There is one way in which the hot mess that was the Dallas Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles is very much in character with what I have felt about the team since the previous great suckitude known as the Lockout ended.
Namely, I have no idea what the real nature of this team is.
I really believed that we would have a good idea by this point in the season. But the humiliating debacle in Philadelphia was pretty much the opposite of everything I thought was going on with the Cowboys. It was a universal breakdown that was absolutely the last thing I expected to see. A loss was not a surprising outcome. Watching Dallas play like a bad scout team was stunning, but perhaps it should not have been. This team has shown a variety of flaws, and it looks like they were all figured out and exploited.
I know that I have never gotten a really clear idea of what the real character of this team is. It is not like the championship teams of the 90s, which were talented, efficient, and ruthless. But it is not like the recent teams, like last year (pre Garrett), that were clearly out of their depth. This is a team that can show flashes of brilliance and then spew ineptitude of huge proportion. The first five games of the season had a good dose of both in each one. The Rams game gave us great hope, because it lacked the ineptitude and showcased the good things. Then came the trip to Philadelphia, and all the brilliance was gone, leaving the flaws and warts brutally exposed.
I don't know what this team really is and I don't think the team knows, either. That makes the whole task of trying to forecast what problems are ahead more difficult. Still, I'm going to make an attempt. Needless to say, things are looking a lot less favorable this week, even with the Seattle Seahawks coming to town.
As a reminder, the higher the percentage in my forecast, the more likely the area covered is to be a problem.
More after the jump.
Quarterback I thought that the emergence of a running game in the form of DeMarco Murray would be great for Tony Romo. Unfortunately, by the time the Cowboys had their third possession, things were already out of control. And there is just the fact that Tony does not look comfortable. He can still make very good throws, as was shown on the one touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson, but there were too many that were just not there. I am not sure if the problem is Tony and his rib, a lack of confidence in himself, a lack of confidence in his receivers, breakdowns on the offensive line, or what. Tony needs his equivalent of DeMarco's game against the Rams. If this team is to succeed, it is going to need others to step up. Tony may not be able to carry the team on his own anymore, the way he could a couple of seasons ago.
CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM: 60% Last time: 30%
Running Back DeMarco Murray was not able to have the impact that he had against the Rams. It was not due to him. He averaged 9.3 yards a carry, but the running game was strictly an afterthought by the start of the second quarter. The loss of Tashard Choice was overdue, at least in my mind, and if Felix gets healthy things should be fine here. It's about the only place you can say that.
CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 10%
Tight End/Fullback Tony Fiammetta looked good. Unfortunately, that is about the only good thing here. Even Tony's security blanket Jason Witten was rendered ineffective by the Eagles defense. But the one glaring problem was Martellus Bennett. Consider the potential impact he had with his putrid attempt at a reception. With a completion, Dallas would have been at the Philly 35 or thereabouts, depending on YAC. If Dallas could have scored, then they would not have been forced into pure catchup mode, the team might have played better as a whole - who knows. Instead, the ball goes over to the Eagles, and they go up 21-0. I don't care how many blocks Martellus makes. He is not just worthless as a receiver, he is a danger. People were calling for him to be cut. I don't think he will be - but just because so many other players looked about as bad.
CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 20%
Wide Receiver Is it the quarterback, or the receivers? I don't know, but Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were just about eliminated from the game. Perhaps the Philadelphia secondary is that good. Maybe the Dallas play-calling was that bad. Or maybe it is something else. But when you are feeling glad that at least Laurent Robinson showed something, then things are not at all well.
CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 20%
Offensive Line This is really a hard call to make, because I was having a hard time watching the game as things got so bad. There was an awful lot of pressure right up the middle. There were running lanes for Murray, but that sample size was way too small. Maybe it is just pessimism from the overall game, but I worry again that this is the big problem for the offense.
CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 70% Last time: 40%
Defensive Line Horrid. These guys, Rob Ryan's bullies, got pushed around, beat down, and had their lunch money taken away. 239 rushing yards says it all. This, to me, was the most mystifying breakdown of the night.
CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 60% Last time: 30%
Linebacker Sean Lee went down, and the inside linebacking play went from bad to awful. Sean was not making a lot of big plays, but with him out, it was like a huge welcome mat was out in the middle of the field for LeSean McCoy and the slot receivers. And now we don't know how badly Lee is injured.
At least Bruce Carter made a good hit on special teams. Now how well has he learned the defense?
CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 10%
Defensive Backs Here, I'm not so sure what to think. If there was one unit that seems to have been most affected by the scheme, it was these guys. They did control the Eagles wide receivers, which was what they were asked to do.
CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 40%
Special Teams David Buehler is back. Oh, joy. Let's see, we could have had Josh Brent to try and stem the tide on the defensive front. But no, David was there. Kicking the ball just about as far as Dan Bailey did while he was out. Twice. Good move, keeping him.
And now Mat McBriar is hurt. So if we use another punter, and don't put McBriar on IR or something, we will be carrying four kickers. Excuse me while I pound my head against a brick wall.
CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 20%
Coaching Jason Garrett has a monumental task getting the team to refocus. Rob Ryan was simply awful, although I don't know if he is really the whole problem defensively. But he certainly was not up to the challenge, and as much as I have believed in the coaches, I am now starting to worry. They got absolutely humiliated by Andy Reid and his assistants. The expectations have been very high, perhaps unrealistically so. This week is going to be crucial in giving this team any chance of a winning season. Playoffs right now is a subject for a Coors Light commercial.
CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 20%
Jerry Jones Tashard Choice is gone. David Buehler isn't. Yet. Jerry is backing his coaches, apparently, but I hope he is expressing a little displeasure in private. Still, for once, he is definitely not the big issue.
CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 30%
If you look at the numbers, you can see that I expect there to be several areas that have difficulties this week. I think this is a potential trap game. A stumble against the Seattle Seahawks, and this team will not only see it's season slipping away, but it will be a blow to their confidence that may not be recovered from this year. And even a win like the Cowboys had over the Rams will leave me wondering what this team really is. Week to week, it just seems impossible to tell.