The poor play of the Dallas Cowboys have taken the joy and excitement that stems from the game of football away from me in 2013. Currently I am at a point where I am beaten down by the injuries, lack of execution, disappointment and failure to win games because they gave them away or failed to take them. Watching this team this season has been really difficult because while I believed they were going to be an average team, I didn't think it would get this bad.
My season prediction for the the Cowboys was 8-8. A few of the reasons that led me to that conclusion were the lack of talent added to the defensive and offensive line, but as it stands now, they may not even win seven games.
During the entire draft process, I urged the team to add youth and talent to the defensive line. Good NFL teams use a rotation and have the necessary depth to win on the trenches, but the Cowboys continue to ignore their defensive needs and now after a unlucky turn of events, have serious issues along their line. Trusting an injured Anthony Spencer and the aging DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff to carry the team was a mistake, but also not adding depth behind them was an even bigger one.
Look at the areas that need serious changes, they look pretty similar to the ones we had entering the 2013 season.
Dallas may have found a good player in J.J. Wilcox, but they still do not have a game changer in the secondary who the quarterback fears. This defense is on pace to be one of the worst in team history. Now the pass rush needs drastic changes, because without a pass rush, it doesn't matter if a young Ed Reed and Deion Sanders are back there roaming the secondary.
With limited cap space in 2014 and forward, the Cowboys will need to have home run drafts, and that isn't easy. Where they need to start the process of getting this team back in the hunt will be on defense. The move back to the 4-3 is still the right decision. I know it hasn't worked out so far, but look at the turnover spike we have seen. There has also been less confusion with a straight up approach. If Dallas keeps the 4-3 scheme in place but upgrades the personnel, they could have the type of defense that can make them a balanced football team.
The fixes won't be easy, but this is something that can be done. The Carolina Panthers quickly turned around their defense by bringing in a good safety (Mike Mitchell) and making DT upgrades a priority this off-season. They already had their version of Sean Lee in Luke Kuechly, they just needed to fix their DL and the Cowboys can follow that model of success.
The current state of the defense is pretty bad. If they invest all the resources they have on it next year, then it's not out of the realm of possibility that the unit can improve. They do have some talented pieces in place, they just need a lot more of them.
I think it's pretty clear by now, the Cowboys have enough skill players to be a high powered football team. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Jason Witten, James Hanna, and hopefully Gavin Escobar (please don't get me started on that guy) are enough players to make things happen and carry them into the post season.
There are some areas Dallas can add to the skill positions, but take a quick look and it's nothing they couldn't live without but it would help.
- Speed player to stretch the field (Tavon Austin, Percy Harvin, Marquise Goodwin) Dallas needs more speed on offense, they have lacked it for years
- Elite RB (would you rather draft a RB in the middle of the draft? Yeah, me too, so focus that pick elsewhere and roll with the current guys, but do add another back after the 2nd round in 2014)
An elite workhorse running back would be a great addition, but even if Earl Campbell in his prime was in the Dallas backfield, he probably couldn't get much of a running game going because the offensive line is simply not good enough to make that a strength.
Travis Frederick has been a welcome addition. He looks like a player who will hold down the center position for a very long time, but outside of Frederick, Tyron Smith and to some degree Doug Free, Dallas does not have the makings of a powerful offensive line. They are inconsistent and fail to make the running game open up for whoever the running back is behind them. Now the passing game is starting to drop off because they fail to pass block and give adequate time.
Much like the defensive line, Jerry Jones has ignored the offensive line for too long. Sure the two first-round picks look good, but outside of that they currently do not have much talent around those two players. If you constantly keep placing your faith on low grade draft picks, low level signings and undrafted free agents, you will have a much harder time assembling a successful unit.
Sure, maybe you find a couple of guys, but the two high picks Dallas used on lineman has worked out, so why not continue to use better resources on assembling a legitimate offensive line for your franchise quarterback and improve the running game into a stable part of your game?
This is up for serious debate, but I was a huge fan of Jason Garrett when he was first hired. After a few seasons, my faith in Garrett is beginning to fade. Jerry Jones can say all he wants about his coach being safe, I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth anymore. He's fooled me in the past with his guarantees, and I will not be fooled again.
Garrett probably deserves another year, but he may end up being the scapegoat for the 2013 failure of his coaches and team. If they decide to go in another direction, I would advise they bring in an experienced coach and my guy would be Lovie Smith.
As for the offensive coordinator, I will attempt to be as nice as possible here with Bill Callahan. Frankly, he should not be employed by the Dallas Cowboys or any NFL team right now. Maybe the players aren't executing, but even if they were his offense would still be a poor one. He needs to go and a young and creative offensive mind needs to be brought in. There is already too much talent on this offense not to succeed. Yes, the line needs help, but I've seen this team air defenses out in 2012 and they were dangerous when they opened it up. That is what they should be doing right now, if you can't see that Mr. Callahan then you fail to adjust to what works with the current personnel.
His failure to get our best player open is maddening.
Dez is a special talent and a unique weapon who can change the game, but he is not utilized or featured. When you fail to do that, you are wasting one of your best options that can help you win the game.
Monte Kiffin may deserve another year because of all the injuries, but Rob Ryan never should have been fired for the same reason and he was axed without getting another season with a healthy defense. Keep the 4-3, just move on from Kiffin if necessary and I would highly consider making Rod Marinelli the defensive coordinator. He's a great coach who can motivate and get the most out of what he has to work with. His defense in Chicago was excellent at one point and I believe he could run a potent one in Dallas if given the right personnel.
It's time to accept the 2013 season may not be what we thought it could be. Dallas is an average football team with serious issues that need to be worked out. If you are expecting a major turnaround in New York on Sunday, I wouldn't get my hopes up. This could be another ugly game and this could be a long second half of the season.
I've accepted that the current group of Dallas Cowboys can not win the Super Bowl. I do not think they are that far off, as bad as they have been, I still believe if they devote the 2014 off-season to upgrade the trenches, then they can be a serious contender. If they once again ignore those two areas, then they will continue to be in the same hole they have been in for years.