I liked doing my Long Range Forecast earlier. It was a convenient way to present my opinions on what the team was facing for this year. Since I used the idea of a weather forecast, it only makes sense to update the forecast when new data becomes available. I may be doing one of these each week, depending on what kind of feedback I get. Also, just to keep you from having to go back and review, I will let you know what my last prediction was so you can see how consistent (or inconsistent) I am.
Just to review, and so you don't have to go back and read my earlier post, the percentages in my forcast are how likely I think each facet of the team is to be a problem. Since nothing is ever entirely certain, the range limits are 10% to 90%. Also, this does not try to factor in future injuries since that is one of the most unpredictable things in the game.
Quarterback Against Denver: Tony Romo was fine. Jon Kitna was OK. Stephen McGee got off to a shaky start, but came on like gangbusters at the end. The only decision for the coaches to make here is how much time Romo and Kitna need to stay sharp. The rest of the time should be used to let McGee work on his game.
One thing I don't get is people who want to talk about cutting McGee or trading him. I am equally puzzled by those who argue that McGee is far enough along that we can get rid of Kitna. I feel that the easiest call to make is that the Cowboys will carry all three quarterbacks on the 53 man roster. There may be a decision to make about who is number 2, but that is it, and I expect Kitna to keep that slot. I think there was plenty of evidence last year that three quarterbacks need to be carried on the roster. There will be no moves made until this season is over. Then the arguments can start, but for now, they are just a waste of bandwidth.
CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM: 10% Last week: 10%
Running backs Well, crap. Before the Denver game, I was ready to pitch in for a parting gift for Tashard Choice. I was very confident that Lonyae Miller was ready to step up and seize his opportunity. At least I can take comfort in knowing I wasn't the only one. Now I'm wondering if Miller is another training camp stud whose performance doesn't hold up in real games. Suddenly, all we know is that Felix Jones is the starter. I still believe that DeMarco Murray will make the team, but Choice suddenly looks like the safe bet for that third RB. This does concern me, because I think Jason Garrett was one of the poeple who at least wanted Miller to step up and replace Choice. Phillip Tanner looked good against Denver, but I don't think it was that good. Decisions to make, and I think JG sees some flaws in Choice's play, even if he does wind up the best option. Felix is a good to great starter, but it just got shallow here.
CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last week: 30%
Tight end/H back/FB I've added the fullback designation here, since I still believe there is a little mixing of the roles in Garrett's offense.
I was a little disappointed that Martellus Bennett did not play, just because I am eager to see if he has made the attitude adjustment that we have been hearing about. However, it gave John Phillips a chance to play, and he seemed to do just fine. And Martin Rucker certainly got a chance to shine on the two point conversion. I'd say the tight end position is still in very good shape.
Chris Gronkowski and Shaun Chapas seem to be treading water in the competion for the blocking back position. Brandon's observation that neither one has the "pop" you want from this position is mildly concerning. There might be a little experimentation with Phillips or Rucker to see if they may be able to fill the lead blocking role, but that is just a speculation on my part.
No change here.
CHANCE OF TE/H BACK BEING A PROBLEM: 20%. Last week: 20%
Wide receiver Going into the game, the top three receivers looked to be Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Kevin Ogletree. Now I think we can anticipate Dwayne Harris being the fourth receiver and maybe challenging Ogletree for time on the field if he doesn't have some kind of meltdown. That means that the coaching staff has to figure out a fifth body from a list of nine (!) other candidates. I don't think they will keep Tysson Poots on the strength of his name alone. Joe DeCamillis may get to make this decison. Based on now being four deep, this area looks better.
CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last week: 30%
Offensive Line Another area where it appears to have gotten better. I haven't seen anything bad about Tyron Smith, and David Arkin seemed to handle things pretty well. The questions left to answer seem to be whether Montrae Holland will start when he gets back, and who the backups will be. I am thinking the offensive line is going to work out pretty well, but it is early. Still, improving the forecast here.
CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last week: 50%
Defensive Line All reports, as well as my own eyeball test, indicate that the big question to be settled is whether Igor Olshansky should be kept or not. Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher seem to have two slots nailed down, so I think the coaches have look at Sean Lissemore, Kenyon Coleman, and Clifton Geathers and see if two or maybe all three are better than Igor. Josh Brent seems to be OK backing up Jay Ratliff, although he does need to work on technique and stop getting stood up. Not enough data right now to warrant a change in the percentage.
CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last week: 40%
Linebackers Victor Butler continues to look good and we can hope he stays consistent. With DeMarcus Ware his usual excellent self and Anthony Spencer doing well, it becomes a matter of picking the best man to fill the fourth position. On the inside, the issue is still the injuries to Keith Brooking and Bruce Carter. I really don't want to see Brooking starting, although he should still be a good backup. This is a little wait and see still.
CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last week: 30%
Defensive backs Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam had five or six days of practice. Both of the projected startes at cornerback are nursing injuries, although Mike Jenkins should be back soon. Still the biggest area of concern. By a good margin.
CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 70% Last week: 70%
Special teams The new kickoff rule means that the team can go with the best field goal kicker. I just don't see keeping two kickers on the roster, so hopefully one of them will emerge soon. And Dez plans to return punts in the regular season. Feeling better here. Still need to see who Coach D gets to keep.
CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last week: 40%
Coaching There are some doubters out there about Rob Ryan because of the way Kyle Orton marched the Broncos down the field, but I'm going to go with Kegbearer's dose of perspective. And I was impressed by the relatively low number of penalties in the first preseason game, especially with the recent history the team has had. I have to place credit for that squarely on the coaches' shoulders.
CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last week: 30%
Jerry Jones The issue at guard still nags. Holland just does not inspire huge amounts of confidence. Jerry continues to play things close to his vest, which also is not wildly reassuring. Holding my breath.
CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last week: 40%
Looking back at my forecast coming into the game, I don't feel horrible about my first post. I just like using the percentages to express what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Hope it makes some sense to you.
San Diego looks to be a stiffer challenge than Denver, although so much depends on the approach to the game taken by the coaching staffs. Hopefully, some of the areas of concern will improve after that game.