Jay-Z and Kanye West have been in a work in progress for years now. Two of the most influential artists of the past ten years finally teamed up to release the instant classic "Watch The Throne" album. The two artists have collaborated in the past, but have always wanted to make an album together. A few months ago the two finally got on the same page and decided it was time. What happened was an instant classic of epic proportions. This album is just on another level musically. The Cowboys are very close to being on top of the throne once again themselves.
Our Dallas Cowboys are very similar to Jay-Z and Kanye West, aka "The Throne". The Cowboys are a work in progress and are on their way to greatness, but there will be bumps in the road. Kanye West almost went with Damon Dash when Jay-Z and the two split after the breakup of their record label Rocafella records. The Cowboys as we all know have had bumps in the road like that. The Roy Williams trade, the 2009 NFL Draft, Wade Phillips, the 2008 and 2010 NFL season were are all major bumps in the road.
But the Cowboys, like Jay-Z and Kanye, are on their way back to greatness. In this fan post I want to go over my predictions for the season and why I think we are closing to owning the NFL throne again. Cowboys Nation, stand up.
The main reason we should be watching the throne is because of Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan. For years the Cowboys have lacked the right type of coaching to succeed, and now it has finally arrived. Like Jay-Z and Kanye, Jason and Rob are two totally different personas. But sometimes opposites attract and I see this being a great relationship. This type of coaching is what we have desperately lacked over the years in the soft regime of Wade Phillips.
Jason Garrett is an offensive mastermind who can motivate his players. He doesn't accept failure or stupidity around these parts. Garrett is establishing the right type of culture to get this team back on top. Coaching goes a long way in the NFL and Garrett will provide the stability we need to be contender once again. The clear approach towards playing smart football and fundamentals is the right type of approach towards achieving excellence again.
Rob Ryan is the passionate and vocal leader this defense has seriously lacked over the years. Wade was just too soft for this type of team. The Cowboys need a guy like Rob Ryan because there was no motivation or eagerness in our players under Wade. Rob Ryan will never back down and demand excellence from his players.
Ryan may take some time to actually get this defense up to speed. He really wasn't given too many upgrades to his scheme in the draft or free agency, and that could delay a vast improvement to being one of the best defenses in the NFL. Ryan has a great scheme in place, but I just don't know if he has the right type of players for it yet. If we have a defensive oriented draft next year, this team will have the right type of pieces Ryan needs to put this defense on top again. Also the cap space we have will allow us to get some defensive players for Ryan next year as well.
The Cowboys also made a clear attempt to upgrade their positional coaches as well. Jimmy Robinson is one of the best wide receivers coaches in the game, he also has the history and hardware to back it up. Matt Eberflus is one the brightest up and coming coaches in the NFL and now we have him coaching our linebackers. Our new defensive line coach Brian Baker was plucked from North Carolina in order to make this defensive line better and the guy is a clearly talented coach.
Our coaching staff in my opinion is one of the best in the NFL. Dave Campo and Brett Maxie are suspect, but we will upgrade those areas next year. Skip Peete is also another very underrated coach because he does a great job with our running backs. Look at the job he has done with Felix Jones. Now he gets two more young and talented players to coach up. DeMarco Murray and Phillip Tanner are in great hands.
Coaching is a big part of a teams success and we finally have upgraded in those areas. Super Bowl caliber teams have good coaching, and we are no different in that aspect now.
The offense is clearly one of the best in the NFL. Tony Romo is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and will always give this team a chance to win. Less superior quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl than Tony Romo. Romo is more than talented to win the big game. What I love about Romo is that every year he improves on his overall game and certain areas. Romo is elite in my opinion and when he is "on", he really is in the zone. It also helps that Garrett and Romo have a clear cut chemistry with each other. With Romo being in this offense now for four years, he will only get better.
The Cowboys made a clear attempt to upgrade this offensive line and have. Out the window goes our old scouting approach towards the big and slow offensive lineman, and in comes a fresh new approach that is going to work. We are younger than we have ever been on the offensive line in a long time. Doug Free and Tyron Smith are going to be the backbone of this offensive line and in a year could be the two best bookends in football.
