After the basic fact that the Dallas Cowboys won the season opener at the New York Giants, the thing that most of us probably took the greatest satisfaction from was the stellar debut of Kevin Ogletree in the third wide receiver job. Although at this point, there is a caveat on all pronouncements that "it is just one game", it is hard not to see portents of good things to come in his 8 reception/114 yards/2 touchdown performance.
As exciting as that is, I think there is something in the stats from the game that holds even better news for Cowboys fans. It goes like this:
16 receptions/272 yards/3 touchdowns/17 yards per catch.
Those are the combined numbers for the three Cowboys wide receivers that caught balls in the game, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Ogletree. With all the attention Ogletree garnered, it is easy to overlook the fact that Austin and Bryant had very good games as well.
How good? All three had a better performance than the Giants' best receiver on the night, Victor Cruz, who only had 58 yards total. Ogletree alone had more yards and touchdowns than the top two NYG receivers combined, Cruz and Domenik Hixon. On a night when the Dallas defense limited Eli Manning to only two completions of more than 20 yards (one each to Cruz and Hixon), Bryant averaged 21.25 yards a catch. Yes, I know you can't project out one game over sixteen. But you are still looking at the potential for three 1,000 yard receivers.
Yes, it's only one game. But you have to like the possibilities.
A look at those after the jump.
Of all the aspects of the passing game, the biggest plus may be that everyone seemed to come out of it in good shape. Even Jason Witten, who was largely unused as he showed up with his once-lacerated spleen, should be getting better as the season progresses, working his way back into things. The tight ends and running backs as a group were largely an afterthought for the passing game, only combining for 6 catches and 35 yards. That is not likely to be the norm as the season progresses, and working those players into the attack is just going to make it better. Witten gets rolling, which I fully expect, and those three potential 1,000 yard types becomes four.
But for now, Tony Romo has three healthy and very capable wide receivers. The understatement is deliberate there, because Ogletree is not the semi-freakish talent that Bryant is, and a notch or two below Austin as well. But look what happened. The whole pattern of the passing game can be seen as a matter of Tony taking what the Giants gave him. It just so happened that the Giants, who had a still-formidable pass rush but a badly hobbled secondary, were giving him deep patterns and quick opening crossing routes.
And Tony made them pay. Along the way, he made it pretty evident that Laurent Robinson should mail about half his paycheck with the Jaguars to Tony, since it seems inarguable that Robinson's success was dependent on Mr. Romo. Sorry, Jacksonville. Don't expect that kind of play when he is catching balls from Blaine Gabbert. He is a decent receiver who had his game elevated by a superb quarterback.
(I had written this article and was about to submit it, when this came out:
Jerry: One of Romo's best skills is his ability to recognize many options. Give him offensive options and "you’ve made that Romo-friendly."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 11, 2012
Now, that superb quarterback has the opportunity to look down the field and see three very good players going into the pattern, and with the improving health of his favorite target, that will likely go to four very soon. (On a related note, the Cowboys are relying on Jason Witten communicating how he is doing to make decisions about whether he plays or not. If his word is really the determining factor, expect him to start every game.)
Just think a moment. How many games in 2011 did Tony Romo have all his weapons lined up around him? Include DeMarco Murray in that calculation, because his 131 yards rushing was also major. I believe the answer is: None.
The New York game was what Jason Garrett's offense is all about. That is what he assembled this offense to do. And it was accomplished with an offensive line, the great Achilles' Heel of the Cowboys, that is still held together with bubble gum and baling wire. With Phil Costa reportedly not available for the Seattle Seahawks game, the line will be able to use the long break after the season opening extravaganza to get more comfortable in its current incarnation. There is even some hope that the team will be able to handle an injury in the receiving corps, with three young backup players on the roster that have shown flashes coming into the season, and that have some very good examples ahead of them to show what they need to do. This offense may actually be able to live up to the huge potential it has. Against the Giants, we got to see just what that might look like.
It was just one game. The first game. Otherwise known as the beginning. The adventure continues in Seattle.
Yeah, the Kool Aid is cold and ready to pour. Join me?