When the Dallas Cowboys offense next trots onto the field, it will do so without its most dangerous playmaker in recent history. Last season Terrell Owens tallied 69 receptions, just over 21 percent of the Cowboys' completions. Add in Owens' seven rushing attempts and he can be credited with 76 total touches in 2008. It kills me when people say that the Cowboys are "losing" those touches now that T.O. is gone. Those 76 opportunities don't disappear, the only issue now is the redistribution of the football. What Owens' absence has created is not necessarily a void, but an opportunity for others to step forward and contribute. Owens' release may in fact prove to be a true example of addition by subtraction.
Jerry Jones has stated that he aims to make the Cowboys offense more "Romo-friendly" in 2009. Take into consideration Tony Romo's ball-control issues and it would be fair to assume that a "Romo-friendly" offense would include an emphasis on running the football. The biggest beneficiary of such a change just might be Felix Jones. Marion Barber averaged 19.5 carries per game before his Week 13 toe injury. Barber is still the lead dog, but he may have to surrender some carries to Jones and Tashard Choice. Felix Jones is just too explosive to keep off the field and he doesn't necessarily need to be handed the football to be effective. Jones is a linebacker's nightmare in coverage and should catch a ton of balls out of the backfield. Also, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see Jones flexed-out and moved around on a consistent basis. Opposing defenses should be playing Where's Waldo before every snap.
Jason Garrett may want to scrounge around the complex to see if he can find any loose pages from Bill Parcells' playbook. With Jason Witten and the immensely talented Martellus Bennett in the fold, this offense is screaming for some of those Bill Parcells Ace Double-Tight sets. Jason Witten is Jason Witten. He is the best tight end in football and is a lock for a bare minimum 80 receptions. Martellus Bennett has displayed tenacity as a blocker, soft hands and unlimited athletic ability after the catch. He is too good not to be involved and two tight-end formations present a unique set of mismatches.
Roy Williams will take over Owens' "split end" or "X" position. The Cowboys hope Williams can post numbers in the neighborhood of what they are accustomed to getting from Owens. Jerry Jones cited the development of Miles Austin as a reason for T.O.'s release. Whether or not Austin is ready for the big time remains to be seen, but he will most certainly get his chances. If nothing else Austin should provide a viable deep threat and possibly a few of those long touchdowns we have gotten used to seeing out of Owens. Say what you will about Patrick Crayton, but the Cowboys could do a lot worse as far as a slot guy. Crayton does a good job at working the middle of the field and has a little more speed than he gets credit for. His numbers should see a small spike as well in a more equal-opportunity offense.
Terrell Owens is gone. Jason Garrett and Tony Romo can now operate without the fear of what may happen if the beast goes unfed. Garrett will no longer feel obligated to silence the chirping in his ear. Romo should finally be able to truly work through his reads and find the open man. Even in the absence of Owens, the Cowboys have a catalog of weapons that rivals that of any other team in the league. With T.O. out of the picture, the Cowboys will finally have an opportunity to truly spread it around.