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30 Jul 2012

Andy Benoit Previews the Cowboys

by Andy Benoit

(Ed. Note: Thanks to The New York Times for allowing us to re-run Andy Benoit's annual team previews. Please be aware that these previews are more scouting-oriented than what we run in Football Outsiders Almanac 2012, and they represent one man's opinion so they may differ from the forecast from our statistical team projection system. -- Aaron Schatz)

It’s same ol’, same ol’ at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys enter 2012 as a talented team with high expectations and a taste of disappointment after last season. The pressure, as usual, is thick.

Because the Cowboys have mastered the art of underachievement, few people these days say this is their year. Instead, people say this is supposed to be their year. There has been a lot of talk about players needing to step up, leaders needing to emerge, potential needing to be realized, etc.

In May, Jerry Jones got in on the action, acknowledging that his team’s window is closing. That fits the hype, but not the reality. The Cowboys’ star-studded offense is led by a quarterback who is 32 but only has six years of mileage on him. Tony Romo’s top receiver, Miles Austin, is 28. Budding star receiver (fingers crossed on off-field matters) Dez Bryant is 23. Budding star running back DeMarco Murray is 24. The offensive line is young at the two most important positions -– left tackle Tyron Smith is 21, center Phil Costa is 24 –- and under 31 everywhere else. Defensively, Dallas’s entire front line is in its prime. Declining inside linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking have been replaced by 24-year-old Bruce Carter and 26-year-old Dan Connor. The star that Carter and Connor will play alongside, Sean Lee, just turned 26. At cornerback, the disintegrating Terence Newman is out, while first-round rookie Morris Claiborne and 26-year-old blockbuster free agent pickup Brandon Carr are in.

Deep down, what Jones probably meant when he said the window is closing was: "This is once again a super talented team —- no way in heck I’m going to stand for 8-8 again." From this, one might surmise that Coach Jason Garrett is on the hot seat. Garrett, a former backup to Troy Aikman, was a familiar name who soared through the coaching ranks a few years ago. When he was promoted to Wade Phillips’s position in 2010, many assumed the Cowboys were getting one of those "energizing, innovative young coaches." Some insiders, however, whispered that Garrett, like Phillips, is much closer to being a Jerry Jones henchman than a Parcellsian trailblazer.

Who knows what’s true? The effect a coach’s personality has on a team is hard to accurately analyze from afar. What can be analyzed, though, is Garrett’s approach and performance as a strategist. From the occasional game-management blunder (see timeout usage in the loss at Arizona last season) to the sometimes-predictable nature of the offense (see play-calling late in the loss at New England), he has certainly left himself open to criticism at times. Really, the only thing saving Garrett from intense media scrutiny heading into this season is the public’s renewed appetite for picking apart his quarterback. Makes sense – that quarterback will most likely determine how far this team goes.

OFFENSE

Football America’s hot new word these days is elite. It came into vogue last season with Eli Manning. Manning killed the ensuing "is he or isn’t he?" debate as quickly as he inadvertently started it by leading the Giants to a second Super Bowl title in five years. But instead of just putting the whole "elite" topic in storage and moving on, Football America has eagerly renewed it for Tony Romo.

To debate whether or not Romo is "elite" is to debate the meaning of the word "elite" as much as anything. What’s true is Romo is a better quarterback now than he’s ever been. He has shown improvements in his presnap recognition and postsnap decisions, which has helped make him a more comfortable pocket passer. He has always had a fast release and impressive ability to quickly gather his mechanics in making athletic throws off movement. These are not common traits.

True, Romo has had some gaffes in "clutch" situations. Some of those gaffes, like the interception to Darrelle Revis in Week 1 last year, have been a product of clever defensive strategy. Others, like the two missed throws late in the Week 14 loss to the Giants, have been the product of Romo playing too fast. But Romo’s errors tend to be overanalyzed and overblown.

Less talked about is Romo’s toughness and poise when playing hurt, and his raw playmaking ability -– both traits he displayed in spades last season. For Dallas’s offense to take the significant leaps forward, Romo must, obviously, display those traits on an even more regular basis. Part of the reason Garrett’s system has looked simplistic at times is he’s had to scale things back to help keep Romo comfortable. Though that may sound somewhat limiting, you could also argue that it’s smart coaching and part of the reason Romo threw for over 4,000 yards and had 31 touchdowns versus just 10 interceptions last season. Also, where a scaled-back approach was once the norm in Big D, it has recently become more of a fallback option.

