Four-and-three. First place in the NFC East. A top-flight QB in Tony Romo throwing to arguably the most talented up and coming WR corps in the NFL, comprised of the maturing and uber-talented Dez Bryant, the surprising quick-study Terrance Williams, the emerging uncoverable slot threat Cole Beasley, and a somewhat ailing Miles Austin. An offensive line that was in tatters not too long ago that with the addition of rookie draft pick Travis Frederick at Center and wily veteran Brian Waters at RG, is quickly becoming one of the better units in the NFC, blocking for a serviceable group of RB's led by the tough-running but unfortunately injury prone DeMarco Murray. TE's galore, led by the venerable fan-favorite Jason Witten and another rookie, Gavin Escobar. A defensive line shredded by injuries that is signing guys off their couches on a weekly basis-playing amazingly well, spurred on by the leadership of the fiery DT Jason Hatcher. A linebacking unit that boasts one of the best in the game, Sean Lee, who is flanked by the talented Bruce Carter and Justin Durant. A secondary that has of late come on strong playing man to man coverage, taking advantage of the style of play that CB's Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are most suited for, assisted by two young Safeties, Barry Church and rookie J.J. Wilcox that are getting better every week. A special teams unit that has excelled, motored by the explosive talents of KR/PR/WR Dwayne Harris and the dependable leg of Dan Bailey. Add this all together, and what you have is a team-with the emphasis on TEAM- of which the arrow is definitely pointing up-and for the Dallas Cowboys and their fans it's been a long time coming.
Are all the pieces in place for this team to make a serious run for the privilege of playing in North Jersey on Feb. 2, 2014? Well, ....uh......ummmm,.........possibly. The great front office find and incredible coaching up of DE George Selvie has all but eliminated the blow of the loss of OLB/DE Anthony Spencer. The loss of DT Jay Ratliff has been lessened by the emergence of the dominant play of DT Jason Hatcher, and with the recent signings of misfits/cast-offs Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis and Marvin Austin, the interior of the DL is primed to improve over the second half of the season, as is the defense overall. If Montenelli's Marauders continue to settle into the new defensive scheme and the recent DL signings acclimate and find that 'inner-fire' from the opportunity that has been presented to them, this could be a bonafide "Super"-type defense capable of making the big stops late in January.
Surprisingly, this observer of the Dallas Cowboys believes that the missing piece is not on the defensive side of the ball, but rather on the offensive side. "It's the Quarterback-that guy who always chokes!!!!" , I can hear the Romo haters scream as they are reading this fanpost. Well, uh......WRONG!! Romo is playing the best football of his life. I think that there are at least twenty other teams who would LOVE to have Romo at this moment. Ask yourselves- would the Texans be 2-5 if they had Tony Romo instead of Matt Schaub at QB? Didn't think so either. Actually, they might be tied with the Chiefs at the moment if they had our #9's services.
"It's the offensive line, they can't block a lick, and they have a 3rd rounder that they drafted in the 1st round playing Center!!!" , I hear coming from some. Well, the offensive line has actually morphed into a very effective group, so that isn't it either.
WR's??? Hail no, I can't think of another WR corps in the NFL that I'd rather have than what the Cowboys have: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams-a young stud that's improving weekly and has developed a Laurent Robinson-type rapport with Tony Romo. The Elf, Cole Beasley, who does nothing but beat CB's off the line and catches virtually everything thrown his way for first downs, along with another quality WR that could start for MANY teams, Dwayne Harris. Oh, and don't forget the other guy, Miles Austin. When his Hamstrings aren't tearing like string cheese, he's pretty good too. So, it 'ain't ' the WR's!
"Aha, Jason Witten is getting old and can't get open anymore, and we don't have anyone besides him that's any good!!!" Ummm, Jason Witten is as solid as ever. He is still Romo's security blanket, and has on numerous occasions come through in the clutch this season. The Cowboys have some young, but talented, TE's behind Witten in rookie Gavin Escobar and 2nd year player James Hannah. So it isn't the TE position.
Well, that leaves one position left. You got it, it's the running back position that is keeping the Dallas Cowboys from becoming a truly elite squad. Yes, I know that today's NFL is a passing league and that the value of the running back has declined over the years-........but I say NOT true. The perceived value of the RB has declined as teams go pass happy, yet the truth remains that a true bell-cow type RB, an Emmitt Smith or Marshall Faulk type RB, is more valuable in today's NFL than they ever were. Let me explain.
