Going into 2012, many said the Cowboys looked like an improved team..barring injury. The problem with the term “barring injury” is that injuries can and do occur every week in the NFL. And boy did the injury bugs swarm the Cowboys in 2012. It’s not every year you have multiple starting linemen, RB, WR, defensive linemen, LB, S and CBs miss multiple games. At times it felt like every series a Cowboy player would sustain a season-threatening injury. And yet, the Cowboys were a victory over the RGIII-led Redskins from sneaking into the playoffs, albeit with a 9-7 record. Since saying that the injury swarm won’t happen again is the surest way to ensure that it will, let’s just say that the Cowboys HOPE to be healthier in 2013. Barring Injury.
Barring injury, the 2013 Cowboys will be led by a savvy veteran QB in Tony Romo. Make no mistake, Romo, who receives much well-deserved criticism for lack of playoff wins, is the best thing to happen to the Cowboys since Aikman and Irvin. If not for Romo’s awareness, elusiveness and ability to make decisions while running for his life, the 2012 season could have been a 6-10 affair, or worse! This much is not in question: A Tony Romo-led Cowboy team is a better team than a team led by Kyle Orton, a rookie draft pick or any other NFL retread looking for another shot. Maybe this year they improve some things in front of Romo and make his role as leader of this team a little easier. Barring Injury.
Barring injury, the interior offensive line will be improved in 2013. Controversial 1st round draft pick Travis Frederick heads a group we expect to dogfight through OTAs, minicamp and training camp. Speaking of dogfights, Frederick has a reputation as a nice, smart kid that becomes Beowulf when the clock starts. In the end, the 3 best blockers will secure starting interior line positions. While it’s assumed that Frederick will start at Center, look for Phil Costa to battle for his job as starting center. Costa, who looked good in limited time last year before being lost for the year to an ankle injury, will aim to push the coaches to make a hard decision whether or not to move Frederick to Guard to make room for Costa. Costa, by the way, does not have the body to play Guard therefore they can’t move instead of Frederick, in case you were logically wondering such a thing. Two other players in this scrum are 2012 starters Nate Livings and Mackenzie Bernadeaux. Both players were unheralded veterans free agent signings that got a collective “meh” from the fanbase. There are wildly differing opinions on these two and I believe I have found the reason. For much of the season Bernadeaux was hurt and did not play up to his potential. Meanwhile, Livings played well for most of the season but seemed to fade down the stretch. This may explain why Livings was, by all accounts, the better player in 2012 but many scouts and people familiar with the team’s personnel decisions have a better outlook on Bernadeax. The final piece of the interior line puzzle is Ronald Leary. Leary, while said to have starter talent, went undrafted because of a degenerative knee problem that will shorten his career. (Hint-hint develop him and get him on the field while he can still play). Look for Leary to push Livings or Bernadeaux for a starting Guard position as a cheaper alternative with a strong camp. Barring Injury.
Barring injury, Dez Bryant will be the go-to playmaker on the Cowboys offense. A healthy Miles Austin and Jason Witten will be bolstered by young vets James Hanna and Dwayne Harris, not to mention draft picks Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams. Back to the “camp story” section go Cole Beasley and Danny Coale. Injuries can and do happen so this is just what things look like on May 25. Barring Injury.
Barring injury, Demarco Murray can look like a pro bowl runner at times, even behind a suspect line. Unfortunately, Demarco Murray gets injured. A lot. So the Cowboys drafted a Demarco-Murray-clone in Joseph Randle. Tough running, fierce blocking and deceptive open field speed becomes the calling card of the new tandem. Hopefully every Cowboy RB start this year is by one of these to beasty runners. Anyone miss Felix Jones? Probably not. Barring Injury.
NEXT: BARRING INJURY – DEFENSE