Just as we all expected, the Dallas Cowboys are sitting with a record of 2-6 at the midway point of the season. Maybe it's a win or two less than some people thought, but it's nothing that a good run can't remedy. In fact, if Cowboys never lose again this season, I would venture to bet that they'd be hoisting the Lombardi trophy in the air come February. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Winning game after game after game is a tough task, especially if you're a team that hasn't managed to pull out a single victory over the last six games. And while the outlook isn't so bright at the moment, the team must gather themselves and carry on.
With the first half of the season in the books, what are the things about this team that have impressed you the most? Here are some things that the Cowboys have going for them.
Byron Jones is the real deal
The Cowboys first-round draft pick looks like a good one. It has taken a little time, as it should with a rookie, but he's showing up more and more in the middle of good plays. He has done an excellent job with his first assignment of shutting down tight ends, but he's branching out even more now as he's taken over the starting gig at safety and doing a great job. He's already made several drive-stalling, pass breakups.
It's great that the Cowboys appear to have found a good player at a position of need, but it's also great that this team keeps landing these early round draft picks.
Anyone can run behind this line
Okay, so that phrase gets a little overused and it's not something I subscribe to, verbatim, however...good running backs can run well in this offense. Joseph Randle shouldered the workload early, and Darren McFadden is the bell cow now, but regardless, both are effective. In fact, both running backs are averaging exactly the same amount of yards per carry (4.1). Don't look now, but the Cowboys have worked themselves back into the league's top 10 in rushing yards. All this without DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo (missed six games), and Dez Bryant (missed five games). Without very much of a passing threat, defenses have allocated more guys at the line of scrimmage, but the Cowboys haven't wavered. They stayed committed to the running game, and it has produced. And it's been really taking off recently as the team's last three games have been their three largest rushing totals of the year. During this span, the Cowboys are averaging 165 rushing yards a game.
Quarterback play is trending up
Matt Cassel threw three picks and only one touchdown in his first game as the Cowboys starting QB. In game two, he didn't do much of anything as he had no picks but also no touchdowns. In Sunday's game, he had only one pick and found the end zone three times. He's improving. After struggling to find Cole Beasley for a single completion in his first two games, he was able to hit the Cowboys slot receiver nine times for 112 yards, with two of them for touchdowns.
And it's going to get even better with the near return of Romo.
Morris Claiborne is performing nicely
The most pleasant surprise this season is the improved play of Claiborne. When Orlando Scandrick was lost with a season-ending injury during training camp, the cornerback situation was an area of concern. But Claiborne has performed admirably, often times taking on the opponent's top wide receiver. He's had a couple pass-interference penalties that have reset drives, but he's nowhere close to resembling the secondary liability that has plagued him in the past.
Greg Hardy is a force
So much has been made about the off-field Hardy, but this assessment is about football. When it comes to what he's done on the field, he's been a huge factor for the defense. He's played in four games. He's gotten four sacks. He's tied with Sean Lee for the team lead in interceptions. The Cowboys defensive line has not performed to the level that many expected, but things would be in much worse shape if it wasn't for the addition of Greg Hardy.
The Cowboys have a knack for the theatrics
I'm not going to try to convince myself that the team is setting the stage for an epic finish. This team has many problems. And with so many close games ending in disappointment, the Cowboys look as if they have forgotten how to fight. The team just can't quite make enough plays to win a football game. But if the return of Tony Romo lights a fire under this team, it could get interesting. That's a discussion for another time, like maybe after the team strings together a handful of wins. For now, let's just hope this team can rise up and give fans something to cheer about during the second half of the season.