All right, forget the objectivity for a minute. It is time to be what I am at the core, and that is a rabid Dallas Cowboys fan. I am going to ignore the worries and questions for a bit. I do strongly believe that the team is going to be a good one this year, and some things are going to be very impressive. I just want to lay out the one part of the Cowboys that I am most eagerly looking forward to seeing on the field this year.
There are a lot of choices here. Lately, Dez Bryant has been getting some rave reviews just about everywhere. He may well be the most prominent weapon in a very potent receiver corps, especially if he and Miles Austin can both manage to be on the field. There is also the anticipated 12 formation, with Jason Witten leading the tight ends, hope of a renewed running game, and almost everything offensively seems set up this year to give Tony Romo a chance to shine.
Defensively, the idea of the rushmen is very exciting. Watching the defensive line devote itself to making life miserable for the opposing quarterbacks should be great fun. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer may be better than ever under Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. And the secondary will hopefully be grabbing some more balls than last year, with Morris Claiborne having a year under his belt and the prospect of having some healthy safeties.
All those are positives, or at least prospective pluses for the team. All will be exciting, I am sure. But for me, there is one thing that I cannot wait to see.
I want me some linebackers wreaking havoc and mayhem. I want to see slobber knocked. I want rampant decleating. I want to see slo-mo closeups of receivers crossing the middle of the field, grabbing a pass, and looking up with terror on their faces as a couple or three human bunker busters close at a high rate of speed to separate man and pigskin. I want to see running backs flying out of the hole. Backwards.
And I think this year, I am going to get exactly what I want.
I think there is only one real question about the Dallas linebackers in the 4-3: Who is really better, Sean Lee or Bruce Carter?
Now, that is the kind of question you want to have facing you going into training camp. And it doesn't really matter which way you feel about them, because there is no bad answer there.
Right now, Lee is the leader of the defense. He is the man who will call the defensive plays and get everyone aligned. And with his foot healed up, he looked ready to have a major impact during minicamp. Everyone is aware how much it hurt the defense when Lee went out last year. I am thinking nothing but positive thoughts about him staying healthy all the way to the playoffs. He really has to. It is the only chance he has of meeting Golden Tate again this year, which he really, really needs to do.
And as good as Lee is - and he is very, very mobile and very, very physical - Bruce Carter may just be better. He is already being called this year's secret superstar (to inform those who weren't paying attention to him last year). His range and speed make him an ideal Will for the 4-3. And the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when Bruce Lee is on the field.
That still leaves the Sam linebacker to be determined. Right now, it looks like free agent pickup Justin Durant has the outside track (think about it) and he is looking like a good fit. In minicamp, he looked better in coverage than expected. And if Durant is beaten out, it will just mean that someone (with Alex Albright being the most likely challenger) stepped their game up.
Based strictly on the early returns, this looks like it could be a top 5 linebacking unit right out of the blocks. And that is what makes me want to get some fresh popcorn and pull up a chair. I have always loved good linebacker play, from Cowboys standouts like Lee Roy Jordan, Thomas Henderson, and Dat Nguyen, and from some of the all time NFL greats like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. Linebackers are the defense's most exciting players for me to watch, combining speed and power like no other position - when they are good. As Cowboys fans, we know all too well what happens when that combination is a tad off. Slow and power just don't work together as well. This year, it looks like Dallas has it right, and that includes the depth behind the starters if the word was correct this year.
So that is what I am most looking forward to. Good, fun, totally nasty linebacker play. I'm sure many of you have something else. So what aspect of the team are you most wanting to see take the field this year?