It helps that Romo has a quality cast around him. It’s actually a cast built for a more balanced, vanilla approach. With minimal receiving depth behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (fourth-year pro Kevin Ogletree will compete with fifth-round rookie Danny Coale and a slew of undrafted youngsters for slot receiver duties), the Cowboys spend a lot of time in two-backs or two-tight-end personnel. What prevents this old-fashioned model from becoming outdated is the respect defenses have for tight end Jason Witten’s receiving.

Witten’s old-school, lumbering style makes him look somewhat archaic in this age of Rob Gronkowskis and Jimmy Grahams. But in the moments of truth, defenses again and again build their coverages around double teaming the 10th-year pro (especially when he lines up in the slot). This, of course, makes life easier on Austin (one of the smoothest route runners in football), and it should open more downfield opportunities for Bryant. Bryant, however, needs to mature and establish better chemistry with Romo. He’s as gifted as any receiver in the league, yet he was targeted five or fewer times in five different games last season.

A balanced, two-back/two-tight end offense that’s built around a gritty but somewhat unathletic tight end needs to have a viable run game. With 2008 first-round pick Felix Jones clearly lacking the durability to be an everydown back, the Cowboys have shifted their focus to last year’s third-round pick, DeMarco Murray. The 221-pounder showed improved lateral agility and downhill burst as his rookie season progressed. Unlike Jones, Murray doesn’t have sensational acceleration in his first step, which means a lot of his runs require the services of a lead-blocker. Hence the signing of Pro Bowl-caliber veteran Lawrence Vickers. Vickers helped escort Peyton Hillis to 1,100-plus yards in 2010 and Arian Foster to 1,200-plus yards in 13 games last year. Murray, if he can stay healthy (he broke his ankle last December), has the explosiveness to post those kind of numbers.

Murray is capable of also handling third-down duties. He’s an adept receiver and short-area route runner, and he has a precocious grasp on pass protection. Don’t expect the Cowboys to give him all the third-down snaps, though. Jones, while fragile, has too much game-changing speed to ignore. He’s superb on draws (a staple play in Dallas’s offense) and at turning upfield as a swing receiver in the flat. And if (or when) Jones gets hurt, the Cowboys can comfortably give some of Murray’s third-down snaps to darting second-year undrafted pro Phillip Tanner.

Vickers will most likely share snaps with backup tight end John Phillips, a versatile move player who can motion in and out of the backfield or line up along the line of scrimmage. To help pad the depth around Phillips in the wake of Martellus Bennett’s departure, the Cowboys spent a sixth-round pick on Oklahoma’s James Hanna.

Romo & Co. shouldn’t be short-circuited by many blocking breakdowns in 2012, though that’s not to say the Cowboys have a completely reassuring offensive line. Last year’s first-round pick, Tyron Smith, has the natural tools to one day be the best left tackle in football, but he’s still early in the process of honing his pass-blocking technique. Smith is moving to the left side this season, flipping spots with Doug Free, another fine athlete but also someone who struggled far too much with body control in pass protection last year. (It’d be interesting to see if Jerry Jones would have given Free a contract worth $17 million in guarantees last July if he’d known how much Free would struggle in 2011.)

Inside, third-year center Phil Costa occasionally has trouble holding ground against bigger defensive linemen, but most centers do. Overall, Costa held up well in his first full season as a starter. He now has the challenge of playing between the free-agent pickups Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, who make up perhaps the most underwhelming guard duo in the league. Given Livings’s inconsistency with the Bengals and the fact that Bernadeau, a backup for three of his four years in Carolina, is coming off off-season hip surgery, it wouldn’t be a shock to see fourth-round rookie David Arkin crack the starting lineup at some point. Also, the Cowboys are said to be very high on undrafted rookie Ronald Leary, who got some first-team reps in off-season camps. Both youngsters have a chance to beat out incumbent Bill Nagy, who, even before his season-ending ankle fracture last October, lacked power as a run-blocker.

DEFENSE

Though much scrutiny is reserved for Romo and Garrett, the reality is it was Dallas’s defense -– which, like the offense, ranked in the middle of the pack in scoring and yardage -– that was most responsible for last season’s disappointment. This team would have won the East if not for its feeble secondary. It also didn’t help that Cowboys defenders, coming off a lockout-shortened off-season, had to learn a multitude of different positions and assignments in Rob Ryan’s immense system.

