Dallas Cowboys: A Tale Of Two Preseasons

Kool Aid versus dejected pessimism.  Balancing your love for the team with your observations of what's happening. This is the constant internal struggle fans go through, especially for a team that is coming off a rough season.  And sometimes, we don't do too well with it.  Like last year.

Think back for a moment.  Remember the 2010 preseason?  As I recall, I sat there through the first four preseason games, squirming a bit in my chair as I watched with unease.  The starters never looked right, particularly on offense.  Tony Romo never seemed to get his rhythm.  The only decent performance of the year was the last preseason game, where Tony never saw the field and Stephen McGee gave us a totally unfounded good feeling about the team.  There were those lonely voices who kept saying that we needed to be a little more critical in our judgment, but most of us still had a blind faith that the team that had won a playoff game the previous year was still on an upward trajectory.  It was, we kept arguing, only preseason.

The current of denial will sweep you away, and it took most of us last year.

I have started looking more at details and individual performances this year as a result of reading the perceptive analysis available both on the front page and in the FanPosts here at BTB.  But I also try to keep a broader perspective of things.  That false sense of confidence from last year still gnaws at me, and I was very anxious to see how things looked with the offense this year.  Rob Ryan's defense is a little different matter.

The Denver game left me mildly optimistic, although on very limited evidence.  Jason Garrett only let Tony play one series.  They drove down the field before stalling out, but came off the field with a field goal on the first drive of the preseason.  They did not look too bad, but it certainly wasn't much to go on.

The San Diego game did not start out all that great.  The first series came to a grinding halt when Dez Bryant dropped a good pass from Romo.  Then on the second series Tony made a flat out boneheaded throw that Eric Weddle picked off, killing a very efficient march down the field.

A key for me was how Tony would come back from his first really bad throw of 2011.  The third drive started with a short completion, and then the Felix Jones Show got going.  The Cat had five carries, but Romo also completed two passes to move the chains.  Then on second and goal from the six, Martellus Bennett had his only drop of the game, on what looked to be a sure touchdown.

Last year, up until, oh, the ninth game of the regular season, this was a point at which the team would just have seemed to wilt a bit.  Faced with adversity, the 2010 Wade Phillips coached Cowboys tended to let things slip out of their hands.  I watched very intently Sunday night, wondering what kind of response the team would have.

What we got was some vintage Romo, using his mobility to buy time behind some good protection from that young offensive line, then directing traffic with a little thumb gesture (a throw back to Gig'em Aggies?) and finding his security blanket, the one with 82 printed on it, in the end zone.  

And I smiled.  The Cowboys offense may just be back.

I don't think that is drinking Kool Aid at all.  Consider this.  In the 2010 preseason, the starting offense scored one touchdown.  One.  And in that game, Tony was an underwhelming 4/13, for 30 yards, with 1 pick, 1 TD, and a 37.3 QB rating.

Against San Diego, the numbers were 8/12, 58 yards, 1/1, and a 70.8 QB rating.  Obviously room for improvement on protecting the ball, but a 67% completion rate will go a long way in the regular season.

In 2010, we never saw the kind of crispness that characterized the scoring drive against the Chargers Sunday night. This says not only that Romo is ready, but Felix is chomping at the bit, and, oh, yeah, what about the new and seriously improved offensive line?  If the issue of turnovers is successfully addressed (and Jason Garrett made it very clear he plans to be all over that), this offense can roll.

The question mark obviously is going to be the defense.  Once again, I raise my fist and howl at the fates over what the lockout, or the Great Suckitude, cost this team, in this case denying it the chance to learn the complex Ryan scheme.  As Dave pointed out in his post on his impressions of the preseason so far, the defense is just looking very confused.  But he also brings this up.

Time will help, so this should only get better as we move on through the season. The key is to do enough early in the year on defense to keep us in games, and keep the overall record on the positive side, then hope by midseason they really start to grasp it all.

That is, I think, the blueprint for the team to have success.  The offense should be able to put some points on the board, and the defense just needs to slow the other team down enough to come out in the win column.  I think it can be done.  Last year, it wasn't happening.  This year, it is looking very doable.

That's not denial.  Just going with the flow of what I see.

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