By Zach Walker
Continued from: All about the “D”
But none of anything matters, if Tony Romo isn’t 100 percent healthy and doing his matador thing. Reports have stated that he’s a full go, for participation, so let’s get on with it. Everyone knows that this team only goes as far as Romo can carry it. There are two types of Cowboys’ fans: those who wear his jersey and truly believe that he can get the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. The second type are those fans, who were at Cowboys Stadium on draft night, who were disappointed when the Cowboys drafted using their football brain, and didn’t draft Johnny Manziel. It can’t be understated how good Tony Romo is, now, and was a season ago. Romo had the worst defense in team history, damn near NFL history and still went eight and eight. What does that say about how good he is? It sort of explains why his back has given out.
The rest of the backfield is boiling over the sides with talent. DeMarco Murray is a top-10 back in the league, taking his full pallet of skills into account, and drafting Zack Martin should help extend runs and prolong the health of Murray, which is his only thing that has held him back in his career. The stable of backs behind Murray are young and relatively unused in NFL games. Joseph Randle grabbed two starts last season and has, at least, the benefit of being a running back drafted by the Cowboys. Lance Dunbar had an unfortunate injury in the preseason, but did play snaps last season, and did have a 5-yard per carry average when he touched the ball. Then there’s Ben Malena, former Aggie, who is built like a bowling ball, and I hope he plays to that advantage. I can’t see the Cowboys carrying a fullback into the regular season. Finally, Brandon Weeden as the second string quarterback is a good spot for him, no rushing him, just stay prepared, and just take it slow, don’t rush it.
The Dallas pass-catchers are the one of the best groups in the league. The tight ends, well, there is no debate over who’s starting there, it’s Jason Witten. When Jason Garrett cancelled the entry conditioning test (solid idea, good show of ability to evolve), Witten still held a team conditioning test, that’s leadership. Gavin Escobar showed solid hands, and his role should grow this season within the new Scott Linehan offense. James Hanna needs to continue to keep coming along as a great blocker, because he’s likely going to lineup at the fullback position. The wide receivers are a young bunch that is seemingly hoarding talent. There isn’t a player that I would trade Dez Bryant for, and is the heart beat of this team. Not much needs to be said about Dez, he’s the man. But who’s lining up on the other side of the offense? The incumbent, Terrance Williams, who had an explosive rookie season (44 catches/736 yards/5 touchdowns) and has great size and explosive speed to be dangerous on the outside. Incoming rookie, Devin Street, also has the size to survive on the outside, but his ability to adjust to the ball in the air is going to make fans absolutely fall in love with what Street brings to the Cowboys. On the inside, Dwayne Harris is a great punt returner and those skills can really knife through the center of a defense. And Cole Beasley has the ideal skills to play inside, quick cuts, smart route running and plays a lot like Dwayne Harris, maybe just not as physical.
But the most improved group of the team over the last few seasons, is the offensive line. It was at one point, just Tyron Smith and Doug Free was struggling. Then, last season, the Cowboys drafted Travis Frederick and an improvement is made. And this season’s draft, the Cowboys selected Zack Martin to play guard, and with Ron Leary entering the camp with a hamstring injury suffered during the voluntary conditioning test, leaves the door open for Mackenzy Bernadeau, who played very well after stepping back into the lineup following the injury Brian Waters. But I believe that this line of: Tyron Smith, Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free are the best group of linemen in front of Tony Romo since the 2007 group of Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, and Marc Columbo. And that was a line of bad men who threw people around. I know what I said about Romo, but if the coaching staff doesn’t take a serious interest in a sustainable running game, bet on another eight and eight season.
As far as my prediction for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys season, it’s going to be tough. All the games after the London showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be a serious challenge. The Cowboys get the bye week after London, then travel to the Giants, then come home to play the Eagles on Thanksgiving, just four days later. Then a Thursday night game at the Bears, which means no extended break after Thanksgiving. But that break does roll-over to help prepare for a Sunday night showdown in Philadelphia. Then the home finale against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, wrapping up with a trip to Maryland, to play Washington, in a game that is almost certain to be flexed to Sunday night. Not to say the front half of the season is a breeze, because this is a difficult season in front of the Cowboys. To be honest, eight and eight would be very difficult to achieve, but I think that the defense will be much improved (maybe around 20th) and the offense is capable of 30 points a game, so I’ll predict 9 and 7.