|Posted on August 31, 2011 at 2:35 PM|
COWBOYS 4 LIFE! SUPERBOWL BOUND!
Dallas Cowboys had big expectations last year, just as they seem to have every season. The Cowboys started 1-7 and just didn’t seem to want to play for Wade Phillips, who was fired midway through the year. Jason Garrett took over as interim head coach, and the Cowboys finished 5-3 the rest of the way. Their 6-10 finish was the franchise’s worst since Jerry Jones became owner in 1989.
Garrett has earned the right to lead this team, and Jones made the move to hire the former Cowboy this offseason. Dallas has a lot of talent on board, and Garrett may be just the guy to maximize it. That’s if Tony Romo and company can stay healthy. Here is a look at their offense and defense, as well as my predictions on where the Cowboys will finish in the NFC East.
The books in Las Vegas have listed the Cowboys at 3-to-1 odds to win the NFC East this season.
We must not forget that Tony Romo was on board during the Cowboys’ 1-4 start before suffering a fractured left clavicle. Jon Kitna played about as well as anyone could have expected in his place. Still, this team goes as Romo goes, and he has the talent to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league when he’s on his game. His healthy return should have this potent offense hitting on all cylinders in 2011.
Roy Williams proved to be a bust at wide receiver, so the Cowboys have let him go. Dez Bryant is expected to be the next big thing here after a rookie season in which he caught 45 balls for 561 yards and six touchdowns. His season was ended early with a broken ankle, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with a full season under his belt.
Mile Austin had a breakout 2009 campaign, and followed it up with 69 receptions for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns last year. With TE Jason Witten (94 receptions, 1,002 yards, nine TDs) as Romo’s favorite target, this is clearly one of the top receiving corps in the league.
The Cowboys have parted ways with RB Marion Barber, who signed with the Chicago Bears this offseason. That just shows how much confidence this team has in Felix Jones to carry the load. Jones rushed for 800 yards and a touchdowns, while also catching 48 balls for 450 yards and a score in 2010.
Tashard Choice is a nice backup, and Dallas drafted Oklahoma rookie DeMarco Murray to add depth in the backfield.
The offensive line was shaky at times last year, so the Cowboys have made improving this unit their focal point in the offseason. Doug Free is back at left tackle, while first-round pick Tyron Smith out of USC figures to take over at right tackle.
Unable to reach an agreement on a re-worked contract, the Cowboys decided to part ways with five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode. They also cut right guard Leonard Davis and right tackle Marc Colombo after the lockout ended. Phil Costa figures to take over for Gurode at center, while seventh-round pick Bill Nagy out of Wisconsin is first in line at left guard. Kyle Kosier moves to right guard.
One of Dallas’ biggest moves this offseason was going out and getting Rob Ryan from the Cleveland Browns to take over as their defensive coordinator. Rob, the brother of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, brings his attacking 3-4 scheme over with him. He will get the most of what is one of the most talented front sevens in the league.
The defensive line trio of Igor Olshansky, Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff was a big disappointment last season. Ratliff made the Pro Bowl, but the other two have a lot to prove going forward. The addition of Kenyon Coleman (68 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries), who comes over with Ryan from the Browns, should help out.
There’s no question that the Cowboys boast one of the top sets of linebackers in the league. All four starters return intact with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Bradie James and Keith Brooking.
James led the team with 162 tackles, Brooking finished second with 151, and Ware was in third with 108 to go along with a NFL-high 15.5 sacks. Rookie Bruce Carter and second-year man Sean Lee figure to be in the ILB rotation as well.
The biggest question mark for this team heading into 2011 is their secondary. The Cowboys finished No. 26 against the pass last year, allowing 243.4 yards/game through the air. Terence Newman (79 tackles, five INT) and Mike Jenkins (55 tackles, one INT) return at the corner positions, while Gerald Sensabaugh (71 tackles, five INT) returns at free safety.
One of their best additions this offseason was bringing over Abram Elam (79 tackles, two sacks, two INT) from the Cleveland Browns to start at strong safety. This unit should improve upon their poor numbers from last season.
NFC East Prediction: First Place, 11-5 Overall
I believe that Dallas is one of the most complete teams in the league. They now have a coach that they want to play for, and an offense that should be even more dynamic with a healthy return of Romo, and an expanded role for Bryant. The defense is only going to get better with Ryan at the helm. I expect to see a lot more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which should help out the secondary.
This team is actually going under the radar heading into 2011, which is a welcome sign for these players. After tying for last place in the NFC East last year, I’m predicting the Cowboys to win the division in 2011. Article by Jack Jones
COWBOYS 4 LIFE! SUPERBOWL BOUND!
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