There have been plenty of offseason stories around the NFL, and as usual The Dallas Cowboys have had their fair share of the Offseason Hoopla Pie. Most notably the recent “Great Playcaller Mystery”, that was actually not even close to a mystery. Although there have been many stories circulating, there haven’t been too many negative stories that directly affect the Dallas Cowboys floating around the league. It’s relatively been a pretty quiet offseason for these Dallas Cowboys.
June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) makes a catch during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Many times and much too often there have been a plethora of negativity that has followed this organization into the offseason like a dark cloud, but this year has remained pretty status quo throughout this off period. Training Camp will be here roughly in a month and it seems as though things will heat up competitively for the organization. With a great percentage of players present for the offseason activities, this team will be working diligently to remain healthy and improve on the past season’s outcome of 8-8.
The NFC East is arguably one of the toughest divisions in football; the past four seasons have proven this to be true with 4 different Division Champions. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won the Division Crown since the 2009 Season which saw these Cowboys finally win a playoff game. The truth is that a lot of these players on this squad haven’t had the luxury to know what that feels like. This year will not lack that intensity as the Washington Redskins with a healthy Robert Griffin III will try and prove that his knee is good to go and defend their recent title as NFC East Champions. The New York Giants led by Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning will once again be sniffing around for a chance to add to their recent Super Bowl collection. The Philadelphia Eagles will be looking to bounce back from the past two poor seasons that started with them as Super Bowl favorites and “Dream Team” candidates, only to falter and underachieve in incredible fashion.
Let’s take a look around at these Division Foes and ask ourselves would The Dallas Cowboys trade positions with any of them? The answer is a resounding no in my opinion. Up first is The Washington Redskins, other than a recent cyst removal Tony Romo will be ready to go on July 19th. The word in D.C. is that so will RGIII, however coming off an ACL surgery (which is not his first, mind you) is a bit of a scary reality. Not everyone is Adrian Peterson, and though Griffin has been seen doing jumping jacks and other exercises, you can’t anoint them just yet. Add this to a lot of questions surrounding their Secondary and then it’s fair to say they have their own issues to rectify.
The New York Giants began their offseason without star wide receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. The Giants also have major questions regarding their Defense; questions like whose going to help their secondary? Another alarming tidbit of information is the lack of Linebacker depth of the team. Dan Connor, the same Dan Connor that was cut as a Cowboy Back-up is now their most valuable Linebacker. The issue with the Cap Concerns for the extensions of the Wide Receivers may work itself out but it’s worth noting. The 1-year tender signing by Cruz just adds a bit more leverage on his side of the negotiations. With the cap situation not getting better, I find it hard to believe both of these receivers stay in New York; long-term that is.
With The Philadelphia Eagles, things are not as clear regarding many different aspects of this team. Chip Kelly, arguably the best spread offense coach, is now going to be putting his hands on an offense that has turned the ball over more than any other team in the division the past two seasons. The Quarterback situation has not reached New York Jets territory yet but it is still a major question hanging over the heads of the organization. Which Quarterback is going to be relied on to get this ongoing spread offense phenomenon cooking in Philadelphia? Michael Vick has the legs but often has issues reading opposing Defenses. Matt Barkley is a once highly touted rookie whom fell into their laps in the 4th round. Questions also remain about his ability to run such an Offense. Dennis Dixon has a past relationship with this style of offense and Chip Kelly but will it be enough to convince his coaches? Nick Foles who replaced Michael Vick last season did surprisingly well with his opportunities, but at the time they were out of contention and he has questions regarding his ability in this style of offense as well.
Now this is not to say that these Dallas Cowboys are free of criticism or their own questions leading into this Training Camp. In fact, The Dallas Cowboys will be trying to successfully change their entire identity. Philosophical changes in Defensive Scheme are bound to bring on their own form of an adaptation period. Offensively, this organization will need much better play out of their Offensive Line if it hopes to have any chances at the playoffs this season. The biggest question most likely revolves around the Safety position as other than Barry Church, it’s wide open.
What can give many that shot of optimism is that if you look at the Dallas Cowboys as a whole, you can find many reasons that point to the positive. Sean Lee is going to excel in this “Tampa-2” scheme in my humble opinion, and having a guy like that in the middle bodes well for Monte Kiffin. Bruce Carter was recently touted by Sean Lee as the best linebacker on the team, and he most definitely has the skill-set to take it to another level. This organization still has one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware, a solid presence in the middle with Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher, and a recent Pro-Bowler in Anthony Spencer on the other end. The two cornerbacks are probably the best corners Monte Kiffin has ever had, and very physical with Wide Receivers.
Switching things up and looking at this Offense gives the same results in many areas. The Dallas Cowboys currently have a 3-time Pro-Bowl, Top 10 worthy Quarterback in Tony Romo. That isn’t the end of the show just yet with an all-out beast of a receiver in Dez Bryant, a comparable mate in Miles Austin, RGIII’s former target in Terrance Williams, and an upside-ridden Dwayne Harris. 8-0 is where the Cowboys stand when DeMarco Murray has 20 or more carries. Look for Bill Callahan to try and put a major emphasis in Murray and all of the backs this season. Just when that looks to be it, you often forget about one of the best Tight Ends in NFL History in Jason Witten, who now has an eager and proven pass-catcher in Gavin Escobar in his ear. Focusing on their red-zone percentage will be a major factor moving forward. Not to mention this team has a pretty damn good Left Tackle and a 1st Round pick in Travis Frederick looking to protect their $108 million dollar quarterback.
Let me temper your expectations after all that praising of talent by saying that nobody should believe that this is in the bag by any means. This is the NFL where parody is dormant and competition is at the highest level. These Dallas Cowboys are going to have to want it, and want it more than the four teams that stand in their way of grabbing this division. Jason Garrett will be solely focused on having his input in every aspect of their game. A sense of toughness and mental fortitude will be required to see these goals take shape. The Defense will shift their focus on trying to create turnovers, because people, turnovers win ballgames. As I have said all along the competition in many key areas will go a long way in creating the type of environment that is needed at Valley Ranch. Bill Callahan calling the plays will help add that killer instinct needed on the offense, and also help Jason Garrett become a better head coach. Intensity, Toughness, and Instinct will be the determining factors in what this team is capable of. The pressure is on, as always, time will tell if The 2013 Dallas Cowboys are up for it.