Pre-Minicamp Predictions For The Dallas Cowboys
I shine up my crystal ball and share what I see for the immediate future of America's Team.
Jason Witten has become one of the elder statesman on the Cowboys. Drafted way back in 2003, it's hard to believe that 2014 will be Witten's 12th in a Cowboys uniform. Along the way he's built up a Hall of Fame career and will certainly be remembered as a Cowboys legend. What he's short on is playoff appearances and wins, not to mention the Super Bowl.
He remains confident that the Cowboys are not as far away from getting into the playoffs and making some noise as sports media around the country would have you believe. He makes the point that many of the Cowboys faithful have made - for all the warts thsi team has, they have been on the precipice of the playoffs for years, and it won't take much to move them into the "tournament."
"The reality of it is, 13 of 16 games, we're within one score in the fourth quarter. We haven't executed in those situations and we lost games. That's the league we play in now. Seventy percent of these games are coming down to one score in the fourth. We have to execute and find ways to win."
Not only are the Cowboys seasons coming down to one-game playoffs at the end, but the individual games during the season are coming down to fourth-quarter play. Somehow, the Cowboys keep coming up short in those situations, but they are good enough to at least put themselves into those situations. Witten doesn't think Romo's recovery will hurt their chances one bit.
"In general, with Tony, he's got unbelievable will. He's extremely tough. I understand there's a lot of criticism and until you win that big game and compete for championships, when you play that position, that's gonna come. But he's working really hard. He looks great. I know his mental mindset. I've been around him a long time. I think he's gonna come back better than he has ever before and it's going to be a great year for him and, hopefully, for our football team."
One thing Witten has talked about this offseason is running the ball more.
"Every game is different. I think we did a much better job running the football last year than we've done in a long time," he said. "Any time you're able to run the ball and have success with it, you're going to have more attempts at it. In previous years, we had negative runs, we put ourselves in 2nd-and-12 and 3rd-and-eight. Those aren't run downs for you. You have to pass. Ideally, you're playing with the lead and if you're ahead of the chains, you're gonna run the football more. We're an aggressive offense. We're gonna attack. And you can attack in a lot of different ways."
With Scott Linehan, there is plenty of debate if the Cowboys will actually run more. Based on their running numbers last year, and with the addition of Zack Martin to the line this year, they might want to take heed and keep the ball on the ground a little more, especially if they want to protect the defense.
So Witten keeps on doing his thing, providing the Cowboys with Hall of Fame play from the tight end position. Witten is a dual-use TE, able to block as well as catch the ball. He's been everything the Cowboys wanted, and more, since they drafted him all those years ago. He's been a leader, he's been one of the faces of the franchise. And some of the younger guys want to pay him back. In a speech DeMarco Murray gave to the team before OTAs:
Murray told his teammates that he doesn't care about individual stats, he just wants to get long-time veterans like Romo and Witten to a Super Bowl.
"I'm not going to be the guy that messes it up for (Witten) to get a chance to get a Super Bowl or for Romo to get a chance to get a Super Bowl," he said. "I want to make sure that I know my craft, that I know what I'm doing on each possession, each play. Always put the team before yourself always help the next guy."
Even with the problems on defense, you never know what can happen. Each NFL season is different. Maybe, just maybe, this is the season the Cowboys get over the hump.