Obviously, having a full slate of OTAs and minicamps should take care of the preparation issues. More significantly, the aggressive moves by Jerry Jones and his increasingly active heir, Stephen Jones, should take care of the secondary issues. In March, the Joneses released fast-declining cornerback Terence Newman. They used part of the ensuing cap savings to sign Chiefs free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr, a rising press-man defender who has more than enough physicality to warrant his $26.5 million (guaranteed) contract. This move alone may have been enough to salvage the defense. But instead of banking on former Pro Bowler Michael Jenkins -– whose play, thanks to inconsistent technique, has tailed off over the past two years –- the Joneses traded up in the draft to select prized corner Morris Claiborne at No. 6. Jenkins, if not traded, will now spend his contract year behind emerging slot corner Orlando Scandrick.

A pair of press corners can do wonders for Dallas’s scheme. Rob Ryan, like his father Buddy and brother Rex, believes that the key to successful defense is winning early in the down. To win early in the down, you must immediately disrupt the (offensive) timing and rhythm. The objective is to force your opponent to play a more random, disorganized brand of football, leading to turnovers and incompletions. Jamming receivers is a big part of this –- especially when there are blitzes or confusing presnap looks designed for creating a misguided expectation of pressure.

Now that Ryan has two corners he can, theoretically, trust in press-man coverage, he has more liberty to use his safeties as blitzers and extra run defenders. (This is something Ryan’s brother, who has the privilege of coaching Revis, does extremely well.) To help, Ryan acquired one of his brother’s safeties, Brodney Pool. The fluid centerfielder is a comfortable open-space athlete and decent tackler. At strong safety is Gerald Sensabaugh, another standout athlete (he has a plus-40-inch vertical leap).

Because Ryan often puts safeties in the box, don’t expect the meager-tackling Jenkins to get moved to this position. Even if Pool or Sensabaugh were to become unavailable, it might make more sense to invest snaps in fourth-round rookie safety Matt Johnson. Johnson, along with Barry Church, should get meaningful snaps anyway because another staple of a Ryan defense is having a vast array of personnel in sub packages.

The usual centerpiece of the pass-rushing concepts up front is, obviously, DeMarcus Ware. Ryan often uses the eighth-year superstar in the same manner that Wade Phillips used him: as a weakside rusher. In Dallas’s base 3-4, and in many of their nickel and dime packages that feature a de facto four-man front, Ware aligns on the open side of the formation (opposite the tight end), which creates more one-on-one matchups.

Ryan’s defense isn’t meant to be built around just one guy, of course (though if it were, it might still work, given that Ware leads the NFL with 80 sacks over the past five years). Ryan makes great use of his secondary as blitzers (Scandrick is particularly adept in this realm). He also has a respectable, albeit up-and-down, pass-rusher in Anthony Spencer (whose best strength is actually playside run-stopping), and he has defensive linemen like Jason Hatcher, and especially Jay Ratliff, who can penetrate. Still, the Cowboys would presumably like to get more pass-rushing production across the board; they ranked tied for seventh in the league with 42 sacks last season, but 19.5 of them came from Ware.

It’s up to Spencer to step forward. The front office is taking a wait-and-see approach with the former first-round pick after slapping him with an $8.8 million franchise tag. To hedge a bit, they invested a fourth-round pick in Kyle Wilber, though in the immediate future, the Wake Forest product figures to challenge only backup outside linebacker Victor Butler for playing time.

One round before acquiring Wilbur, the Cowboys snagged Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford. Crawford, built like a base end, figures to push the much-maligned Marcus Spears for playing time. Spears, who has always been unjustly criticized by fans who don’t realize that his job is to anchor against the run more than to pressure the quarterback, is expecting to have a bounce-back season now that he’s moved from right defensive end back to his natural left spot. If he maintains his roster spot -– which he should, though the five-year contract he signed last season was low on guaranteed money, making him easy to cut -– he’ll still share plenty of his snaps with Crawford, as well as the subtly powerful Sean Lissemore and ex-Brown Kenyon Coleman (a Ryan favorite).

