It’s unfortunate that injuries are an inevitable side effect of football. But for the Cowboys, with the exception of Tyrone Crawford, out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, injuries suffered so far in training camp will affect practice time during camp, but not playing time during the regular season.
May 21, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin works with linebacker Sean Lee (50) and the defense during organized team activities at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
And then there are all of the players returning from, in many cases, season ending injuries. Due to injuries, linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, safety Barry Church, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and center Phil Costa were no longer able to take the field as the Cowboys limped to the finish line last season. And outside linebacker, now defensive end DeMarcus Ware was a one armed player by season’s end. Running back DeMarco Murray missed substantial playing time and rookie safety Matt Johnson and rookie receiver Danny Coale never were healthy enough to take the field.
With the return of these injured players, some of them among the best in the league at their position, and new and improved coaching, the Cowboys are going to be a team to be reckoned with. Let’s break it down starting with the new and improved coaching. Despite the ridicule others’ have hurled the Cowboys way, the hiring of Monte Kiffin will prove to be monumental, even more so with the addition of Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach.
In camp we are already seeing the effect on defense. DeMarcus Ware has been a real beast and has expressed positive feelings about the simplicity of putting his hand on the ground and going after the ball, no longer having to think “do I need to get into the backfield, or drop back into coverage?” Simply said, Marinelli will get the best out of this defensive line and the results will be evident in the stats, as well as the win-loss column. We are also hearing about the amazing energy level possessed by Kiffin, at 73 years of age. To those that know him, it’s no surprise. This man loves to coach football and it shows in his energy level, as well as his passion. The only thing you will recognize, compared to last years’ defense, is most of the players.
On offense, coordinator and line coach Bill Callahan will be calling plays from the booth. This change in responsibility will allow head coach Jason Garrett to manage the entire game, improving overall clock management. The plays will be in quarterback Tony Romo’s ear with more time left on the clock as well. Viewing what the defense is doing from the booth will also improve situational play calling. With Callahan, we can also expect to see more emphasis on the running game and the completion of the offensive line’s evolution from a man blocking scheme to a zone blocking scheme. And let’s not diminish the impact of Romo being more involved in the offensive game plan. He knows what he does best and the game plan should be tilted towards that.
The change from Jimmy Robinson as receiver’s coach to Derek Dooley is more significant than most realize. Dooley is an absolute technician that emphasizes perfection in all aspects of the receivers’ responsibilities, as opposed to Robinson’s playground style of coaching receivers. That coaching style, no doubt, was at least partly responsible for Romo’s interceptions caused by the receiver not being where he thought he would be. The difference with the change to Gary Brown as running backs coach is already becoming evident with the physical play of Murray in camp and Brown’s personal attention to the development of rookie running back Joseph Randle.
As mentioned previously, the Cowboys have many excellent players and some, such as receiver Dez Bryant, linebackers Lee and Carter, cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and tight end Jason Witten, are among the best in the league, or at least on the way to being considered as such. The addition of offensive players like tight end Gavin Escobar, receiver Terrance Williams, center Travis Frederick and running back Joseph Randle add new starters and needed depth to an already talented offensive team. The addition of Frederick promises to shore up a porous offensive line and the addition of Escobar allows the Cowboys to use a heavy dose of multiple tight end sets, after cutting a fullback that won’t be missed.
On defense, the addition of safety J.J. Wilcox, cornerback B.W. Webb added much needed depth and potential starters, at least for the future. In short, returning starters, added depth and improved coaching will make this the most dynamic defense this team has seen in years. And coaching changes, including a slight change in philosophy, added depth and new starters from the draft will make this an offense that can score from anywhere on the field, even inside the twenty yard line.
Let the games begin!