Random musings and misgivings from the BTB writers as we revel in the warm afterglow of last Sunday's game and eagerly await a repeat on Sunday.
Kegbearer: The Cowboys offense currently ranks fourth in points/game, third in average yards per rush, and sixth in passing average. For several years we have discussed that a great O-line is the only thing keeping the Cowboys offense from becoming elite. With the improved performance of the Cowboys interior line driving the running and passing game, with Tony Romo seemingly having knocked off the post-surgery rust, and with DeMarco Murray taking advantage of better blocking and more balanced playcalling...will the Cowboys solidify themselves as one of the best offenses in the league this year?
Rabblerousr: Unless something significant happens, I'm no longer concerned with the Cowboys offense or special teams; I think both can be top-five units, and will be better and become more nuanced as the season progresses. No, my thoughts now turn to the defense, and specifically the problems that have plagued them the last two seasons, namely: can they avoid injuries and (strongly correlated to the first question) can they avoid steadily diminishing performance over the remainder of the season?
In 2012 and 2013, the defense was fine - nay, very good - after three games and still solid after week four. But soon thereafter, injuries and other problems began to accrue, and they suffered precipitous declines ending in late-December lows and woes. Will this offseason's emphasis on youth and defensive line depth allow them to avoid a nasty trifecta? With Mo Claiborne now lost for the season, can the team's corners remain healthy enough to avoid the position group decimation that devastated the middle defense in 2012 and the D-line in '13? Can they stay healthy enough to grow as a unit?
OCC: For years, rabblerousr and I (with the help of some of the hardest of the hardcore Cowboys fans) have been meticulously, some might even say religiously, tracking pre-draft visitors to Valley Ranch. And not just the national candidates brought in for official pre-draft visits, but also all the local prospects invited for Dallas Day. We do this because many of those visitors eventually end up with the Cowboys.
That approach seems to have served the Cowboys well over the last few years, especially with their top draft picks. So you've got to wonder whether failing to follow that approach with Morris Claiborne is part of the reason Claiborne has not lived up to expectations.
The Cowboys didn't interview Claiborne at the Scouting Combine. They didn't spend time with him at the LSU pro day. They didn't bring him in for a pre-draft visit. They didn't visit him on campus.
"I never heard from them -- not one time, ever,'' Claiborne said on the night he was drafted.
If I were a betting man, I'd bet a princely sum that next year's top pick makes the pre-draft trip to Valley Ranch.
Dawn: Even though we are now riding an emotional high, I am certain that some stumbles lie ahead. Have there been tangible improvements? Yes, but I am still waiting for more. I don't doubt that it will come, but the team is still not where it ultimately needs to be.
Joey: This offensive line is the equivalent of having an absolutely great pitching staff in baseball, or an elite big man in basketball. They are the safety net for the rest of the team's shortcomings. A baseball team with a great staff can manufacture one run at a time when the bats are struggling, and having an elite big man allows a basketball team to dump the ball down low and still score when the shooters are struggling...
This OL lets the team play the game the easy way for long stretches of the game. Minimizing opponent opportunities for game changing plays, and increasing the margin for error for their teammates...
Neithan20000: Over the past few years our offense has been handicapped in what it could do because they lacked faith in the offensive line. During the Saints game we ran some really, really slow developing plays (one that really stood out...some kind of a fake draw playaction pass). We're all excited about how the line helps the run game, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it's going to affect playcalling in regards to routes run/play fakes.
Tom: The following tweet makes me think that recent speculation about there being issues inside Valley Ranch that drive players off is overblown.
Kyle Orton is new #Bills starting QB after forcing way out of #Dallas. Not good relationship with Tony Romo, hated offensive power struggle— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) September 30, 2014
It sounds like Orton (and by inference, possibly the player formerly known as Jay Ratliff) had their own issues that made them a really bad fit for the Jason Garrett way. I can see how the well-known and very close relationship between Garrett and Romo might be hard for a former starter to accept, but that again falls back on Orton's shoulders, since he was hired as a backup to the franchise quarterback, not to come in and compete for the starting job. In retrospect, he may have made a mistake in his deciding to take the job in the wake of his being Tebowed in Denver.
There is also a bit of irony that the offensive power struggle played a part in Orton's revolt since the hiring of Scott Linehan seems to have cleared that up most successfully. But overall, the square peg/round hole analogy seems to be the biggest factor in the whole debacle.
Gary: Two things - One, we will franchise-tag Murray next year. Two, Rolando McClain might be the Cowboys' best trade since Charles Haley.