week before the bye, most expected an all-out Cowboys effort similar to that of the Giants game. Both Dallas and Chicago are teams fairly close in talent and eerily share similar strengths and weaknesses. Also, Chicago is a team you would expect to see if a wildcard race involves the Cowboys.
The team that cracked and began to make mistakes was almost guaranteed to lose this game and everyone was aware of that. While I didn’t see a supremely motivated, determined effort by Dallas, they seemed to be locked in enough to compete. And then confusion struck and the focus went South abruptly.
The game was an even battle until Dez Bryant decided to flat-out ignore a hot route adjustment and hand over 7 free points. Shortly after Kevin Ogletree lost concentration and ended a sure Cowboys scoring drive, right when they were reclaiming momentum. Tony overshot a few easy deep balls both easy touchdowns.
The defense couldn’t find an answer for Brandon Marshall running wild from the slot position. Hats off to Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice who realized he could have Marshall expose Gerald Sensabaugh and the Cowboys zone. Rob Ryan never adjusted and Marshall was unstoppable.
Chicago was allowed to stay unpredictable and keep balance in the offensive attack by holding a sizable lead for the remainder. All-in-all, the Cowboys just looked confused and out-coached. Another side of their persona that is sadly familiar.
THE MAIN AND OBVIOUS CULPRIT
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE:
Nate Livings is an average guard who can succeed if the players next to him are above his level…they are not. The center position for Dallas is highly over-matched and will not be able to handle higher caliber competition. This includes both Phil Costa and Ryan Cook. Both are sub-par centers and legitimate playoff contenders don’t start guys this limited and weak at center.
Mackenzy Bernadeau at right guard is a disaster. He was a backup before being courted by Jerry Jones, and he is nothing more than a back-up level player now. So what did everyone expect up the middle? Domination? Even above average play good enough to make the playoffs? Jerry sold this line, how anyone could have bought it is beyond me.
DeMarco Murray is suffering mightily as he never has clear lanes to run through and often is attacked before ever reaching the line. The talented back doesn’t have a chance to show his ability, which is high. Tony Romo knows with every snap he will be dodging rushers.
This is not natural for a quarterback. Even an elusive guy like Romo. A quarterback needs to be able to focus on his receiving progressions. He needs to be confident he will have a chance to look receivers off and pick the right target.
A quarterback has a customized clock in his head that tells him how long he has to find a target before he must expect pressure. Right now, Tony’s clock is about as long as it takes him to get the snap and make it through his backpedal. How can you legitimately expect the best from a guy who can’t even focus downfield confidently from the moment he sets up?
The bad news is hoping these same 6 guys (both Costa and Cook at center) will step it up and play better as the season progresses is nothing short of throwing in the towel. Does management really feel the improvement will be so great that Murray will magically begin to have open lanes? All of the sudden Tony will have reasonable time to play the quarterback position while set in a strong pocket? Sorry guys, doesn’t work that way. Some improvement will happen, yes. Enough improvement over what is occurring to make much difference in outcomes versus solid defenses? Not gonna happen.
These inside players simply are not good enough to compete with better teams. Anything short of signing Montrae Holland to relieve Bernadeau at guard during this bye week tells me everything I need to know about the fate of this offense, and the poor dedication to winning now from management.
At the very least, how about Costa and Dockery take over for Cook and Bernadeau, maybe that will help some. Costa was always coming back regardless, but leaving Bernadeau in is simply neglecting any action for solid improvement by Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett.
Once again loyal Cowboys fans are absurdly suffering from the lack of commitment to winning at all legitimate costs by management. Moves can be made and steps forward can be taken, the bye week provides the ideal opportunity. Yet both Jones and Garrett have already gone on record stating they are staying put with what they already have. What they have is nothing more than an interior offensive line unable to provide the rest of the offense enough punch and security to be a true playoff contender.