Cornerback was not the only area of weakness this defense addressed over the off-season. Inside linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking were falling fast and becoming significant liabilities in coverage. Both are gone, replaced by 2011 second-round pick Bruce Carter and Dan Connor. Carter is a sensational athlete who, now more than 18 months removed from ACL surgery, has a chance to fully emerge. Connor, a free agent from Carolina, is a highly underrated between-the-tackles thumper who can become a fan favorite if he stays healthy. Connor will only play first and second downs, as Sean Lee, an elite intermediate pass defender (and versatile all-around force), is one of the five best nickel inside ‘backers in football.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Undrafted second-year pro Chris Jones will continue to fill in at punter until Mat McBriar fully recovers from his "drop foot" injury. Jones punted 10 times last season, averaging 42.6 yards per boot. Kicker Dan Bailey was an impressive 32-of-37 on field goals in 2011, missing just one inside 40 yards. In the return game, there’s much debate about whether it’s safe to put Dez Bryant back on punts. Generally, everyone has been O.K. with it ... until Bryant gets hurt. Hindsight is convenient. Foresight says it could be wise to give Bryant, one of the most explosive weapons in football, punt returns just because those few extra touches could placate him enough so that he’ll take it easy on Romo in the huddle. Nine players returned kicks for the Cowboys last year. Garrett might as well roll the dice there, too, and let the fragile but lethal Felix Jones have the job.

BOTTOM LINE

As usual, the talent is here. Defensively, the improvements at cornerback should lead to a breakout year. The questions pertain to coaching and consistency in the passing game. If those are answered, this is a Super Bowl contender.

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 30 Jul 2012

26 comments, Last at 16 Mar 2013, 8:32am by Www.bondandmayfair.com

Comments

1
by DavidL :: Mon, 07/30/2012 - 5:39pm

McBriar might recover from the foot injury, but he seems to have contracted a case of signed-with-another-team.

2
by theslothook :: Mon, 07/30/2012 - 7:48pm

I feel bad for all the teams in the nfc east. I actually think on paper, the giants, eagles, and cowboys are all very talented and unlike say the patriots, ravens, or packers, these three teams have major talent on both sides of the ball. Inevitably, though, its going to be tough to expect all three teams to make it to the postseason despite their talent.

I feel like the eagles have the most talent on paper, the giants, despite winning the sb, actually underachieved last year to go 9-7 when they are clearly a much better team than their 9-7 record. And finally, as andy mentioned, the cowboys have major talented and seemingly shored up the big huge weakness(corner play), that plagued them last year.

The jockeying between the three teams will be a fascinating watch and i feel bad for anyone who has to face the nfc east this year. With that said, i think the cowboys will be the odd man out.

20
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 08/01/2012 - 9:56pm

I don't feel very bad at all for a division that seems to be routinely underperforming, even if one of them did win the last Super Bowl. The NFC East gets overhyped by the media regardless of performance anyway.

3
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 6:29am

This seems like a very positive preview of the Cowboys. The mess on the interior of the offensive line is glossed over and the safeties are a "standout athlete" and a "fluid center fielder". I've never been blown away by Sensabaugh's athleticism, maybe he is a great athlete but it hasn't translated to the field. Another description of the pair of them would be 'journeymen', if they are so good then why didn't their original teams sign them and why aren't they being paid more at when decent safeties are so thin on the ground?

Am I the only person who thinks that Sean Lee is going to be a three down player for them? He's a great talent.

This Dallas side reminds me of a more talented version of the Snyder era Redskins; there are some really good players but there are also some major holes that could hurt them.

4
by Cowboys Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 7:46am

You're right with regard to the interior offensive line and the safeties. Phil Costa, the starting center last year and likely this year, was below average. Brodney Pool might not make the team, and descriptions of his play last year strike me as anything but "fluid centerfielder."

Sean Lee is already a three down player, and clearly the best defender behind DeMarcus Ware. Speaking of ILBs, the new personnel there as much as at CB will determine the improvement of the pass defense. James/Brooking practically defined "washed up" last season. Connor is a better player than either of them. If Bruce Carter can play, and the organization seems high on his ability both against the pass and run, then Dallas has one of the best ILB groups in the league.

Dallas is counting on a number of 2nd and 3rd year players, along with a few free agent signings, to improve their weaknesses on the offensive line and in the pass defense (Dez Bryant included, although he doesn't fit those areas). As a fan, I can see why some people might think they would be a Super Bowl contender. As a neutral observer, it's also easy to see enough "maybes" and potential holes on the team to think that they're good but not good enough for contention.

