DALLAS COWBOYS PREVIEW
June 22, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
KELCI BAKER, EIHSS SPORTS
Dallas Cowboys Preview
Last year: 8-8, 3rd in NFC East, missed playoffs
Despite the Cowboys not making the playoffs in two years, Jason Garrett feels like they're headed in the right direction. With all of their roster changes, this team has ended up young at linebacker, offensive line and in the secondary. True leaders and stars still pack the team including quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Miles Austin, tight end Jason Witten and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. These guys were the reason the team achieved the 2009 NFC East title and its first playoff win since the 1996 season. One victory short of making the playoffs puts a damper on how great Tony Romo has been. He played the best football of his career and ranked among the top quarterbacks in the league at the end of last season. All of the same, the momentum from that ending is what the Cowboys hope to maintain going in to 2012 game play.
Getting better with age is Romo (32) and with the best season of his career in 2011 (31 TD’s 10 INT’s), he's definitely a force to be reckoned with. Under offensive coordinator Garrett and his timing-based passing scheme style, Witten has led the Cowboys in receptions the last six years. Dangerous when healthy are receivers Dez Bryant and Austin. One who could possibly give them their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006 is the Cowboys featured back DeMarco Murray. Questions arise about the third wide receiver. After injuries took out Brant and Austin, Laurent Robinson took the opportunity and grabbed 11 TD passes last year, and he left as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Someone has to fill the role. Unfortunately, Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris are too underwhelming to make the cut.
The NFL lockout didn't give the team much time to adjust from Wade Phillips' 3-4 defensive scheme to Rob Ryan's more complex version of the defensive style. Training camp and the offseason should make them more comfortable. Despite the difficulties, DeMarcus Ware was still able to get away with an impressive 19.5 sacks, second in the league. Showing himself as not only a leader but a playmaker is second-year linebacker Sean Lee. With first-round pick Morris Claiborne and the free agent signing of Brandon Carr, the Cowboys turned what was a weakness at cornerback into a strength. What they still need is someone to pass-rush opposite Ware. Linebacker Anthony Spencer may be making $8.8 million as a franchise player, but he has never had more than six sacks in a season. Unable to go that route, the Cowboys have drafted linebacker Kyle Wilbur in the fourth round. There's still question about play at the safety position and Brodney Pool is more of a quick fix than a long-term answer.
After kicker Dan Bailey made 32 of 38 field-goal attempts as a rookie last season, three of those being game winning kicks, the Cowboys have no concerns in that area. Coordinator Joe DeCamillis has another question on his hands. Who will be the punter? Former Pro Bowler Mat McBriar is unlikely to return after having offseason surgery on his plant leg. Not the best, but decent at the position is Chris Jones.
Garrett's job, no matter the outcome of the upcoming season, is firmly intact. At least that's what the Cowboys have said but they don't expect to go three consecutive years without a playoff appearance. Owner Jerry Jones has faith in Garrett's style and philosophy but now it's time to go on a playoff run. Short of that, there aren't too many things to look forward to in Dallas.
2012 Draft Recap
Seven new players were picked in the draft to become Dallas Cowboys but the star of them all is CB Morris Clairborne from LSU. Giving up a second round pick to move from 14th to sixth in the first round, Clairborne was the highest ranked defensive player on the board. He was always the second-highest-rated player and according to owner Jerry Jones, he was graded out the highest cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders. He'll help the Cowboys in a major way, not only being available as a cover guy, but also a playmaker. He'll help improve a secondary that gave up the most passing yards in team history.
CB Morris Clairborne. LSU
First round. Sixth pick overall.
DE Tyrone Crawford. Boise State
Third round. 81st pick overall.
The Cowboys like him because of his motor and upside
LB Kyle Wilbur. Wake Forest
Fourth round. 113th pick overall.
A solid player when it comes to covering backs out of the backfield, he's also good against the run and finished his college career with 13.5 sacks
FS Matt Johnson. Eastern Washington
Fourth round. 135th pick overall.
He can come downhill. He can tackle. He plays well as a center field. On top of that, he has 17 career interceptions.
WR Danny Coale. Virginia Tech
Fifth round. 152nd pick overall.
A route runner that knows the game with above-average hands
TE James Hanna. Oklahoma
Sixth round. 186th pick overall.
Despite needing work as a blocker, he still has amazing speed and is a pass-catching tight end
LB Caleb McSurdy. Montana
Seventh round. 222nd pick overall.
A highly productive tackler
DALLAS 2012 SCHEDULE