Cutting the fat and replacing with younger players was the right move. Phil Costa and Bill Nagy clearly look like they are going to be very good starters in the NFL. David Arkin appears to be a good player for us down the road as well. There will be some growing pains because that is to be expected when you are starting that many new faces on the offensive line. You have to look towards the future and the big picture here though. The younger and more athletic lineman will open the playbook up and after a year will be clearly one of the better lines in football.
I believe we also have maybe the best running back group in the NFL as well. Felix Jones looks like he is going to breakout and finally have the season we have been expecting from him since his rookie season. Tashard Choice is a clear cut solid running back, but if he could be on his way out and that's okay because we have depth. DeMarco Murray is a stud in the making and will be big help on third downs this year at the least. UDFA Phillip Tanner really looks like another UDFA gem. We can all look back at the three headed monster talk from the past few years, but Dallas really has the monster grouping now. An improved running attack will keep this offense more balanced and we won't run into the same type of situations we saw last year when we couldn't run the football.
We are lucky to have two #1 wide receivers in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. These two have the potential to become the best pairing in the NFL. The Packers won the Super Bowl with a great group of wide receivers and we may lack the depth they have, but we are on our way to having the best group of wide receivers in the NFL. Kevin Ogletree is inconsistent and could possibly never pan out. Dwayne Harris looks like a real gem in the 6th round. Raymond Radway could have been our missing piece, it is a shame he broke his leg like that. Next year if we can add one more dynamic wide receiver, we will have the best group of wide receivers in the NFL.
Then there is the always consistent Jason Witten. Having an All Pro caliber tight end really opens this offense up even more. We can always expect Witten to hold us down. Martellus Bennett is inconsistent as a pass catcher and a clear bust as a 2nd round pick, but he can block. Having the ability to run two tight end sets with our tight ends blocking ability allows us to really open the playbook up as well. John Phillips is a big part of the future and we should never forget about him.
The defense is the one clear area that needs serious improvement. I expect this defense to be better at first, but I still expect growing pains because of the lack of time Rob Ryan had to install the defense. I believe over the course of the season we will see this defense become a more cohesive unit and finally come together. I still believe that overall this defense lacks the players for it to be a great defense. This is why next year we need to have a defensive oriented draft and sign a few key players in free agency. I still see us being better than last year, but this defense will not reach its full expectations until we upgrade in the draft and free agency.
Jay Ratliff will retire a Cowboy and that is a great thing. Having an All Pro caliber nose tackle only increases our chances of being a great defense down the road. Josh Brent is on his way to being a big part of the future himself. We should see more of Brent this year and we should look forward to his development. We are still lacking that big and powerful nose tackle, but that is for the future. If we can secure one next year, we are set.
The defensive ends are still a work in progress. Releasing Igor Olshansky was the right move and replacing him should be an easy task. Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher can easily replace Igor and be upgrades. Marcus Spears could be a surprise this season if he can get more pressure and be more disruptive. Sean Lissemore doubles as defensive end and nose tackle. He is one of our brighter young talents and is a part of the future. We may have something in Clifton Geathers, he just needs more time to develop.
The outside linebackers have improved from last year too. We still have the best pass rusher in the game in DeMarcus Ware. Ware could be in for a huge season under Rob Ryan. We need to see more consistency all around from Anthony Spencer. He is going to be a big part of this defense and we need him to step it up. He is in a contract year, I would hate to have to draft another linebacker early in the draft again. Victor Butler really looks like he is on the verge of a breakout season. Butler is our best player from a 2009 draft class that is killing our depth, lookout for Butler this year. UDFA Alex Albright is another young and shining star on a team full of stars. If Albright pans out, that would be a huge upgrade over Brandon Williams.
