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Dallas Cowboys training camp draws closer

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The time is now to really start looking ahead. Training camp is drawing closer, the draft picks will start signing next week, and the Dallas Cowboys will have to trim a few players off the roster. When that starts happening, we really are moving closer to the 2007 season.

So in that spirit, I’m calling on the spirit of the Great Fedora, Tom Landry, to come down and cleanse us of any leftover feelings from 2006. Bill Parcells is history now, though his players remain, he no longer reigns supreme at Valley Ranch. It’s all about Wade Phillips, who needs a catchy nickname like the Tuna or his father’s Bum.

So what do I think we’ll see in 2007? I’ll know a lot more once we get into training camp, but here are a few observations.

  1. The Dallas Cowboys will be very exciting to watch this year, maybe too exciting. The Phillips 34 is a much more aggressive defensive scheme than what we ran last year. So expect higher highs and lower lows. We’ll pick up some more sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage and all those things we love on defense. But we’ll probably give up more big plays where an offense catches us over-committed. On offense, we want to go deep - or at least intermediate - in the passing game which means Romo has to sit in the pocket a little longer and the ball is in the air a little longer. That’s high-risk, high-reward. When you combine these new approaches on offense and defense, our games should have their share of big plays that change the momentum of the game. I see a roller-coaster ride not only over the course of the season, but within each individual game. I hope my heart can take it.
  1. On offense, the vertical passing game will be balanced out by a power running game. So how will the JJ/MB3 situation resolve itself? If the Cowboys are committed to a true power-running game, then they will need both JJ and MB3 shouldering the load. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used MB3 more between the tackles and used JJ more for the outside. Instead of last year’s demarcation of 1st down/2nd down back (JJ) vs. 3rd down/short-yardage back (MB3), we might see a more equitable split of time between the two that is based on the type of play to be run rather than down and distance. Of course, you can’t get too predictable with that formulation or the defense will know what you’re doing, but if they mix-it-up just enough, it could be very effective.
  1. Ken Hamlin has to come up big at the free safety position. If the Cowboys are going to keep Roy Williams closer to the line as they’ve said, then Hamlin becomes a key for success. The coaches want Roy lining up seven-yards deep whenever possible, and they want to isolate him on TE’s or RB’s and shield him from the WR’s in coverage. That leaves Hamlin to cover the deep center and keep WR’s from burning the Cowboys. He’ll have a lot of ground to cover back there and he’s got to get it right for us to do what we want to do on defense.
  1. We’ve all talked about the new Phillips 34 and the return to the timing offense under Jason Garrett, but the big question is how fast the Cowboys as a team can assimilate these new philosophies. We love them in theory, but they have to be played out on the field and the Cowboys can’t afford an early season funk.

Those are just a couple of the things I’ll be watching for at training camp. What’s on your mind as we head into the final stretch of the offseason?