5
by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 12:40pm

For years, one of the most consistently overrated things in the NFL has been the supposedly "talented Cowboys' roster". Guess what? When you can't pass block and can't cover receivers, in the NFL, your roster isn't very talented. Ironically, the guy who gets the most criticism, Romo, really is pretty talented, even if he has his flaws.

Well, there's been quite a bit of turnover the last couple years, so perhaps things are ready to match the conventional wisdom, but as noted above, the interior offensive line is still in question, and the secondary hasn't proven itself yet, even if it seems they should be much better, just by subtracting Newman.

6
by Lance :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 1:02pm

You are being a little harsh, Will. While Dallas has lacked in OL play and DB play, they've been pretty solid elsewhere-- QB (I think Romo is much better than average), RB, WR (including Whitten, who seems to be overlooked in TE discussions), DL (could use help) and LB (especially now).

I'd agree: let's wait and see on the revamped OL. But I can't imagine that the DBs are going to be anything but better than what we've had the last few years. I just wish Jenkins were playing better and would understand that having 3 quality CBs-- even if one isn't a regular starter-- can be a valuable component to success in the modern NFL

7
by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 1:20pm

The NFL is a passing league. If you can't pass block, and don't have HOF quality quarterbacking (and I like Romo quite a bit) in terms of getting rid of the ball quickly without egregious turnovers, and you don't cover the opponent's receivers, then you are by definition poorly equipped to win 9 games or more, to saying nothing of the playoffs. That just isn't a very talented roster.

Things may change quite a bit now, given the roster turnover. 2011 was already a big improvement, in terms of tackle play.

9
by t.d. :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 1:32pm

Oh, I think they are much better equipped to cover the opponents receivers than they were last season, which frees up Ryan to run his system without having to compensate for washed up guys they were obliged to play. Rob Ryan doesn't have the track record his brother has at producing elite defenses, but I think this is the first defense he's coordinated that doesn't have glaring talent deficiencies at any spot, so I think it's got the potential to be outstanding. We'll see

12
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 2:33pm

2009, to me, was their peak. 2007 they might have had more talent, but I do think their defensive talent has slowly been eroding since 2009. Jay Ratliff isn't close to what he was then. The LB corp has regressed (other than Sean Lee, who I quite like). Ware is still a beast, and Hatcher and Spencer had decent seasons.

I think the preview wildly overstates the Cowboys personnel in the secondary. Pool and Sensabaugh really are not good enough to get all that far. With the new TE-heavy offenses coming up around the league, LB and Safety coverage play is becoming more important, and I don't think Sensebaugh and Pool really cut it. Claiborne is good, but rookie corners are wildly inconsistent and hard to predict. Carr is a nice signing I guess.

To me, the Cowboys are at best a 10-11 win team, and probably, because of a really tough division, and an out-oc-division that includes the NFC South (two good teams, one up-and-coming team that could be this years Detroit and one wild card) as well as the AFC North (Probably the strongest division in the AFC), I would probably say 8-9 wins.

13
by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 2:46pm

I hated that 2009 team when pass blocking. I know they had some strengths in straight ahead drive blocking, but I just can't stand immobile, old, offensive linemen who ring up penalties. If Romo wasn't so mobile and accurate when moving, that team might not have won 7 games.

14
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 2:53pm

They weren't great at pass blocking, but we've seen teams in recent years have a lot of success and even win Super Bowls ('08 Steelers, '10 Packers, '11 Giants - '09 Colts and '10 Steelers in losses) with average to below average pass-blocking (and in many cases, run blocking lines).

15
by Cowboys Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 3:28pm

The LB corp is better. Ware and Spencer are the same. Lee is much better than 2009 James/Brooking/Carpenter. Dan Connor might be better than the 2009 versions of those players too (and at worst is probably Brooking's equal). Bruce Carter is the wildcard.

What really eroded was the play at CB. Jenkins was good most of 2009 and Newman was competent. Since then Jenkins has been alternately bad or injured, and Newman probably doesn't belong in the NFL any longer.

Your comments on the current secondary are spot on, although I think more highly of Carr.

16
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 3:40pm

I wasn't sure about the LBs, but I can see your point about this current group being better. I do think teh DL is worse now. Ratliff just isn't the guy he was two years ago, at least when I watch him. Hatcher is about the same, I guess. Didn't they also have Olshansky and Marcus Spears? Not sure how good they were back then.

