We are less than two days away from season when the Dallas Cowboys visit Metlife Stadium to take on the defending Superbowl Champions. But before you can focus on the Giants, be sure to check out the Season Preview for your Dallas Cowboys.
Quarterbacks – This can be a make or break year for Tony Romo. There is speculation if the team doesn’t live up to the expectations of Jerry Jones then the owner would clean house including Romo and head coach Jason Garrett. Romo is a classic example of getting a lot of attention for both the highs and the lows. He is, without question, the field general and look for him to put up top-ten QB numbers.
Running backs – Demarco Murray is the real deal. If healthy, I am a huge believer in Demarco Murray. In the 13 games he played in 2011(seven starts), Murray rushed for 897 yards (5.5. average). Of his seven starts, Murray had five games where he rushed the ball over twenty times. He had breakout rush games of 253, 139, and 135 yards. He also adds another receiving option for Tony Romo out of the backfield. But an under-the-radar signing this past off season was the signing of fullback Lawrence Vickers. All Vickers has done is help block the way for 1,000th yard rushers (See Jamal Lewis in 07’, Peyton Hillis in 10’, and Arian Foster last season). If Murray is to get hurt, Felix Jones would need to step up.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends – Laurent Robinson is now in Jacksonville meaning Kevin Olgetree will need to step up in the slot position as the third wide receiver. But the major concern here is the health of Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Witten is Romo’s favorite target and a healthy Austin gives a legitimate number two receiver opposite of Dez Bryant. Even the health of Bryant has been tested this preseason with a knee injury. The health of these receivers will go a long way in telling how the Cowboys season goes.
Offensive Line – This may be the biggest question mark for the whole team. The offensive line has gone into a total overhaul. Tyron Smith (LT) and Doug Free (RT) have switched tackle positions. Free agent veteran signings Nate Livings (LG) and Mackenzy Bernadeau (RG) were signed to multi-year deals and center Phil Costa is the only lineman returning to his 2011 position. That might sound good to a fan’s ear but this group of offensive lineman have not all played together once in the preseason. Bernadeau missed the start of training camp after undergoing offseason hip and knee surgeries and Livingston suffered a hamstring injury in camp. There cohesiveness will be tested, when we see them as a whole on Wednesday.
Front Seven – DeMarcus Ware is back to lead a strong linebacker core that includes Ware and Anthony Spencer on the outside and a pair of two Linebacker U (Penn State) tackling machines in Dan Connor and Sean Lee. Add those four with a front three of Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff, and Jason Hatcher and you have a group that looks to improve on a group that ranked 7thin rush defense, allowing less than 100 yards a game.
Secondary – The Cowboys went into the offseason wanting to improve on their 2011 23rd ranked pass defense. So the Cowboys went out and signed Brandon Carr (5 years/$50 million) and drafted LSU’s Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys are now set with Carr and Claiborne on the outsides with Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins to be used in nickel situations. This was a huge upgrade for the team that has to cover the likes of in-division receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Jeremy Maclin, and Desean Jackson.
X-Factor – Romo’s Weapons – The weapons for Tony Romo need to be healthy. Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant need to be on the field and have to produce. The Cowboys offense can be a top five offense with the variety of options they have. But if Derrick Dockery (4th WR) and John Phillips (2nd TE) are Romo’s main options, then this can be a long season for Dallas.
How They’ll Finish – I’m not buying the Eagles hype, so it’s a two team race for the NFC East crown. Playing the AFC North and NFC South won’t help a schedule that already includes the NFC East opponents twice but as the saying goes “You have to beat the best, to be the best.” I see them finishing 9-7 with a Wild Card berth as the Giants take the NFC East crown.
What do you think of the 2012 Season Preview? Are the Cowboys better than 9-7? Worse? You tell me…