The inside linebackers are a big question mark this year. Bradie James is in the last year of his contract and should be his last season in Dallas. James has been a solid player for us and we should appreciate what he has done here. We need James to provide us with one more big season. What we should do is keep him off the fields on third downs, because he is a disaster. Keith Brooking is most likely in his last year as a Cowboy himself. He is too old and is beginning to wear down. Honestly, I don't expect much from Brooking this year at all. People can bash Sean Lee all they want, but the kid is the stud of the future on this defense. He is fast, physical and smart. If Sean Lee can take a big step forward this year, we will be in great shape at one of the inside linebacker positions. Bruce Carter is a stud himself, but don't expect much this year. He will be a big part of the team next year.
Carrying only three inside linebackers is a disaster waiting to happen. Hopefully we can stay healthy at the position this year and we can get Carter back so he can at least provide depth for us. I still have faith in Orie Lemon ending up on the team at some point this season. Lemon could possibly be a part of this roster for a long time in the future because of his skill set and youth.
Cornerback is another position that should concern us. I still don't know why we didn't upgrade at the position this year. Terence Newman will not be here next year and honestly should probably been sent packing months ago. Mike Jenkins is in the fight of his life right now to prove he can play in the NFL. He has the athletic ability, but I am beginning to question if he has the mindset and heart to play in the NFL. Orlando Scandrick is clearly one of our brightest players in the secondary. Scandrick will be a big part of this defense for the future and will have a good season for us. Hate it or love it, Alan Ball is a pretty decent cornerback. I believe we will see a good season from Ball.
Next year cornerback needs to be upgraded. The draft will be loaded with great cornerback talent, so it may be wise to finally go out and draft a cornerback with our first pick.
Safety has been a problem ever since Darren Woodson retired. Gerald Sensabaugh is clearly working hard to prove me wrong, and I couldn't be happier about that. If Sensabaugh can play at a high level and cut down on the mental mistakes, we may have a real good safety developing here. Abram Elam was exactly what this defense needed. We needed a guy to know this defense and be a leader. There is no way these safeties can be worse than they were last year. We also have a keeper in Barry Church. Church could be the answer at the strong safety position for the future. Danny McCray is a special teams stud and there is nothing wrong with that.
The kicking situation is a mess, lets be clear about that. I don't see Buehler ever amounting into a real NFL kicker. Maybe one of the young guys like Bailey or Forbath work out, but this is the scariest position on the roster to look at on paper and during games. I suggested signing David Akers a few months ago and I still stand behind that statement. You need a good kicker to win in this league because some games come down to a kick. For whatever reason we always have trouble finding and keeping a kicker. At some point we need to bite the bullet and sign a good veteran kicker, enough is enough.
Matt McBriar is a stud, nothing else to comment on there.
Kicking coverage needs to be better than last years, seriously. Nothing else to say there either.
We have exciting players at the kick return and punt return position. Keep Dez off the kickoffs and we should be fine there.
Overall I feel like we have a lot of talent on this football team. We improved the offensive line and that was needed. We didn't do enough to upgrade the talent on the defensive side of the football and that will be a problem for us this year. We upgraded our coaching drastically and that was a major area of need that needed to be addressed.
Even with all the talent we have on offense, I see us not being a Super Bowl contender yet. The defense is a work in progress and I think if we can have a defensive oriented draft only then will we become a Super Bowl contender. I do believe next year we will upgrade the defense and focus on that side of the football. After that we will be a real contender and a force to be reckoned with.
This year is a step in the right direction and we are on the road to recovery. This team is talented to make the playoffs, but the defense is still suspect. This is why I am predicting a 9-7 finish this season. We could also very easily go 7-9 if this defense doesn't get it's act together. It is also possible we could finish 10-6 or 11-5 if this defense plays at a high level, but color me skeptical about this defense being that good. I think the defense will be good, but just not good enough to make a Super Bowl run.
After years of being laughed at, it is time for the rest of the NFL and their fans to recognize the Dallas Cowboys again. We are only a defensive draft and a few key signings in free agency on defense from being back on top, I truly believe that. We are coming for the throne, but it's one game at a time right now. Next year is our year folks, and I predict we win a Super Bowl next year. So be patient Cowboys Nation and enjoy the ride back to being on top of the throne.