The preseason has started and the fever of excitement is in the air. Football season is upon us again and many of similar story lines have returned. Will Brett Favre retire this year? Will the Roethlisburger and the Steelers be able to overcome their off-the field issues? Who will be the dark horse or surprise team to rise from the ashes? And most importantly, for me, will this finally be the year that the Cowboys return to prominence among the league’s elite?
Offense: The addition of Dez Bryant will help Dallas to be much more effective in the downfield passing attack they want to employ with Romo as their quarterback. Last year, this team was much better suited for a strong running game, and using their passing game to balance out the run. This year, Bryant, the return of Crayton and Williams and the development of Kevin Oggletree will give the Cowboys, along with Jason Witten and occasionally M Bennett will give Romo seven good targets to choose from. That’s not to mention either Barber or Choice getting receptions out of the backfield.
Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice form a great running back trio that is anchored by a solid run blocking offensive line. They complement each other well in their skill sets and abilities and are capable of carrying the offense should Romo get hurt or have a poor game.
The biggest question mark will whether the offensive line will be able to give Romo enough time, particularly against dominating defenses like they faced in Minnesota in last year’s playoffs. Does their offensive line have the depth to withstand any long or major injuries, particularly to key players (Andre Gurode) where there is not a definitive backup. The second big question mark has to do with mental toughness. Romo, in my estimation, grew exponentially in this area last year, but must be able to demonstrate that same sense of urgency and passion to command this offense even in difficult situations.
On defense the Cowboys should continue their dominance of last year. Not only will Ware, Spencer, Ratliff and Brooking continue their brilliance, but many of the young players drafted from last year will be able to contribute more and provide more rest for Ware and Spencer, both of which are sure to face relentless double teams. Alan Ball will be the only new starter on this unit and in coverage will be a definite upgrade over Ken Hamlin. He may not provide the same run support as did Hamlin, but the Cowboys management decided that their front seven was strong enough against the run, to use their free safety primarily in coverage and not about any potential deficit in run support.
The other big question mark for this years’ Cowboys comes on special teams. Most Cowboys fans know who David Buehler is from his time as Dallas’ kickoff man last year. However, this year he is expected to take over the lead duties kicking field and will be the only kicker on Dallas’ roster this season. Thus far in preseason, this is looking to be a move in the right direction, but time will only tell for sure. The drafting of Dez Bryant will help on punt and possibly kick returns.
And of course, any evaluation of the Cowboys would be incomplete without questioning the coaching staff. Will Wade Phillips call any stupid and unnecessary time outs (see the Denver game last year)? Will Jason Garrett be able to make good use of the talent given to him or will they continue to squander talent on the bench (see Miles Austin until Roy Williams was hurt). Only time will tell what this season holds, but the Cowboys definitely enter this year with a lot of promise and as usual high expectations