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dallas cowboys strengths | The DC Times

The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football


Dallas Cowboys’ Five Biggest Weaknesses Heading Into 2010 Season

Last week, I posted the Cowboys’ five biggest strengths heading into the 2010 season.  Those are the primary reasons that Dallas is favored by many to win the NFC.  Here is what could potentially bring them down. . .
5.  The schedule

Playing in the NFC East, the Cowboys’ schedule is always difficult.  Road trips to Philadelphia, New York, and Washington are intense no matter the teams’ records.  This year, two of those games (at Washington and at Philly) bookend the schedule.

Further, November and December, as always, are going to be chaotic.  Check out this string of games: @GB, @NYG, DET, NO, @IND, PHI, WSH, @ARZ, @PHI.  Holy crap.  Only one “sure” win in the bunch.

Rebuttal: Each NFC East team plays 12 of the same teams.  They each play each other twice, so only two games really separate each team’s schedule.

Also, the start of the Cowboys’ schedule is relatively easy.  The opener will be difficult, but games against Chicago, Houston, and Tennessee are all very winnable, meaning Dallas has the potential to start off well.

4. Immeasurable pressure

The expectations this season are through the roof.  The last time this happened, Dallas stumbled to a 9-7 finish and missed the playoffs.  As if the regular pressures of playing for the Dallas Cowboys aren’t enough, there’s also the home Super Bowl.  Anything short of a championship is a failure. . .can any other team really say that?

Rebuttal: Every team and every player has pressure on them to perform.  These are professional athletes.  For the majority of them, the most pressure they feel is internal.

Perhaps additional external pressure isn’t a bad thing either.  Extra pressure to practice hard.  Extra pressure to play hard.

3.  Field goals

Making field goals is important.  Very important.  The distribution of talent among NFL teams is more spread out now than ever before, meaning doing the “little things” adds up to big-time success.

The difference between a poor field goal kicker and a great one is huge–about a win per season, according to my calculations.  In the NFC East, an extra win is monumental.

The Cowboys would like Buehler to win the job (against himself), but even if they bring in a veteran, that is no guarantee of accuracy on field goals.

Rebuttal: David Buehler has looked very good in the preseason.  He is six-of-seven on field goals and is still driving the ball through the back of the end zone on kickoffs.  More importantly, he’s got the right mindset to succeed.  His confidence may be unparalleled for a kicker, and that mentality will help him rebound from poor kicks.

2.  Predictability on offense

This is a controversial subject.  Many of you believe that predictability doesn’t matter, or at least not that much.  What counts is execution.

While I don’t discredit the importance of players’ ability and efficient execution, intelligent, innovative play-calling, in my opinion, is just as imperative.  Yes, players could theoretically execute each play to perfection, but that isn’t going to happen.

Instead, each play has a certain chance of working.  It is the offensive coordinator’s responsibility to dial up plays that have the highest success rate in certain circumstances.  It is illogical to blame players for failing to execute on a play with a potential success rate of only 10 percent when another play with a 70 percent potential success rate could have been called.

I’ve previously detailed why Jason Garrett is anything but unpredictable in his play-calling, from his use of draws and playaction passes to his play variation from certain formations to his second down play-calling.  You can’t tell me it isn’t an advantage for a defensive coordinator to know that the Cowboys run a strong side dive 85.7 percent of the time they motion into “Double Tight Strong” or pass the ball a ridiculous 98.4 percent of the time from “Gun Trips.”

Rebuttal: The players must execute, no matter the play-call.  It doesn’t matter if a defense knows what play is coming if they can’t stop it.

Note: I obviously don’t agree with this rebuttal and place an extreme emphasis on the importance of play-calling.  It is very rare for an NFL team to not be able to stop a play if they know it is coming.

1.  Offensive line depth (and age)

In my opinion, the offensive line is the key to the Cowboys’ success this season.  Nearly everything else is in place: the defense is stacked and the skill position players are the NFL’s best.

The age of the Dallas linemen may be showing itself, as right tackle Marc Colombo and left guard Kyle Kosier are already out.  Kosier will miss at least the first two regular season games as well.

While the starting linemen aren’t awful (despite what others might say, they are still at least adequate), the team will run into a lot of trouble if any of the starters get injured for an extended period of time.

Alex Barron is a solid backup left tackle, but who knows if he has the skill set to man the right side of the line as well.  If not, the Cowboys will have to rely on the unproven Robert Brewster in the event of another Colombo injury (or setback).

In the interior line, the Cowboys are even thinner.  Montrae Holland is decent at guard, but behind him the Cowboys are incredibly weak.  Backup guard/center Phil Costa has played well in the preseason, but that is against second-team defenses.  Do we really want to see him starting at a position as critical as center during the regular season?

Rebuttal: Perhaps we are getting greedy by expecting the Dallas backups to be starting-quality players.  The talent on this roster is so great that, just maybe, we’ve come to develop unrealistic expectations with the second and third-teamers.

Nonetheless, the Cowboys could be in trouble if multiple linemen go down this season.


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Dallas Cowboys’ Five Biggest Strengths Heading Into 2010 Season

Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys are loaded with talent this season and a popular pick by experts and casual fans alike to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.  The defense ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year and looks even better so far in the preseason.  The offense was second in yards in 2009 and just added a receiving threat that was arguably this draft’s most explosive offensive weapon.

