Tony Romo is coming back. We are all very happy about that. And while the return of the team's star quarterback has fans on the edge of their seats, eagerly waiting in anticipation of the greatness that will surely follow - it's going to be a tough road ahead. And a big reason for that is because the 2015 Dallas Cowboys are just doing a lot of things wrong. For a team that has lost their last seven games, that claim isn't really breaking any new ground. We all know it's been bad. But what exactly is ailing this team?
For starters, let's look at some of the key statistical categories that have severely digressed this season.
None of this should be surprising. We've all witnessed it firsthand. Looking back through this never-ending losing streak, there are some bad habits this team has developed that need to be corrected if this team is to find their way back into the win column. Here are some problems that seem to keep showing up throughout the year.
Too conservative on third down
The Cowboys aren't moving the chains as well as they did last year as the Cowboys third down conversion rate has dropped significantly. One of most frustrating issues this team has on third down is the amount of times the offense will run a play that is short of the distance they need to get the first down. Whether it is Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel behind center, the Cowboys quarterbacks are too quick to make the dump off pass underneath, leaving their team short. If you try and fail, that's one thing. But the Cowboys aren't even giving themselves a chance. Just as golfers will tell you, "you will miss 100% of the putts that you leave short." The Cowboys offense have constantly been leaving their putts short.
The Cowboys haven't gotten too much worse when it comes to committing penalties. They ranked 13th last season with 6.4 penalties per game. This season, they are ranked 20th with 7.2 penalties per game. In fact, when it comes to penalty yardage, they are ranked the same this season as last (9th). But the problem isn't so much the quantity, but rather how much they have impacted the game.
Strolling down memory lane, here are a few ill-timed infractions that have proved costly:
These are some significant penalties. Almost every single one of these are tied into a situation that would have resulted in a positive swing in points for the Cowboys. And with the team coming up short in so many close games, these points could have been a difference maker.
It's still not a catch
After the Cowboys playoff run ended with a controversial no-catch, the team is still having issues hauling down catches. Terrance Williams had a drop on a deep passing play in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles that would have put the Cowboys in scoring position. Dez Bryant had two costly drops last Sunday against the Buccaneers.
But it's not just the offense that has a case of the dropsies. The cornerbacks are missing some big opportunities as well. Morris Claiborne jumped a route against Julio Jones, but couldn't make the catch. Corey White jumped a route when he got a good read on Tom Brady which could have resulted in a pick six, but he couldn't make the catch. Tyler Patmon would have a deflected Drew Brees pass go right through his arms. And he another one last Sunday when he jumped a route against the Bucs, but again - he couldn't make the catch.
If the defense wants to generate turnovers, then they need to catch the passes that are right in front of them.
Blown blocking assignments
The Cowboys running game has been very inconsistent. Sometimes great. Sometimes not so great. One of the bigger issues in the running game has been the inability to get to the second level. The Cowboys haven't done a good job sealing off the edge and have allowed defenders to get a free shot at McFadden before he can cross the line of scrimmage. The biggest culprits have been the tight ends. James Hanna and Jason Witten have whiffed on a few blocks and that has left McFadden high and dry. But it's not limited to the tight ends. The Cowboys offensive line isn't performing at a Pro Bowl level this season. There have been multiple instances where Tyron Smith and Zack Martin haven't been able to secure their blocks. The players making the blocks for Dallas last year are not making them as consistently this year.
Bad coaching moments
Let's face it, Jason Garrett should have never called that timeout late in the first half of the Atlanta game. That was just poor clock management. But what is more surprising is how unprepared the team has been at times. The defense has been caught off guard on numerous occasions this season. The Cowboys gave up an easy two-point conversion against Atlanta because they only had ten guys on the field. The big pass to C.J. Spiller in overtime was a result of the team not being ready.
Last year, the team never blinked and were constantly able to handle adversity. This year, they get rattled. And things get worse the further you get into the game. During this seven game losing streak, the Cowboys haven't outscored their opponent once in the fourth quarter. The team that was once as cool as the other side of the pillow seems to become discombobulated as the game wears on. Collectively, they just aren't as prepared as they need to be and that's a Jason Garrett issue.