Yesterday. I took on the enjoyable task of presenting my top three reasons to be an optimist for the Dallas Cowboys 2010 season. Now, everything can't be sunshine and goodness, can it? Nope, on every parade a little rain must fall. So to balance out the scales I present my top three reasons to be a pessimist for the 2010 season. Enjoy! (err...don't enjoy!?...whatever, here they are).
1. The offensive line - This reason actually encapsulates two reasons, but I've rolled them into one. My most immediate concern is the injury situation. It could turn out to be not as bad as it sounds. Marc Colombo, even though he didn't practice again today, could return soon. There's still hope he'll play on Sunday against the Redskins. And Kyle Kosier isn't supposed to be out that long, possibly as little as one game. But, this is Colombo's second significant injury in two years, and we all know about the injury problems he had at the beginning of his career. Kosier missed time in 2008 for a foot injury. These guys along our line aren't spring chickens, and the older you get, the more likely injuries will occur. Our depth along the line has improved this year, but not to the point where's there is no worry. Still, projecting injuries past the couple we already know about is just a guessing game, so if Colombo and Kosier get healthy with no lingering problems, we should be all right.
Of more concern to me is the running game, not the overall running game, but mainly situational parts like short yardage. The Cowboys have a stable of three very talented backs. All three could be starters in various places around the league. So when I look at the running game, I'm not pointing fingers at the backs. Nope, I'm looking at the big-uns up front. The Cowboys have a massive offensive line, yet how many times did we see them fail in third-and-short situations last year? For whatever reason, this line can't just fire off the ball and blow people out. My confidence wasn't restored in the pre-season games, either. Dallas was abysmal at running the ball in the pre-season. You can't blame that on 'vanilla' offense or no game-planning. The fact was that the opposing defenses were just whipping the line in one-on-one blocking. That's just basic football. Being able to pick up a third-an-one with a power run shouldn't be climbing Mt. Everest. So come on o-line and Hudson Houck, let's get the three backs some room to maneuver.
2. Redzone inefficiency - This one is somewhat baffling, but also somewhat predictable. First, some context. The 2009 Dallas Cowboys were second in the league in total offense, measured either by raw yardage or yards per game. That's the good news, our offense can pick up yards in chunks. The bad news? When you look at points scored per game, the Cowboys offense falls all the way to 14th in the league. That's quite a discrepancy between yards and points.
The predictable part? The Cowboys lack of a power running game in short yardage situations. When you get down in the redzone, it becomes easier for a defense to cover the pass. It's simply a case of space. Out in the middle of the field, you have a whole lot more room to cover as a secondary. In the redzone, with the back of the endzone as a border, the space for route-running becomes limited. Having a good running game in this situation, especially when you get on the goal line, is a huge plus.
The baffling part, although partially explained by the above paragraph, is with the Cowboys high-powered passing game, they fail to put the six points on the board too often. Take the Colts as an example, they were a horrendous running team in 2009, yet they still ranked 7th in the league in scoring. Their prolific passing game didn't suffer the yips that ours did when called on to score six. The fact that a sure target like Jason Witten only had two TDs all year is a real mystery. I don't have the answers, but the Cowboys really need to increase their points to yards ratio in 2010.
3. A thin secondary - If there was one thing from the roster cuts that has me worried, it's the fact we cut Cletis Gordon. Look, Cletis Gordon isn't some wonder-corner that is a must-have in the NFL, but he had a great training camp and looked like he was ready to contribute. The Cowboys are really rolling the dice by carrying only three corners on the roster (ok, I guess you can count AOA as the fourth). I realize that Alan Ball could be moved over if injury necessitates it, but then you're rolling with inexperience at free safety. Yes, they could go with AOA, who received a fine write-up earlier today by rabblerousr, but for everything we like about him, he's still a rookie and we just don't know how he would perform. I have to believe that the Cowboys are going to make a move after the first game of the season. Perhaps they have their eye on somebody who they didn't want to guarantee a full-season of pay to so they're waiting until after the Redskins game. The injuries along the offensive line might have played into their thinking and once those are cleared up, they'll make some kind of move. But if not, they are really gambling by going with just Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Injuries do happen, and even though he got through last year ok, Newman has a recent history of leg/groin problems. I'm not comfortable with moving Alan Ball for an injury, because that means inexperience at free safety. AOA looks promising, but I'm not willing to bet a season it. This secondary is too thin and inexperienced for my tastes.
So that's what's got me worried. What about you?