There is no question that the Cowboys have been hit especially hard this year by injuries. Starters Sean Lee, Barry Church, Jay Ratliff, and Kenyon Coleman have all missed significant time, and some are gone for the season. Last night Carter, Scandrick. and Austin joined them. Murray, Costa, Ogletree, and McCray are out too. Never-mind so many of the rookies and second team guys.
And you have to love the fight on this team. Prior Cowboy teams would have lost games that this year's team won. Prior teams would have given up at halftime last night.
There are certainly bright spots. The emergence of Carter and Bryant, in particular. Spencer, too.
But the Cowboys are at a crossroad. Romo will be 33 when the season starts next year. Witten will be 31. Ware, who already seems to be slowing, will also be 31, Ratliff, who faced another season of injuries, will be 32, Coleman 35, Hatcher 31, and Sensabaugh 30. In football years, that's a pretty old bunch.
Your view of the Cowboys may be that a little more depth and some talent infusion on the front line could get the Cowboys right back in the hunt. Certainly the Defense, which was a disaster last year, has undergone great improvement this year, yesterday's lackluster performance notwithstanding. And it's possible that Cowboys could fix the offensive line next year and stay a little more injury free.
But this team has holes. Austin can't stay healthy. So far, neither can Murray. Felix Jones is not the guy he was as a rookie. The explosion is gone. Quite simply, this team just can't run the football. Yes, they did have a strong showing opening night and against the Ravens. But too often, backs are hit in the backfield. Too often this team is one-dimensional. 50 passes? 60 passes? You don't win like that. Not in the NFL.
The line can't often give Romo the time to throw vertically. So everything is underneath. And that means the defensive secondary can play downhill. And thus the picks.
The defensive front for the Cowboys can't seem to bring pressure even with blitzes, which have been dialed back of late because of the fear of giving up big plays.
And there are big decisions to make on personnel and a $5mm hole in cap room next year. Realistically, the team needs to draft not one but two players in the off-season for the offensive line. First and second round picks are in order. And a free agent. Free is nothing short of a bust.
Plus, the defensive line needs upgrading. They just can't bring pressure with any consistency and are getting long-in-tooth. Plus, when has this team stopped a quality running team? The Redskins were on the march on the ground when they needed the yards. In fact, the Redskins didn't look at all like a losing team. The Dallas defense made them look like a playoff team.
No, the Cowboys need a running back to replace Jones, someone with some wheels. Probably a fullback. Certainly a safety. And a whole bunch of fat guys who can block, stop the run and rush the QB.
You can make a case for any of those positions to get a first or second round pick.
The question is how do you see this team?
I know how Jerry sees it. He always seems to see it as a Super Bowl contender. In his mind, I'm sure we're just one electric player away from a run of Super Bowls. His optimism has served him well in business, no doubt.
But in the NFL, realism is the better trait for a GM. The truth is this team went several years without bringing serious talent to the roster. And it wasn't just 2009. 2008 we have next to nothing to show for it (Jenkins and Jones). 2007, just Spencer. 2006, just Jason Catcher.
Those drafts have robbed this team of talent and depth.
Because of those drafts and the big off season decisions this team faces with so many key players, I really think the Cowboys need to do whatever they can to get more upper level draft picks.First rounders and second rounders. Those picks need to be invested in building this team from the inside out. Lineman. Offensive and defensive should be the priority.
Older players with trade value would seem to be Ware, Witten, and Romo. Maybe Ratliff, Austin, and Hatcher. I don't know what the Cowboys could get for those guys, but if I were Jerry Jones, that's what I would be trying to find out. I know the NFL is not a league where much happens with trades, unless it's trading up or down the draft. (You wish we could trade with Jerry, who, since the Hershel Walker trade has gone off the deep end with Joey Galloway and Roy Williams).
Seriously, though, if Jerry wants to prove to the world that he's a great GM, let him load up the Cowboys with additional first and second round picks.
I realize Romo is going to be almost impossible to replace and that Witten and Ware are generational players. It's a shame this team drafted so poorly when having three such luminous talents, but they did and we're now at a crossroad.
Maybe those high round draft choices and some cap work will enable Jerry to work some miracle in a couple of years and find a franchise quarterback. Let's hope so. Either way, this team is not going to the promise land. They're just not.
I know a lot of fans drink the Jerry Jones Cool-Aid each year. I've certainly been one of them. But, aside from the great opening night win against the Giants, the Cowboys haven't even played well in their wins. There has been no dominant performance. None. And we're at game 11.
The odds are we won't finish with eight wins, much less make the playoffs.
It's time for bold moves and a lot less Cool-Aid.