I was reading another thread, and one post was mentioning the greatness of Peyton Manning and Dan Marino, and somehow Romo was being compared- and that got me thinking. Dan Marino, a Hall-of-Famer. Peyton Manning, a sure-fire 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer. Tony Romo, a possible future Hall-of-Famer. Wow! Looking at those names brought me memories of watching them all play throughout the years. All those THOUSANDS of passing yards, all those completions, all those TD passes!!! An amazing, astronomical amount of statistics that are in the record books. Wow! But, hey,-wait a minute. There is one more statistic that came to mind-ONE. As in ONE Super Bowl trophy combined from all of those yards, completions, and TD's. Only ONE SUPER BOWL!!!! Then it hit me. What did Dan Marino lack during his career? And to an extent what did Peyton Manning and Tony Romo lack as well during their careers?? Yep, a BELL-COW RB that had/has the ability to take over a game, or to run out the clock, or to convert that crucial 3rd and 1. A RB that opposing defensive co-ordinators absolutely have to directly game-plan for, and even change their defensive scheme in an attempt to contain them. THIS is what opens up the aerial attack against the TOP defenses, and it is what the missing link is to the Cowboy's championship puzzle.
I know that some of you are going to argue that DeMarco Murray will be that RB, that he can find the 'magic' to be able to get through a season relatively injury free. Well, even if he could, I don't think he's the 'bell-cow' RB. How many times have you seen Murray break through the line and get 30 yards downfield with no one near him, only to see him run out of gas and get caught from behind 10 yards later or just simply fall down? I've seen many- and in the majority of the cases, the Cowboys ended up punting or kicking a FG on the drive, a drive in which had the Cowboys had a bell-cow RB in there, he would have gone for 6. Those 6 points can easily be the difference of a team being 9-7 and squeaking into the playoffs, and a team going 12-4 and earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs-and not having to play AT Seattle. Don't get me wrong, DeMarco Murray is a very good RB at the NFL level-as a 3rd down/back-up RB. He does a great job blocking and is excellent at catching passes out of the backfield-which is precisely why I feel he would be better served being the Cowboys 3rd down back (this would also prolong Murray's career by 3-4 years), but believe that the Cowboys need to go out and get themselves that bell-cow back.
The 2014 NFL Draft has some intriguing possibilities, including Baylor RB Lache Seestrunk, who looks like an Emmitt clone with speed. However, what about this year? With the trade deadline looming, could there be a player out there that the Cowboys could possibly trade for and work their magic and make him fit under the cap? Speculation has it that the Cowboys may end up getting Jay Ratliff's contract voided by the courts, which could give them an additional $6.9 million in cap relief for the 2014 season-cap relief that would definitely allow the Cowboys to make such a move this year.
Now, if we were to trade for a RB before the trade deadline, who would it be? Well, thinking about this leads me to one obvious conclusion, and that is Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD is in the last year of his contract, and is mired in the sludge that is the 2013 Jaguars. He's going on 28 years old, so he should still have 2-3 good years left in his tank. His stats have been horrific this year- but even Jim Browns stats would be terrible running behind the wet paper bag offensive line on a Jaguars team that is also devoid of an NFL caliber QB. All that opposing defenses have to do against the Jaguars is stack 9 in the box, and the Jags are toast. Now, how would MJD feel about the opportunity to finish his career as a Dallas Cowboy? Pretty damn happy after playing in Jacksonville the last few years, I would bet. Who knows, he's possibly even sign a reasonable, team-friendly extension for the chance to win a Super Bowl with the NFL's most polarizing franchise. Would the addition of MJD actually help the Cowboys? Uhh,... ENORMOUSLY!! MJD has the un-teachable ability of great vision, the ability to set up blockers, and the ability to hit the crease and then make people miss in the open field-plus he has brute power to break tackles. He would instantly make the Cowboys offensive line's run blocking look ten times better. He would be an asset in the passing game, and would bring more leadership to the locker room.
Could he be the missing link, the piece of the puzzle that could catapult the Cowboys into another World Championship?? We will probably never know, since it is very unlikely that the Cowboys would pursue such a move. But if Jacksonville were to put him on the trading block and be willing to part ways with him for a second round pick, perhaps the Cowboys would be wise to roll the dice and pull the trigger on the deal. After all, how many Tight Ends does a team need?