Our own Tom Ryle argued on Sunday last week that a healthier Cowboys roster has the potential to make some serious noise in the league this year. Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones concurs and told the Elf & Slater Show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM] that he believes if the team can stay healthy, it can show "significant improvements" on the 8-8 record the team has had in each of the last two seasons.
"I’ve said from the beginning, the best way we can improve upon our football team from last year is keep guys healthy. That had to be one of our toughest years in terms of the number of injuries, especially to really good football players. If we can really do a better job there then I like our chances of making some significant improvements on 8-8."
In the 11th game last season, linebacker Bruce Carter and slot corner Orlando Scandrick left the game with season-ending injuries. At that point, the Cowboys had just five (relatively) healthy starters left on defense, as the following graphic illustrates:
Orlando Scandrick is included here as a 12th starter to illustrate a bigger point: The injuries the Cowboys suffered tore a big hole in the middle of the defense. And if you consider the middle to be the backbone of the defense, then the Cowboys defense played the remaining five games with the spine of a gummi bear.
Injuries are part of the game in the NFL. Every team is affected by injuries at some point in the season, but you need some extra bad Mara-mojo to get hit the way the Cowboys got hit last season.
In the meantime, it looks like all the players who ended the season on IR are recovering according to plan, and the Cowboys appear to have some ideas about how to avoid a repeat of last season's injury woes:
“They’re all making big progress,” Stephen Jones said. “I think they’re all going to be ready here to really start getting involved in our offseason program. There’s no concern whatsoever that all these guys won’t be ready to go for training camp. We’re very optimistic about that. We’ve got our eyes on not only getting them healthy, but keeping them healthy. We’ve got some good ideas on that.”
Earlier this month, DeMarcus Ware promised the "Cowboys will not be .500, I can tell you that." Stephen Jones sees improves team health as a key step towards achieving that goal. And Cowboys fans agree. We asked BTB members to vote on what the Cowboys 2013 record will be. A little over three quarters of all fans polled (76%) thought the Cowboys are good for 10 or more wins in 2013.
Would 10 wins in 2013 be the "significant step" Stephen Jones is looking for? Provided the team stays moderately healthy, what are your expectations for 2013?