Here we sit poised between rookie minicamp and the first OTAs, in the proverbial calm between two storms. Sometimes, that's when the world is quietest and gives one the best opportunity for deep contemplation. Thankfully, several of our favorite Cowboys scribes took full advantage of their quiet time. The lead story is Tony Romo's interview with 105.3's Ben and Skin. We'll begin there.
Romo noted the team's "real good philosophy," which essentially means building along both lines. This leads to success, he says, because,
The best teams, they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and they’re able to protect the guy standing back there, and you’re able to run the ball and the other things that allow you to be good when you’re on the road, in tough environments and things of that nature.
Since the Cowboys are building the right way, Romo concluded, "I think in the next five years our football team is going to be better than it’s been in seven years" - in other words, they'll have the best team they've had since the bang-bang season in 2007. A bold claim, indeed - and one that Cowboys fans hope has merit.
Lest Cowboys-watchin' wags jump in to state that the team will be better because Romo will be retired, Dallas' signal-caller makes it clear that he plans on being there for every snap of this return to
gloryhole glory. Apparently, he's so confident that he just had to adopt the royal we:
We’re coming up on [being 100 percent] pretty soon. Within the next month, there’s no question we’ll be 100 percent. Hopefully it’s in the next week or two, which is a viable and serious time that it could happen in...It could be another two or three weeks. We’ll see. We’ll be smart at OTAs, but at the same time, we got to get to work.
All hail the king...
Number nine in blue is the thirteenth-rated QB, for what its worth - which, in the case of the NFL Network's annual top 100 list, is very little.
And, just in case Romo doesn't have five years in him, there's this:
The big three: Florida State's Jameis WInston; Marcus Mariota of Oregon; UCLA's Brett Hundley. Other considerations: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Alabama's heir apparent, Jacob Coker.
On the day after BTB's Joey Ickes ruminated upon the D-line depth chart and our own Tom Ryle noted that the front office is looking for bargains in the football basement, Stephen Jones acknowledged that the team is both playing a numbers game and hoping one or more of their injury bargains pays off:
When you’re a little bit like we are on the defensive line after what we just went through, you’ve got to put a lot of hooks in the water....We need numbers, and we’ll probably go heavy there in camp, and you get a couple of these guys come through for us.
In short, the 2014 D-line appears to be a calculated game of crossed fingers. But there's this shining beacon of hope:
When asked who on the team might be a potential breakout candidate, Romo didn't hesitate before naming Tyrone Crawford as a guy to watch:
I think without people knowing it, we’re getting a couple of first or second-round guys with him coming back from injury. I think he’s the guy that stands out to me as the first guy that’s going to be very, very difficult to deal with for offenses.
Well wouldn't that be lover-ly.
And now to the offensive side of the ball...
This piece goes back to new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's days with the Minnesota Vikings, where he had a backfield by committee featuring Michael Bennett and Moe WIlliams. Both ran the ball well and caught a lot of passes out of the backfield. The narrative thrust here is that the Cowboys need that second back (thus Moe Williams), a complement to DeMarco Murray, if they are to adopt this scheme with any level of success.
The Cowboys' offense's ability to impose its will by running even when the opposing defense knows it's coming has been in short supply since some time in 2009. Linehan takes a look at his O-linemen and declares that those days should soon return:
This is a great young front...It was already an offensive line that was really meshing and playing well. We don’t have to have this certain look to run the ball. We feel like we can line up and say, ‘Hey, if they’re going to drop guys into the box, we still feel like we’ve got the guys that can get it done.’ And then that helps everything. That opens everything on the outside of the field.
Yesterday, Jason Witten noted that the team struggled mightily when it came to play-action passing in 2013. If the Cowboys can impose their will in the running game, it will do a lot to change their effectiveness in that regard.
I know we want to control the line of scrimmage, and when we were winning in the ‘90s, that’s what they did. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. You can tell they’re invested in that. It’s going to be fun to be a part of it.
And by "fun," we know he really means "I'm going to enjoy pancaking linebackers to spring DeMarco Murray for crucial fourth-quarter first downs."
And, finally, some key tidbits:
During the recent rookie minicamp, Monte Kiffin told reporters that one of their "tryout" players reminded him of Ronde Barber. On Wednesday, they signed Patmon, waiving big-hitting safety Marvin Robinson to make roster space for the former Oklahoma State product.
As should any good, intelligent Cowboys follower, The Sturminator is going back to the tape to take a longer look at each of the Cowboys draft picks. In particular, he's focusing on the guys that weren't on his radar before the draft. Most recently, he took a deeper look at the most controversial of Dallas' selections, Anthony Hitchens. You may recall that I authored a post yesterday that made the case that Hitchens was drafted largely because of his ability to get the defense on the same page should Sean Lee miss time with an injury. Apparently, Sturm agrees:
If you want to know where Hitchens really excels, to me it is in two particular spots. One, it is clear that he is a very intelligent player who understands the concepts of a defense and can help his team-mates also see this big picture. I cannot stress enough how important this is for a scheme to have 11 defenders on the same page, and if he is going to be the QB of your defense, he better get this concept. Knowing where you need to be is a given. If you want to be a middle linebacker, you need to know where everyone needs to be. And Hitchens can be seen moving guys and adjusting things very well. I think that is encouraging. And then, of course, he is also a force on the defense which means that not only does he understand it (any of us could aspire to that), he can also do something about plays in his area with his ability (which is something that keeps us on the couch).
In this installment of his always-thoughtful "wonders" series, Archer speculates that the team might retain Doug Free's services in order to keep Zack Martin at guard; the tailback depth chart; the likelihood that injured D-linemen Anthony Spencer and Henry Melton will reach the playing time incentives in their contracts; the chances that Jason Garrett scales back on the intensity of practices in order to reduce injuries; and the training camp battle at punter.
Good stuff from Archer, as always.