Spring has sprung. The 2013 NFL Draft is history. Mini-camps, training camp and preseason loom just ahead. There are bluebonnets on the hillsides, birds singing in the trees, and the 2013 Dallas Cowboys football team is undefeated…just like everyone else.
Your 2013 Dallas Cowboys are ready
This is the time of hope, the time of dreaming of that magical run to a championship. For more teams than not, it is fantasy. But for a few, it is a real possibility.
Which is it for your heroes in Silver and Blue? Are they a legitimate contender, or do we brace for yet another so-so year of teasing, taunting, and tumbling into mediocrity?
I, for one, believe this team is already better than the 2012 version and here are a few reasons for you to believe, as well.
I know that Romo is the most polarizing, divisive player on the squad, and possibly in team history. A couple of things do not lie. Statistically, he is among the league’s best in most categories, and that includes 4th quarter QB rating and come-from-behind victories. So, branding him a choker is just a misunderstanding of the facts. However, he still sports but one playoff victory in his career.
Romo is now 33. Aikman points out that his career was in its last year when he was that age. Romo is still playing at an extremely high level. Moreover, he just got paid big money. $55 million, to be almost exact. He is not playing for money now. He is playing for pride. He is playing for his place in history. Will he be villainized as the man that robbed Jerry blind, that set the franchise back a decade, that was overpaid and under-delivered? If Romo fails to deliver some playoff success, both locally and nationally, he will be excoriated. The most criticized current player in the NFL will go down in history as a failure. The vultures are already on the low limbs smacking their beaks.
I believe that, if this team fails to deliver a playoff run, it will not be due to any lack of effort or determination from its most important player.
Addition by subtraction
Rob Ryan is gone and that is good. He was overrated as a strategist and coach. His colorful personality might be fun on a winning team, but it becomes an annoying distraction on a team that is struggling. Look for him to continue to bounce around the league, bragging about his greatness.
Also gone are Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins. Jones’ production tailed off considerably over the course of his career. He lost the quickness that made him a home run threat and, more often than not, putting the ball in his hands was a wasted down. Jenkins never showed himself a first-round talent. He made a few plays, but gave up more than he took from opponents. Both were injury prone.
Jason Garrett is a focused, intelligent football man. He is a leader. Unflappable. His handling of the team during the Josh Brent episode last year showed him to be just that. Sharing or giving over offensive play-calling duties will only serve to make him better as a game day coach.
Replacing Rob Ryan with Monte Kiffin is like swapping a Kia for a Porsche. Kiffin will install a defense more conducive to instinctual and natural reaction to offensive plays. Look for play-makers to make plays in his system. Besides, he is a respected teacher and steadying influence on the staff.
Addition by addition
DeMarcus Ware, DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin, Orlando Scandrick…the 2012 Cowboys was a MASH unit. The defense was especially hampered by the loss of key players. But the offense was slowed, too. Give the 2013 team just a normal run of injury luck and you can add two victories right there.
Rookies that contribute
We can debate whether the Cowboys should have taken Travis Frederick in the first round, but it is hardly a debate at all that he will help solidify a vulnerable interior offensive line. Whether at center or guard, I look for Frederick to start for this team from game one, and to make a name for himself in the league.
Tight end Gavin Escobar catches everything thrown at him. As long as you put it in the right zip code, he will pick up the mail. Add him and fellow deep threat wide receiver Terrance Williams—the big, fast Baylor receiver and Dallas product—to the top-notch core of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, and you have an embarrassment of riches in the passing game.
The cornerback B.W. Webb, out of William & Mary is a superb athlete and may be one of the real jewels in the draft. He could have an immediate impact on the team in nickel and dime packages. Safety J.J. Wilcox should also impact the secondary right away. Despite playing only one season at the safety position at Georgia Southern, Wilcox was invited to the Senior Bowl, where he performed well. Before moving to safety, Wilcox was a successful running back with 484 yards on 85 carries. He is also a solid returner in the kicking game. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network sees him as a future starter for the Cowboys.
Perhaps the biggest steal of the Cowboys’ draft was Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle in the fifth round. This dude ran for 152 yards to help OSU beat Baylor and RG3. He galloped for 151 yards against Oklahoma, leading his team in the beat down of their state rival. he is a big time big game player with skills. He will complement the injury-prone DeMarco Murray (an OU product) and, if Murray isn’t careful, push him for the starter’s role.
Linebacker DeVonte Holloman is a converted strong safety. That tells you he is a little smallish as a linebacker and quick. He should make a good fit for the new 4-3 defense and add depth to the linebacking core.
The ticking clock
The clock is ticking on the careers of 33 year old Tony Romo, 31 year old DeMarcus Ware, and and 31 year old Jason Witten. The tread will wear thin on those tires very soon. These team leaders have done about all they could statistically, putting up eye-popping numbers at times. What they have not done is win. As they transition into that exclusive club called the Dallas Cowboys Fraternity, you can bet they want to do so as winners. They know it. Jones knows it. Garrett knows it.
This team should be “all in.”
The hot seat
Speaking of Garrett, he could very well be coaching for his career. This man is not about having a “career,” though. He is about establishing a legacy. He is not the type to be satisfied to survive. He will want to thrive.
2013 sets up as perhaps the most intriguing season in recent memory for your Dallas Cowboys. The stakes are high. The challenge is great, with the resurgent Redskins, the ever-present Giants, and the reforming Eagles all setting their sights on the NFC East crown. The talent is here. The time is now.
And I believe…