It is the list of players (and coach) below, however, that makes up the core of the 2010 Cowboys.  Without further ado, the five biggest strengths for Dallas this season. . .

5. Coach Wade Phillips

Wade Phillips as a strength!?  You bet.  You won’t hear much of this on ESPN, but Phillips is the perfect coach for this Cowboys team.  He doesn’t yell a lot, but that’s not a bad thing.  It is actually a misnomer that players respond well to being screamed at. . .the illusion lies in the correlation/causation dichotomy I’ve talked about in the past.

In fact, Phillips non-aggressive approach allows the few times he does yell to actually mean something.  Going off into a tirade isn’t commonplace for Phillips, so when he does it, his message really gets across to the players.

Further, Phillips is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL.  The Cowboys were second in the NFL in total defense last season due in large part to Phillips taking over control.  Hopefully, he’s in Dallas to stay.

4. One of the league’s best cornerback trios

I ranked Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman third in my list of the league’s top starting cornerback duos.  Both players had All-Pro seasons in 2009.

I  provided Newman with a “B+” overall grade and Jenkins with an “A-” overall grade, putting them at 10th and 8th on the team in our overall rankings, respectively.

Although nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick struggled somewhat last season, he is still one of the better third cornerbacks in the league.  Don’t forget that he often gets picked on due to the caliber of play exhibited from Newman and Jenkins.

Scandrick has also been the team’s best cornerback thus far in the preseason.

3. The league’s top set of skill position players

Imagine the frustration of opposing defensive coordinators when they try to game plan for the 2010 Dallas Cowboys offense.  The running game is one of the league’s most efficient, so that must be contained first.  Do you focus on Marion Barber up the middle and in the passing game, or Felix Jones on counters and other misdirection plays?  What do you do about the Tashard Choice/Felix Jones combo in “Razorback” formation?

But won’t selling out to stop the run leave you vulnerable against pass?  Miles Austin’s presence alone, whether he is outside or in the slot, is enough to force defenses to play honestly.  Leave him single-covered and you risk getting beat deep on any one particular play.

How about the rookie?  We still need to see a lot from Dez Bryant, but every sign points to him being a legitimate threat on offense, even in his first season.  If you focus on Austin, Bryant surely has the skill set to beat you.

And then there’s Roy Williams.  Fans were undoubtedly uninspired from his play last season, but believe me when I say this man has regained his “swag.” I explained in a previous article why this isn’t a “new” Roy Williams, but instead, we are finally obtaining a glimpse of the “old” Roy Williams–the University of Texas variety.

Don’t forget Williams also scored seven touchdowns last year and is still a threat on in-breaking routes, such as slants and skinny posts.  His game should actually be a nice complement to that of Austin & Bryant.

So suppose you have the requisite defensive line and linebackers to somehow halt the run without placing a safety in the box.  You can just sit back in Cover Two and stop the outside receivers, right?

Not a chance.  Disregarding the fact that Austin figures to be a terror in the slot this season, the Cowboys also have another pass-catcher roaming the middle of the field.  His name is Jason Witten, and he’s been arguably Dallas’ most reliable receiver over the last few seasons.  He hauled in 94 balls last year and he’s the final guy I’m mentioning. . .pretty scary stuff, huh?  Don’t forget the Cowboys also figure to utilize Witten more in the red zone this season.

2.  DeMarcus Ware & Anthony Spencer

If my “A” and “A-” overall grades for Ware and Spencer didn’t show how important they are to the ‘Boys, perhaps my ranking of the top 105 players in the NFL did.

Either way, the dominance of Ware and Spencer make the jobs of the men at No. 4 on this list much easier.  Ware led the league in pressures (by far) and Spencer set the pace for quarterback hits (by far).

Further, both players are outstanding against the run.  The importance of their presence cannot be overstated.

1. Tony Romo

I’ve used the following Michael Irvin quote a few times in various articles, but it really sums up my feelings on Romo:

Can we get Drew Bledsoe back out here (for) just a week so you guys can really fall back in love with Tony? Let’s put Drew Bledsoe back out here, because sometimes when you have a pretty girl for awhile, you forget how pretty she is. But when you throw the ugly girl next to her, you say, ‘No, I’m really doing well.’ Maybe we need to bring Drew out so we know we’re really doing well.

And Romo really is the “pretty girl” at the party.  How so?

Well, I could try to impress you with Romo’s 4,483 yards or 26:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but the truth is, Romo just needs to do what it takes to win in 2010.

And he’s done that in the past, posting an incredible 38-17 record to date. Of course, as fans, we want playoff wins.   We expect Romo to get to the playoffs.  But let’s not forget that these expectations only result from our overwhelming confidence in Romo.

Did we expect the same for Quincy Carter or Chad Hutchinson?  How about Ryan Leaf? Clint Stoerner?  Drew Henson?   How about the incomparable Brad Johnson, whose three-game stint in 2008 (should have) showed us how important Tony Romo is to the Dallas Cowboys.

This time, let’s not wait for a Romo injury before we realize his importance.  It’s easy to call for the backup when things aren’t going as planned, but true fans–the loyal ones–stick by their guy during times of adversity.  On which side of the fence will you be this season if the ‘Boys stumble out of the gate to a 4-4 start?  Will you be screaming for Kitna?  Or will you support your quarterback, knowing he is the most vital piece to the home Super Bowl puzzle?