Well it wasn't pretty, but the Dallas Cowboys managed to pull out a win in their home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The overall performance in this game may not make us feel overly confident about the 2012 season, but it's still early in the year. There is a lot of football left to be played, and this team could still put it all together and come out a contender.
For the most part, the defense should take the credit for the win. I really don't have too much praise for the offense because they failed to get into a rhythm and move the football consistently against a young and talented, but suspect defense. A lot of the failure on offense can be attributed to the penalties, mistakes and dropped passes. What we saw against the Buccaneers really needs to stop. If it doesn't, then the Cowboys may never get on the right track.
One player who really needs to step their game up is offensive tackle Doug Free. Free was great for us in 2009 and 2010, but since then he hasn't been the same player. Free needs to fix whatever is wrong with him because his poor play is getting Tony Romo beaten up.
Who made my nice list with good performances against the Buccaneers? Take the jump to find out...
Tony Romo probably could win a game ball every week, it's pretty obvious how good he is. Once again he showed that he is tougher than nails after taking a few brutal shots in the game, but Romo never backed down and continued to get back up.
Miles Austin had the 100-yard game and a huge 49-yard play that gave the team some life, but Bryant probably saved the day with his punt return late in the fourth quarter.
The 44-yard return was the type of electrifying play that Dez is capable of producing at any given moment in a game. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have taken a lot of heat for putting him back on punts, but when the Cowboys needed a big play, Dez came through.
While he may not have had a 100-yard game, Dez still caught six passes for 62 yards. Had the offensive line blocked better for Romo, he would have had an even bigger game statistically. Dez is on the verge of a breakout season, he just needs to stay consistent.
DeMarcus Ware & Anthony Spencer
Ware and Spencer are off to a great start this season. Spencer has taken a lot of criticism from the fans, myself included, but he has been playing very good football so far. The combination of Ware and Spencer is one of the reasons this defense is looking so good right now.
I have been very impressed with the play of Spencer. We all know that he is a force in the run game, but he is getting pressure on the quarterback. He isn't coming away with the sacks, but he is doing his job and disrupting the timing of passing plays.
As for DeMarcus Ware, he was just out of his mind good on Sunday. His ability to get into the backfield is so impressive because he is basically the guy that the opposing team tries to shutdown every week. Ware forced two fumbles on his two sacks, but unfortunately the Cowboys couldn't recover them. The improved coverage is beginning to have an impact on the pass rush.
Sean Lee & Bruce Carter
Lee continues to grow into one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He came away with a huge interception when running back D.J. Ware basically had the ball hit him in the face and turn into a tip drill. Lee just has a nose for the football and seems to always be in the right place to make the play.
Not only is Lee a great football player, he is also a natural leader. Having a player in the middle of your defense with the qualities Lee has is something that almost every NFL team looks for, but players like Sean Lee don't grow on trees.
Carter didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet (five tackles), but he was all over the field again. His sideline to sideline speed and athleticism is what makes him stand out. He may have been responsible for the Luke Stocker touchdown, but Carter has been a major upgrade for the Cowboys this season.
The combination of Lee and Carter continue to improve with each game. Bradie James and Keith Brooking were major liabilities last season, but we no longer have a weakness in the middle of the defense.
Mike Jenkins was a hot topic of discussion after the Cowboys drafted Morris Claiborne. He really irritated some fans when he distanced himself from the team while recovering from a shoulder injury in the offseason, but Jenkins is back and he looks like he is ready to contribute for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.
Gerald Sensabaugh was already out with a calf injury, and the backups we have on the roster aren't exactly great in coverage. Rob Ryan had a difficult decision to make, but he got creative and did something unconventional. Having Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick allowed our best option to shift over to the safety position. Brandon Carr hasn't played safety since high school, but he filled in there and played pretty good football. Unless we sign a safety, we may see Carr back there more this season.
The Bucs didn't test our secondary enough, but our cornerbacks continue to shutdown whoever is front of them. It's amazing what a difference one offseason can make.