The other day OCC posted a great article about what wins games for the Dallas Cowboys. In his article he brings up the merits of whether the offense or defense is the reason for success or failure. That article was truly thought provoking because the argument can go either way. I began to ponder about who exactly the Dallas Cowboys will be in 2012.
Every successful team has an identity. Whether it is an offensive, defensive, passing or rushing team, the teams who find themselves in contention for a Super Bowl usually have an identity. What will be the identity of the 2012 Dallas Cowboys? That is a good question because this is still somewhat unclear. Jason Garrett clearly knows what he is looking for in player personnel, but what type of football team does he want to put on the field?
That is the journey I want to take us on in this post. Let's take a closer look at what type of football team we may see in 2012 from our Dallas Cowboys.
Take the jump...
For the first time since Bill Parcells, there is a clear course of action being taken by the head coach and the front office. Jason Garrett was chosen as the head coach for a variety of reasons, but perhaps one of his best selling points was the type of culture he wanted to bring to Dallas. Garrett believes highly in having the "right kind of guys" on his football team. What exactly is the "RKG" is up for some debate, but there are certain characteristics that are associated with the term.
- Hard working
- Loves football
- Great teammate
- Good football player
Perhaps one of the most mistaken elements of the RKG is that many assume Garrett looks for football players with high character only. Obviously character is one of the focal points of the RKG, but they must also be good athletes and football players. Garrett made this very clear in his recent comments.
"If you look at the character of each of them, we believe they have the makeup to be really good players," Garrett said. "Why do we think that is so important? We feel like that allows them, as much as anything else, to achieve their potential."
"It's not like they're undersized guys who will run through the wall for you but can't play in the NFL. These guys have the physical traits to play, and they also have the intangible qualities, which we think can help them be their best and help our team."
By continuing to build his roster out with good character combined with talent, we should see an excellent culture finally develop within the Cowboys' organization.
What type of football team does Garrett want to be? I believe we can expect to see a hard working team that is physical and fast. One of my favorite teams in the post-Aikman era was the 2007 one that went 13-3, which also happened to be Garrett's first season as offensive coordinator. Coming from the Air Coryell system, Garrett stretched the field with his potent passing game. During 2007, the offensive line was playing at it's best, and that allowed the passing game to flourish under Garrett's play calling.
Garrett has been handcuffed in what he has been able to do as a play caller since the 2007 season due to the inability of the offensive line. The Cowboys are trying to rebuild their offensive line for Tony Romo, and the upgrades this season should allow Garrett to run his passing game at the level he has become accustomed to. The Cowboys must continue to build their offense around Romo.
The running game is also something Garrett should be able to use more effectively because of the personnel he has hand picked. DeMarco Murray is the type of running back that can take over and dominate games. Felix Jones has the big play ability to take any run to the house. Both offer Garrett the ability to use them in the passing game.
So is Garrett looking for a running team or passing team? In my opinion I think we are going to see a heavy passing attack with the running game mixed in.
If you pay for ESPN Insider, you can read this article with K.C. Joyner stating that Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Most successful teams are identified with the play of their quarterback. Make no mistake, the success of the Dallas Cowboys will be dictated by how well Tony Romo plays. Romo has had an up and down career in Dallas, but when he is on, he can be a weapon of mass destruction for Garrett and his passing attack.
Now I won't put him ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady or even Eli Manning, but Romo has the talent to be one of the elite every time he goes out there and performs to the best of his ability. He gives us the best chance to win every single game. You could make the argument that the identity of this football team is Tony Romo, and I really couldn't argue with you. Give him time and he will take you to the promised land.
Troy Aikman believes that Romo is the man for the job, and I have to agree with him.
"I think the Cowboys are as talented as just about any team in the league. I know that to win you have to have a great quarterback, and I believe that Tony Romo is that. And I know what the criticisms are. I know that he has to win in January before people put him in the really elite status. But until you do that, there's always going to be those questions. He had a great year last year. I think that's the concerning thing to me is that you think about how good he played last year and yet it still wasn't good enough for this team to make the playoffs, that's a concern."
What I find interesting is some of the comparisons I see to the 90's Cowboys' teams. Whether that is by accident or design, I will never know, but a lot of the personnel we have resembles what was so successful for the teams in the 90's.
- Dez Bryant could become the new version of Michael Irvin. A highly physical wide receiver with great hands can take your offense to the next level. Bryant was a personal favorite of Jerry Jones for a reason.
- Miles Austin is the vertical threat for Tony Romo that Alvin Harper was for Troy Aikman.
- Jason Witten is one of the best tight ends in the league, much like Jay Novacek was during the 90's.
- DeMarco Murray shattered Emmitt Smith's single game record last year. He may not be Emmitt, but he has tremendous upside as a running back.
The skill position players remind me a lot of what he had back in the day, but the one area that is lacking is the offensive line. The Cowboys have failed in this area due to poor drafting and ignoring the position for too long. Tyron Smith looks like the real deal and Doug Free back on the right side should be solid, but we currently lack the interior lineman to have a dominant offensive line. If any of the new additions can be upgrades, the offensive line should continue to improve. This is a work in progress, but the Cowboys should really consider investing more money and draft picks on the interior of the line.
Rob Ryan could be the identity of the Cowboys all alone, but the defense just isn't talented enough yet to do that right now. The Cowboys gave the man some new toys to play with when they upgraded the secondary with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. With adequate pass coverage, Ryan should finally be able to dial up the exotic blitzes he couldn't run last year due to poor pass coverage.
We are a 3-4 football team that relies on it's outside linebackers to generate a pass rush. DeMarcus Ware continues to be one of the best defensive players in football and that shouldn't change this year. It's hoped that Anthony Spencer will have a better statistical season with the addition of Tyrone Crawford. Sean Lee continues to grow into one of the best linebackers in the NFL and is the future leader of the defense. Jay Ratliff is still one of the best defensive lineman in football. I also see Sean Lissemore growing into a seventh-round steal, but many on BTB already know that Lissemore is a force to be reckoned with.
That is a lot of talent for Ryan to scheme with, and he promises that this defense will be great this year. Part of the problem Ryan faced last year was trying to install a complex scheme with very little time.
"When we look back at ourselves and re-evaluate, I think I started a little too fast and put in the accelerated program without the English 101, which I always struggled with," said Ryan, who underwent lap-band surgery earlier this year. "... I think I put a little too much in and too fast. And we didn't have any basics. We had no foundation."
"We're going to teach it at a slower pace where we can actually learn," he said," so everybody feels good about it. I'm a better teacher than that so we come back to Square One and we start from Day 1 here and it will be great... We are going to be damn good. "
I could listen to Ryan talk all day, but I cannot say that the identity of this football team is the defense. The unit should improve in 2012, and frankly I would be shocked to see us not finish in the top 10 overall defenses in the league next year.
The conclusion I came to is that this will be a passing team led by Tony Romo. Romo has the ability to take this team to the playoffs, but the running game and defense will have to step up and do their parts as well. The offensive line needs to play better, especially protecting Romo. At the end of the day, I think this team can improve by at least two wins from 8-8 to 10-6 and make the playoffs. The talent is here, but they need to start winning football games.
If we held that 12 point lead against the Giants, it could have been a totally different season. This team has enough talent to make a playoff run. It will take more than talent to win the Super Bowl, but Jason Garrett is building something in Dallas that I can stand behind one-hundred percent. If Jerry continues to let Garrett and Ryan bring in their type of players, this team will get it done.
What type of identity do you see in 2012 from the Dallas Cowboys? Have at it in the comments section and tell us your take on the topic.