Either way, I think the defense is set up to be worse in 2011 than it was in 2009, while the offense might be better, but probably not much so.

8
by t.d. :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 1:25pm

also there's the factor of time-you can't address every deficiency at once. The one glaring deficiency they still have, from a couple of years ago, is the oline. Even there, they've managed to turn over three positions to youngish starters, so, as long as Romo's prime lasts a couple more years, they're set up to have one of the soundest lineups in the NFL, top to bottom. Hell, these days there's plenty of evidence that even with a flawed roster, if you can get into the tournament, you have a shot
/as a Cowboys fan it stings that we were probably better than the Giants in both 2007 and 2011, but a couple of drops (Crayton in '07, Austin last year) determined which team would advance
//don't hate the Giants, though
///my biggest relief was that it appeared in the worst of the Dave Campo era that the Cowboys were stuck with lousy talent evaluators. Question the post Parcells coaching all you like, but the talent evaluation has continued to hit home runs even with BP in retirement

11
by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 2:32pm

Yeah, aside from downplaying the two major problems that have killed the Cowboys year after year and offering a ridiculous analysis of their talent at the safety position and offering no stats whatsoever and just speculative opinion, this really was pretty good article on why Cowboys might possibly be an ok team.

Awful stuff here. I feel like I'm reading something on NFL.com

10
by t.d. :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 1:41pm

Oh,and beyond anything else, I wanted to wish Mr Benoit a hearty ' welcome to the team'. Good article

17
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 7:15pm

In other Cowboys related news, there is this:

“I’ve been here 23 years. I’ve been here when it was glory hole days and I’ve been here when it wasn’t,” Jones said. “And, so, having said that, I want me some glory hole. So I have that perspective.”

Now we know why Jerry Jones always seems to have a smile on his face.

18
by Temo :: Wed, 08/01/2012 - 9:53am

To be fair, glory hole is a well known oil drilling term.

To be unfair, oil drilling. hehe

19
by Erik T (not verified) :: Wed, 08/01/2012 - 10:41am

Great article as always, but it seems to be contrary to the estimated and pythagoran wins FOA calculated for the 2012 Cowboys. FOA has been within 1 win or less in their predictions of Cowboys wins since 2008, so I while I like the overall optimistic tone of this column, the math says otherwise. I am so confused about this team's outlook.

21
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 08/01/2012 - 10:13pm

I'd go beyond Karl Cuba and say that this is a very optimistic review of the Cowboys. First, I find it remarkable that he talks about Romo's 'gaffes' without mentioning his 3-INT performance that blew a 3-TD lead against the Lions in 2011. I think this is the kind of performance that makes fans question his fortitude, despite his obvious abilities.

Second, Miles Austin was not really Dallas' best WR last year - that was Laurent Robinson, who has departed the scene. So it's left for Austin and hopefully Bryant is mature enough to not get himself arrested again for stealing things he could easily afford.

They've addressed the OL a little but there is still lots of mediocrity there. The LBs are very good -- Sean Lee is fantastic, and Ware is the heart of the pass rush. The secondary is probably a bit better with Brandon Carr but one good corner does not a secondary make.

In my eyes, the Cowboys have improved a bit over an 8-8 team but not enough to make them an 11-12 win team.

22
by Erik T (not verified) :: Thu, 08/02/2012 - 1:28pm

Dez has never been arrested for stealing anything.

23
by Dean :: Thu, 08/02/2012 - 2:51pm

Give him a week.

24
by Romo Apologist (not verified) :: Thu, 08/02/2012 - 4:45pm

>>First, I find it remarkable that he talks about Romo's 'gaffes' without mentioning his 3-INT performance that blew a 3-TD lead against the Lions in 2011. I think this is the kind of performance that makes fans question his fortitude, despite his obvious abilities.

If you're going to count that against him (and you should) you have to give him credit for the comeback against the Niners, when he won the game basically by himself with two broken ribs.

25
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 08/07/2012 - 9:11pm

I'll give him credit for having the guts to go back in there and finish the game, but I don't give too much credit or debit to teams playing in week 1, especially when one or both teams has a new head coach.

Don't get me wrong -- I think Romo is a good, accurate passer. But it seems he's always suffered from inconsistent performance. I just highlighted the Lions game because it seemed like a bigger meltdown that what happened against the Giants.

26
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