If the offense needs some pizzazz this season, the Cowboys will be looking at three guys to provide it: Miles Austin, Felix Jones, and Martellus Bennett. Both Austin and Jones were hobbled last year by injuries. Bennett's game should improve greatly with another year of experience under his belt.
Austin's unique blend of size (6'3", 218) and speed offer the team more potential than his 18 NFL catches. With Terrell Owens having moved on to Buffalo, Austin has a wide open opportunity to take over as the team's most dangerous deep threat. We have seen him return kickoffs and stretch the field against Green Bay, but can he develop into a constant contributor? This is the year the Cowboys really need him to break out.
"The guy can play," Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman said. "Physically the guy is a beast. I've liked him since he came out of Monmouth when I was with the Titans. I wanted the Titans to draft him - you could see the potential even then. He was raw, but you can see it's coming. He's bigger. He's stronger. His route running has improved. I really think he's ready to break out."
"He has all the ability in the world. He did have to overcome being from a smaller school and a lot of things to learn as well," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "I think he's learned those things, and I think he'll do well for us."
Austin has shown something every year, or enough for the Jets to invite him for a visit as they considered making the restricted free agent an offer this off-season. The Jets would have had to send the Cowboys a second-round draft pick if they signed Austin, and they decided against it.
"I didn't know what was going to happen," Austin said. "I really didn't know if I was going to be a Jet, but I'm happy to stay here."
More VRR after the jump, including what Garrett's offense should have in store for Felix and Marty B.
Felix Jones' eagerness isn't just about getting back on the field. He's just glad to be working again with his teammates, as he says in this DMN video.
"I've been gone from football for at least eight months. I feel like it's longer, though. I'm happy to get back out here and run again and be healthy."
"It's a team effort. I couldn't do this by myself. Without the other ten guys on the field, I'm nobody; I can't do anything."
WR Roy Williams also backed Jones' team sentiments by praising the talent in the Dallas backfield, and admitting how important the running game will be to the offense this season.
"We got three good backs; they can do it all. You got a guy that can just punish you in the game like he did in Washington last year. You got a guy who can play any position on the football field in Felix Jones. And you got a guy in Tashard Choice, who's got a lot of heart and runs hard and showed what he could do last year."
"If you want to win in this league, you got to be able to run the football. I know that sounds funny coming from a wide receiver, but you gotta be able to run the ball."
Martellus Bennett has prepared himself this offseason for an increased role in the Dallas offense. In the OTAs, Josh Ellis felt that the quarterbacks looked Bennett's way more than last year, and that offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, employed more sets where the tight ends were split out wide. Ellis also said that Bennett is "stronger and more physical". The 6'7" TE also feels that the coaching staff has much more in store for him this season.
"I've been working on my game a whole lot, so I think they're going to use me that much more," Bennett said. "There's definitely a lot more stuff on the offense (for me).
"Just learning the basics of the offense last year was the main thing I had to do. I think they feel like I've been in it a year so they can do more with me this year. Some of it was in last year, but not as much as there is now. It's just I think they think I'm a better player than I was last year, smarter and all that."
Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, demands preparation and execution from his players, as well as from himself. This year, Garrett will have to tweak the offense to incorporate a wide variety of talented players.
This off-season has been about implementing Williams' strengths into Garrett's system after he caught just 19 passes in 10 games after his trade from Detroit. It is also about working running backs Barber, Jones and Tashard Choice into some kind of rotation.
This off-season, players have noticed a more demanding Garrett in the meeting room and on the field. At the two organized team activities open to the media, Garrett has preached tempo and perfection. If a play isn't executed perfectly, Garrett has the players run it again.
The former Cowboys quarterback has moved on from the disappointments of last season, preferring to focus on what's ahead.
"I've had some great conversations with people recently who are at the pinnacle of their careers in football and otherwise, and they all tell you the same thing don't believe it when it's good and don't believe it when it's bad," Garrett said. "You have some things that you believe in as a person, as an organization, as a coach, as whatever you are, and you act on those things and you try to limit the distractions and you go forward."
To the Madden Nation: Here are some of the player rankings for the 2010 version. EA ranked Witten as the #2 tight end in the game with a "97" overall; and, Romo rounds out the Top10 QBs--tied with Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer--for an "87" overall rating.
If you need some help getting started, the mothership is just getting into its Top40s on its list.
Also, tonight on NFLNetwork (8pm EST), the all-time Cowboys will be featured on the appropriately named show, Top 10.
Pete Prisco listed the NFL's meanest players with Atlanta Falcons guard Harvey Dahl topping the list. Dahl began his pro career with a brief stint in the Cowboys' '05 training camp. Right tackle Marc Colombo (a runner-up) was the only Dallas player to make the list.
TheSportingNews brought together a panel of 19 former Cowboys for a Q&A on their thoughts on Romo, Jerry Jones, the general direction of the team, which player they'd most like to play with, and whether or not they checked out the cheerleaders during a game. It's a fun article, featuring Tony Dorsett, Darren Woodson, Brock Marion and Lee Roy Jordan--to name a few. Here's a preview:
What current Cowboy would you most want as your teammate?
THEY SAID IT
"Jason Witten reminds me of the type of players who were my teammates in the '90s. Tough, high-character guys like Jay Novacek, Darren Woodson and Tony Tolbert."
-- Daryl Johnston
"DeMarcus Ware is a great player and a quiet leader."
-- Darren Woodson
"Marion Barber -- tough and a team player." -- Ron Widby
"None of 'em."
-- John Dutton