Last week, I drank the Kool-Aid and laid out my top 5 reasons to believe in the Boys. Read it here. This week, after watching Team USA go from qualification to the knockout stage to still needing help, I bring you the more depressing top 5. Hide your kids, put away your beverage of choice, hide the sharp objects, and don't look down. The glass is half empty today.
A couple of these will be a rehash of Viciousphilpy's response with his own pessimistic top 5.
5. Oh Captain, my Captain - Sean Lee is out for the year. Who you kidding Jason Garret? I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. Which means the person in the middle isn't going to be as good. Sean Lee's presence in the lineup is huge. He is a playmaker. When healthy, he is the closest thing to a tackling machine this team has seen in a long time. No disrespect to Davonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens, and Justin Durant, but Sean Lee has Pro Bowl potential at the MLB position because of his playmaking ability. In 46 career games with the Cowboys (2010-2013) Sean Lee has amassed, 294 combined tackles, deflected 18 passes, and intercepted 11 balls. In comparison, Brandon Carr has; 361 combined tackles, deflected 88 passes and intercepted 14 balls over 6 seasons. Now you expect the deflected passes to be in Carr's favor. And on averaged, Lee has more tackles. Those numbers are to be expected. But what I didn't expect to see was that Carr has only 3 more interceptions than Lee, and Lee has played two fewer seasons. Lee's ability to make plays on the ball in the middle of the field has saved this team a time or two. This won't be easily replaced.
4. Romo's Back - No, I'm not a Romo hater, and for all you Haters who were hoping this was a Tony Romo's no good post. NO!!! This is actually about his back. The dude has a bad back. That doesn't just get fixed with surgery. After working in Intensive Care Units and in recovery rooms with people who have had back surgery, it doesn't just get fixed and you never have problems with it again. The reality is that Romo is going to have back problems for the rest of his life. He may not show a lot of effects this year, or he may get hit one time and his season and career could be over. It's not a good thing when your season is one hit away. And with Romo, this could be the case. If he misses an extended period of time, I don't like the chances for this team to make the playoffs. Yes, Brandon Weeden has turned some heads, but he is still a Cleveland Browns castoff. If he was a good quarterback, he would still be in Cleveland. Don't even get me started on Kyle Orton. You can't count on a guy that hasn't shown up for anything and the Coach isn't sure what he's doing. This thing is one Romo injury from the tank. If Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett know what is good for their coaching career they will protect Romo at all costs. The Offensive Line can be this team's best friend. If the OL is as good as people think they will be, then they can take a lot of pressure off of Romo. Not only through their pass blocking, but also through the offensive play callers ability to rely more on the running game. The closer they can get to 50-50 in the run/pass ratio, the better it will be for a 34 year old QB coming off of two back surgeries. The best thing they can do to protect Tony is to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. Now is the time to flip the script on the play calling of the last few years.
3. Too many chiefs? - the Cowboys are using their third play caller in as many years. And in an odd situation all three play callers remain with the team. In 2011 and 2012, Jason Garrett called the plays, mostly because Jerry didn't believe in having a walk around head coach. In 2013, the play calling duties went to Bill Callahan, despite being a West Coast System guy. And now Scott Linehan takes over as the passing game coordinator and play caller. So you have a head coach who likes to have his hand in the play calling (just ask Bill Callahan), the Offensive Coordinator/running game coordinator/offensive line coach, who will have his own ideas on how the plays should be called, and the new guy, who worked with Garrett a while ago, but that was in Miami a long time ago. Sure they will be running the same system they had been running but their will be tweaks and some Linehan philosophy that will be different from Callahan and Garrett. Linehan has a track record of success, but the ability of the offense to work to his philosophy and his ability to put guys in the right position to succeed will be key components to how well this thing runs. In the past we have seen issues getting the play in in a timely fashion. Is there a process for making sure that there aren't too many voices. Are we going to continue to see rushed snaps, delay of games, and poor use of timeouts.
2. Pass the Potter's please - As I discussed above, this team really wants to pass the ball a lot. All indications will be that Tony Romo will be asked to drop back just as much if not more. If that is the case, I will go on record as it being a mistake. The strength of this offense is shifting from the skill positions to the interior. Yes, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray are Pro Bowlers, but the guys this team needs to rely on are the big uglies up front. The great thing about those teams in the 90's was they had great offensive line play and they used it to their advantage. Yes Emmitt Smith was a great runner, but he also played behind a historically great offensive line. Remember those 3 Super Bowls. Smith was at the center of each of them. Seattle and San Fran have both made their marks with strong offensive line play and running games that dictate the flow of the game. I'm not saying we need to go to a run heavy system, but I am saying we need to get closer to a 55-45 pass/run ratio. If we can do that, that will give the O-Line more momentum in run blocking, use one of your best assets in DeMarco Murray and protect your most important player in Tony Romo. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because Romo is healthy he should drop back 40 times a game. He is a good player and probably a top 10 quarterback, but that doesn't mean that you have to rely on him. Create balance. If this team has to throw a lot this year, it won't go well.
1. The Defense Objects - I think a lot of us look at this group of defenders and think they can make an improvement, and they can. But (and it's a big but) if they don't improve to the 20-22 range, this thing might be destined for another playoff-less season. A lot needs to go right. Master Splinter Marinelli said it himself, "a lot of guys need to have career years." It can happen. The problem is that there are question marks everywhere. Literally. Aside from Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church, do we feel good about any of the players on this defense?
Will Morris Claiborne live up to the #6 pick?
Will Brandon Carr return to a solid 2012?
Is JJ Wilcox ready to start?
Will Matt Johnson ever play? (Not that I care, just wanted to get a Matt Johnson injured reference in here).
Can Barry Church elevate his game?
Will Henry Melton be healthy enough to contribute and can he do so at his previous level?
Is DeMarcus Lawrence going to be up to the task of taking on the best offensive lineman in football week in and week out?
Can George Selvie maintain his level of play from 2013?
Is Terrell McLain all that he has been in the OTA's and minicamp?
Will Anthony Spencer play? I'm thinking at this point that if we get anything from him, it's gravy.
Will Tyrone Crawford be the disruptive player that Jason Hatcher and Tony Romo predict he will be?
Will they find 8-10 guys who can be quality NFL Defensive lineman?
Can Bruce Carter show us that last year was an aberration and be the playmaker this defense needs on the weak side?
Can we get serviceable production out of the Mike Linebacker spot? Consistency here is also a huge thing.
Is Kyle Wilber the guy we saw making plays at the end of last year, or is he the guy who they couldn't find a position for?
That's a lot of questions that need to unfold in a positive way for this thing to be better than it was last year. I am naturally an optimistic person, but even I have to admit that the defense's glass is half empty.
Here's hoping I'm wrong.