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The six keys to winning

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Yesterday, there was a paragraph in an article by JJT in the DMN.

DMN NFL writer Rick Gosselin has identified six ultra-key positions in the NFL: quarterback, running back, receiver, left tackle, pass-rusher and cornerback. The teams with the best players at those positions usually win consistently.

That's been the conventional wisdom around the NFL for a while now, especially when you look at the salary structure of most teams, and the way those positions are coveted in the draft and free agency. So for kicks, I decided to look at how the Cowboys stack up in each area.

QB - Drew Bledsoe is good enough to get the job done...under certain conditions. On the plus side, Bledsoe has a cannon for an arm and can make every throw that's required of an NFL QB. He has prototypical size and shows incredible toughness on the field. He's taken one team to a Super Bowl and won the AFC Championship game for another. But Bledsoe has a serious flaw in his game. He can't avoid the rush. Not every QB needs to be Mike Vick, but other immobile QB's seem to have the ability to avoid the rush at the last second, something Bledsoe has never done well. To compound the issue, Drew never gives up on a play and holds the ball to the last second. If you're going to do that, you need to have a sixth-sense and avoid the rush or throw the ball away. So the book on Bledsoe is the same as most QB's but it's exaggerated in both directions. If you give him protection, he's as good as any QB in the league. If you have a porous line, he takes too many negative plays.

RB - On talent-level alone, Julius Jones provides the Cowboys with sufficient firepower at the RB position. In his rookie season, for the second half of the season, he looked like the answer to the Cowboys prayers. Quick to the hole and blessed with moves to easily navigate the second-level of a defense, Jones was on the verge of super-stardom. Alas, his second season wasn't the same as the first and Jones never quite recaptured the magic of the first year. Even in the first six games when the line was still injury free as was Jones, he never managed to dominate a game or even break the 100-yard plateau. There was another element that was consistent from year one to year two, injuries. An injury prone RB does no favors to his team because the position requires durability and consistency. So far, Julius has provided neither.

WR - Terrell Owens, million-dollar skills, 10-cent head. You decide.

LT - Flozell Adams proved one thing if nothing else last year; the Cowboys are a much better football team when he is on the field. Adams has been roundly criticized for never becoming the dominant left tackle that was expected. I think Adams was a victim of inflated expectations, while he's not in the top-echelon of LT's, he does manage to give Dallas a solid presence on the end of the line.

DE/OLB - DeMarcus Ware was drafted for one purpose; to put pressure on the QB. When a QB drops back to pass there are four probable outcomes for the offense and three of them are bad. On the positive side there's the completed pass, on the negative side there is an incomplete pass, a turnover or a sack. Having a pass rushing specialist tilts the odds in favor of the defense. Ever since Charles Haley's departure Dallas has been searching for someone to do the job. They might've found him in DeMarcus Ware.

CB - The Cowboys have a pair of good ones, but for this example let's talk about Terence Newman. Gifted with world-class speed, Newman showed flashes of being a shut-down corner in his rookie campaign. His sophomore slump was precipitated by having no help in coverage, but once he was teamed up with Anthony Henry last year he proved he's an elite CB. Why he didn't make the Pro Bowl is still a mystery.

So of those six positions the Cowboys have competence in all, and special players in a few. Drew Bledsoe and Flozell Adams are solid. Julius Jones is a question mark and this year should reveal exactly what he's going to be. DeMarcus Ware and Terence Newman are special talents and should lead the Cowboys defense for years to come. Terrell Owens is Terrell Owens; he could be the best thing that has happened to Dallas in a while, or he could ruin the team.

Overall, Dallas is now doing well in the key positions. Good enough to be serious contenders for the Super Bowl this year.