As I sit here with a broken shoulder, I have gotten to that point where I have finally built up the courage to join the blog. I have been an avid reader and lurker since before we drafted Tyron, and finally decided to join the conversation about my favorite sports team. I haven’t felt that I have anything meaningful to contribute, until now.
An idea popped into my head recently while gobbling up all of the Cowboys material I can find. As the title states, I want to see this team really reach for that star this year. Going into training camp and the preseason, optimism is at its highest point all year, and it is now the perfect time to take advantage of the opportunity to reach for the stars.
I want to see the coaching staff throw some players into the fire this summer. We all know what we are going to get out of our stars at this point, and playing time for them should be limited in the preseason. DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, and Tony Romo have delivered year after year. Even starters like Gerald Sensabaugh have played at a consistent level for years now. Now I want to see what the guys behind them can do on their own.
I know the preseason tends to have a very structured and limited role when it comes to starters, but I think those snaps can be valuable both to the marginal players and the fans. I’m sure that many of you fans remember last year’s camp and preseason. One guy who looked great in practice was Lonye Miller. It was looking like he had a spot all locked up until he hit a wall of opposing defenses in the preseason. Thankfully, the Cowboys coaching staff realized he wasn’t ready to join the 53 man roster, and he was released. I bring up Miller to illustrate the point that until he was given the opportunity, he remained a mystery to us. I realize the coaching staff does what it did with Miller to every bubble player, but I want to see it taken a step further.
I want to see some depth guys given the chance in preseason. Preseason is the time for experimentation, and I want to see more of it. There are four preseason games, and at least three were the starters see playing time. What I want to see are different moving pieces. I bought up Sensabaugh earlier, as a player whose skills we already know. I want to see what Barry Church and Matt Johnson can do as first team safeties. Sensy’s injury and recent knee surgery might give this spot a chance. By replacing a few pieces each game, I think we could really see what we have in these guys. For example, one game we can have Church starting in Sensy’s spot next to Brodney Pool. Will our new corners cover tight enough to cover for Church’s sub-par speed? How much of a liability will he be? Can Church take advantage of better coverage and lay the wood harder than Sensy? How about Matt Johnson? Can his instincts carry over to the pro game?
Safety isn’t the only spot. What could Butler do starting for Ware? I have heard of his supposed deficiencies in the run game, but I cannot remember a play where we let up a huge gain on his side. The closest thing I remember seeing to a run stop was his shoestring sack of McNabb on third down a few years ago. Perhaps it just that he doesn’t make plays on the run rather than that he gets taken advantage of? I don’t understand this one. Maybe someone could help me there. Even still, why not give him the chance to? If he is bad against the run, why not keep him on the weak side and put the otherworldly Ware on the strong side? I have no doubt Ware could make the switch if it was best for the team in the long run, say after this year. And with better linebackers in the middle, could Lee and Co. stop runs to Butler’s side?
How cool would it be to see Tyrone Crawford attack the middle and get three sacks against Oakland the first game, and never give up his spot?
On offense, there are some examples. How about Dwayne Harris? He got one game, in which he shined, last preseason. I don’t recall him taking many, if any, snaps at wide receiver in the regular season. It would be awesome to see him beating a team’s number one cornerback, even if it were only on a slant for a first down. By enabling him and pitting him against a number one, sure, chances are he is going to get beat, but if he can make a play he is only getting better. I have never gotten better by playing against inferior competition. It is only after getting beat and learning from my mistakes that I have gotten better. In fact this goes for all of the young wide receivers: Andre Holmes, Cole Beasley, Danny Coale, and Raymond Radway. Kevin Ogletree is the one exception. I doubt there is any reason to expect him to do any differently, because he did not take advantage of his many opportunities. This is what I am going for, give them opportunities, and see which ones shine. On the same token, mistakes should not hurt them, but rather you want to see them learn from the ones they do make.
On the offensive line, the same concept can be applied. Costa had his chance to shine, and was frequently outmatched. Killer K should be given chances to take the job during preseason. Moving people around to see where they best fit, or to see who they best match up against should be a strategy in preseason. Arkin for example, is mentioned as having a lack of strength. But can he play against the faster DTs? Can he pull outside better than Livings? Is the advantage he creates worth the risk of telegraphing the play? I was somewhat disappointed at the people the Cowboys bought in, because they both do not seem to be worlds greater than what we have. I would have liked to have seen what we had first. Perhaps we will, and the new guys are just an insurance policy in case Nagy and Arkin cannot succeed. But then why would they be practicing with the second team if they wanted them to play up to a higher level? I understand that continuity could be an issue, but my hope is that the best players are found through opportunity, not appointed for the sake of staying together.
Here I only mean to pose an interesting idea. I do not claim to be anything more than a devoted fan. Perhaps I am wrong on many levels, but I hope to facilitate some insightful and serious conversation. I may also be preaching to a choir and my ideas are already there, but somewhere where I cannot see them. The beauty of the preseason is that the games don’t count. Now is the time to try new things and save the goods for the regular season. We should have a things figured out by the beginning of the Giants game. This year I know only that I will be rooting for the best team on Earth. My hope is to see some stars emerge, and the Cowboys hosting the Lombardi at the end of the year.