Well it’s that time of year: the preseason has ended, the roster is set and now comes the time-honored tradition of predicting what the Dallas Cowboys record will be in 2012. Their record will be…
Come on, I couldn’t just give it to you, there are things to discuss before we get into that!
After last year, it seemed pretty obvious the Cowboys needed to upgrade a few areas of the team and they set out to do that this off-season. We all know what they did to improve the situation at cornerback, bringing in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys say Carr is even better than they thought when they signed him and that is great news because he and Claiborne will have some major work to do in a division that features a ton of good receivers.
Look at what the Cowboys did to revamp the position–in are the new, young corners, 26-year old Carr and the rookie Claiborne. Out are old Terence Newman, Frank Walker and the over matched Alan Ball. The Cowboys’ best cornerback last year was Mike Jenkins, but he is now their third best corner and fourth on their depth chart because of the slot play from Orlando Scandrick. These are big time upgrades from last year.
Also looking at the secondary, the Cowboys appear to be in better position with Barry Church. He gives them the versatility at safety that they haven’t had in a long time.
Dallas also had a full off-season to get acclimated to Rob Ryan‘s defensive scheme this year and the results in preseason have been good. I know it’s only preseason, but don’t underestimate the confidence that playing well, no matter when it is, can do for a team. The Cowboys’ first team defense did not give up a point in the preseason, which included games where they had no DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
Throw in a couple of new pieces like rookies Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber, then add two healthy bodies in Bruce Carter and Jason Hatcher and the Cowboys have the makings of a top 5-10 defense. If that was the case last year, they would have won the division. I’m not saying they are a top five defense, but the potential is certainly there to be that good.
Offensively, the Cowboys had needs too, especially at–all together now–offensive line. I’m not breaking any news here. They did address the position with free agents Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings, but how much did they improve? We’ll find out fast with the New York Giants in a few days.
The offensive line is still the biggest question mark on this team. They didn’t significantly improve there, but they are better. The good news is that in Tony Romo’s tenure as starting quarterback, he has never had a great offensive line to play behind. He’s been improvising his way back there since the day he took over for Drew Bledsoe, so he is more than capable of doing well behind an average line.
The other offensive question is the receiver depth: do they have enough of it? Who knows? I do know that when he plays this year, Dez Bryant will be the monster we all know he can be and Miles Austin will be very good. Together they will be a very good tandem, so we just have to hope they stay healthy.
All the other receivers will have to step their games up and I like the potential of Cole Beasley in the slot. If they can get 3/4 of the production Laurent Robinson gave them last year, they will be fine. The tight end production will be in good shape once Jason Witten gets healthier because I like John Phillips and think rookie James Hanna plays a bigger role than we all think.
The biggest thing I can’t wait to see offensively is DeMarco Murray. He came on like a freight train last year, despite being a little lost by his own admission. Murray has said the difference in him this year and last year is night and day, and it has shown in training camp, where he is said to be looking like a punishing runner. This kid is going to be scary good this year!
One of the things that never gets mentioned in the Cowboys failing to secure a playoff berth late last year was the loss of Murray early on in the first Giants game. It was a huge blow to the offense and played a big role in the Cowboys demise down the stretch. Staying healthy is the key for Murray too but if that happens, I expect a big year from him.
The 2012 Dallas Cowboys are better than the 2011 team–a whole lot better, in fact. The schedule appears daunting, but I’ve never been one to believe in schedule difficulty because we never know who is going to be good or bad in any given year. Too many variables and injuries can play a part in a team’s record.
So what will the Cowboys’ record be? I’ve seen the predictions from the people who cover the team and are around the Cowboys a lot more than I am and they don’t seem to be believers. Most are predicting a record of 8-8, despite saying they believe this Cowboys team is better than last years. They think it just won’t reflect in the record.
I have always had a good feel for the Cowboys, but a few years ago when they were supposed to win it all, I had an uneasy feeling. Last year I thought they were being underestimated and would grab a playoff spot, which should have been the case.
This year I have guarded optimism and can see a playoff spot being very attainable. It wouldn’t surprise me if they went 11-5, but I think the Cowboys are one more off-season away from being real contenders. Give them one more year to upgrade their offensive line and add some depth, especially at wide receiver.
I think they go 9-7 and miss out on the playoffs. It’s probably not what you want to hear, but this team is moving in the right direction. As Cowboys fans, we don’t want to have patience but that is exactly what we need right now. Ignore all the “windows” talk, because there is still time for this team. It’ll get better, I truly believe that.
Patience, a process, is at work in Dallas.