Why in the world did Cris Collinsworth say “Dallas Cowboys” and “Super Bowl” in the same sentence? The NFL color commentator thinks he’s figured out a formula (literally) that will result in a title for America’s Team at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Sure, his points are good, but they don’t automatically equal a spot in the big game for the Cowboys.
Collinsworth said the Cowboys’ offensive line must improve. That’s a valid point and very true. However, he’s counting on free agent signees Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to be “the key” to this. That’s where the former Cincinnati Bengals receiver started to veer off track.
Livings is an average offensive lineman. Plain and simple. He’s been in the league for four years and a move to Dallas isn’t going to magically make him a superstar. Instead, the Cowboys need to allow second-year offensive linemen Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski a chance to break out. Both players were phenomenal in limited action as rookies last year and are breakout candidates in 2012. One or both of these players will have to become an anchor on the offensive line for Dallas to have realistic playoff hopes.
Collinsworth’s second point was dead on: the Cowboys must know Rob Ryan’s defense inside and out and then execute it on the field. Ryan’s scheme is a complex one and Dallas wasn’t ready to run it last year with no off-season. That should change in 2012 and it will.
No. 3 is an interesting one. Collinsworth said new Cowboys cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr “MUST be great.” I wouldn’t go that far. Carr must be a difference-maker from Day 1. He played four years for the Kansas City Chiefs and he was brought to Dallas to cover opposing teams’ top receivers.
As for Claiborne, he must be solid by mid-season. If Mike Jenkins is still on the roster, Claiborne will be allowed a learning curve and if he’s a quality cornerback by Week 8 or 9, he’ll prevent another December swoon for the Cowboys.
Collinsworth’s fourth point was very accurate: a Dallas defender not named DeMarcus Ware must provide consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Cowboys drafted Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber to help in that effort and Victor Butler should be allowed a chance to make his claim to the job as well. Of course, having Carr and Claiborne on the field will make it easier on the pass-rush in general, but somebody or a combination of somebodies other than Ware has to put up close to 10 sacks.
The fact Dallas needs another breakout player in 2012 is well-known, so Collinsworth’s fifth and final point wasn’t original but it’s true. He mentioned linebacker Bruce Carter as his candidate, who would make the Cowboys’ linebacking corps one of the NFL’s best if he does take a big step in his sophomore season.
My candidate is Sean Lissemore. This guy has been more than solid during his limited playing time over the past two years and he’s ready to become a starting defensive end for the Cowboys in 2012. It won’t be hard for him to overtake Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears atop the depth chart, but that’s not all Dallas needs from him. Lissemore needs to become a force on the end to make pass-rushing easier on the Cowboys’ group of outside linebackers, which will make the defense better all the way around.
Collinsworth was right about roughly half his points (that’s technically 2.5, but it’s accurate) and all the things he mentioned would greatly improve the Cowboys as a team, but a few of them aren’t realistic. Talking about a Super Bowl for Dallas in 2012 is pretty farfetched in itself, but it’s a very slight possibility. However, the Cowboys don’t need as many upgrades as Collinsworth mentioned. Instead, this team simply has to execute and not choke in crunch time. That’s not fixed with big names and hefty contracts; it’s fixed from within.