Five things I want to watch at the 2009 Dallas Cowboys training camp next week.
Hudson Houck and the offensive line - If the Cowboys want to be a dominant team, we need the offensive line to return to dominance. Last year, Houck's first with this unit, was not a stellar performance. The Cowboys line struggled with consistency in the running game and was sometimes befuddled by teams that had skilled defensive coordinators. Teams using stunts, delayed blitzes and overloads were able to create pressure and disrupt the offense. The Cowboys need better coordination along the front to deal with these types of blitzes. Too many times the Cowboys had two guys blocking on one player while the delayed blitzer, or the guy on a stunt, broke right through. Other times, a blocker would get lost in the wash and a side would become overloaded with pass rushers. The Cowboys o-line is huge, they're big maulers who have the advantage once they get their hands on you. Last year, defenses spent a lot of effort on trying to confuse the line to get a rusher free so he wouldn't be battling one of the monsters. Houck has to get them prepared for that.
The Three-Headed Monster - Everyone wants to know how the Cowboys plan to mix these three together into a winning combination. Everybody has a theory, so I'll throw mine out there now. I'm not as concerned about who is named the starter, but what I'd like to see is Marion Barber and Felix Jones used regularly throughout the game. This would mean that MB3 would get fewer touches earlier in the game, because some of those carries should go to Felix. Also, they need to substitute Choice in for Barber every few series to give MB3 a little more of a breather as the game is going along. Hopefully that keeps MB3 fresh and able to close if we need it late in games. Training camp could give us a clue as to their intentions, especially what they plan to do with Felix. I'd like to see if they have any plans for him to do more as a receiver, too.
Make the jump for the other four.
Romo to Williams - OK, so this one has been beaten to death. But I admit that I'm intrigued to see how they perform together at training camp. Can they get into a rhythm, do they trust each other, cliché, cliché, blah, blah, blah.
No Secondary Finger-Pointing - I want to see the Cowboys eliminate the secondary finger-pointing, on the field. Numerous times over the past couple of years, after the opposing offense scores a TD on a pass, or gets a big gain, the Cowboys secondary are all pointing at each other, looking confused, acting like the other guy was supposed to be there. The finger-pointing is just the symptom; the disease is confusion in the secondary. I would love to see Ken Hamlin/Dave Campo whip this 2009 secondary into shape with everybody knowing where they're supposed to be on each play. When teams lined up in the bubble formation last year, I immediately covered my eyes because I knew they were going to run pick patterns and the secondary regularly failed to cover it correctly. The Bengals did it to us, the Redskins, and a few other teams.
David Buehler's Leg - I would say I want to see special teams play, looking for improvement, but they rarely run contact special teams at training camp. So it's very hard to get a read on things. But one thing we can definitely see at training camp is the strength of David Buehler's leg. If he can boom kicks for touchbacks, the Cowboys special teams will take a step up. Also, I'll want to see how Mar McBriar is kicking coming back from injury. Added bonus, we'll get to see how much Felix is back returning kicks.
I'll have five more things on Friday.