Where did it all go wrong? For some of us, the NFL Draft can't get here fast enough as it's been absolutely dreadful being a Cowboys fan this season. That's the way it goes, sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. The Cowboys were riding high on a 12-4 season that seems more like a mirage at this point or just a very cruel dream. Now, the Cowboys will be facing an offseason where there are more questions than answers. In order to move forward, we must look back.
- The Value Of The Workhorse Back
The Cowboys seriously undervalued and misevaluated their running back situation this offseason. There really is no other way to put it. They were absolutely wrong in their assessment that this offensive line would be good enough to plug any one of the backs they had in there and expect the same results as 2014. In fact, what they did learn was that DeMarco Murray is a good football player and has been in this league for a long time. In honesty, there were a lot of variables that went into that decision and they are still correct in many ways.
(a.) Overwhelming statistics said that Murray was unlikely to repeat such a performance in 2015. He didn't (174 carries, 603 yards, four touchdowns).. Part of that is due to the way he has been underutilized in Chip Kelly's offensive scheme.
(b.) The Cowboys had a number in mind roughly between $6-6.5 million per year and were not going to go over that mark. The Eagles were more than willing to grab what seemed like their 15th running back of the offseason and keep him away from Dallas and paid $8 million per year and guaranteed him $21 million. Besides, Murray will be 28 by the beginning of 2016, there is substantial evidence of this being that magic number of decline.
(c.) They did absolutely nothing to address the void in this past draft and perhaps let it get away from them a bit. Wouldn't it have been awesome to have Jeremy Langford right now or someone similar? They also threw everything they could at the situation post training camp which told you how much confidence they truly had in the position. After signing every Seahawks running back beside Shaun Alexander and cutting Joseph Randle, it has been McFadden and guys with little NFL experience.
The truth is that though Darren McFadden has had a pretty good year (191 carries, 798 yards, 4.2 YPC, and three touchdowns), he is not the back for this offense moving forward. He hasn't quite finished runs well enough and doesn't necessarily fit the style of running the Cowboys truly want back there. It's safe now to say that both parties made a mistake in their premature divorce. Where there is some smoke, there tends to be a little fire. Murray misses Dallas and they miss him too as many places have reported. The Cowboys really had something going and they must find a way to get it back in 2016. With an aging quarterback and very small window to do something big, now is the time to regain their identity.
- Early Offseason Bruises Nicked Up The Team
The Cowboys adopted the approach that less was more for them in terms of practicing. They suffered only one major injury in the offseason (Orlando Scandrick's ACL tear) but you could tell they were practicing to keep everyone healthy for opening day. That's not a terrible way to play your cards, but it definitely didn't keep them safe from harm.
(a.) Where it hurt most was probably the cohesiveness within the offensive line and their ability to get comfortable with a running back. Zack Martin had a nasty stinger, Doug Free was dealing with foot soreness early on, and Ronald Leary dealt with multiple nagging injuries. It's hard to gel when guys are going in and out and missing practices.
(b.) Speaking of the running backs, Darren McFadden was kept in bubble wrap for the majority of the offseason and that made it impossible to create any type of competition. Joseph Randle strained his oblique and dealt with his own share of minor injuries. Ryan Williams could never get his knee right and was released. Lache Seastrunk marched to the beat of his own drum.
- Dez Bryant's Eventful Offseason & Not So Great Performance
Take everything discussed in point number two and apply here. The contract thing was in itself a distraction because of all the other receivers clamoring for deals. It was then dragged through the muck that is social media for the whole world to have an opinion. The deadline made the deal, but it still brought ramifications as Dez was being eased back into practice. Bryant suffered a minor hamstring situation but the Cowboys know all too well what that can do, so naturally they were very cautious. Dez was held out for all of the preseason games as a precaution but subsequently broke his foot in week one. That, of course, left the Cowboys without a true star receiver for six weeks and he's been a shell of himself ever since returning from the said injury though a lot of the receiving problems have to do with who is throwing them the ball. Dez has played in eight games this season, only three with Tony Romo. With that said, Bryant's 27 receptions for only 351 yards and a measly two touchdowns is a sad sight for everyone involved.
- Tony Romo's Collarbone
If we needed any more sadness in this post, Tony Romo's injury has been the single most depressing part of this year for the Cowboys. Not only because of what it has done with a season that began with high hopes but because of what it means for the future as well. Romo certainly isn't done by any means, but their inability to find a serviceable backup will haunt the entire 2016 offseason. Though most NFL teams would be in a predicament if they lost their starting quarterback, none brings the circus quite like our beloved Cowboys.
In fact, this season alone has seen many signal-callers go down including Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning, Josh McCown, Colin Kaepernick, Brian Hoyer, and now Andy Dalton. It's not been a kind year to the quarterbacks.
Now, Dallas' offseason will be filled with questions of who to groom behind Tony Romo and the inevitable Johnny Manziel train that will circle the station until Cleveland decides on their plan of action. Either way, it all falls at the feet of the front office who thought everything would be fine with Brandon Weeden. Then Matt Cassel, who has managed to only win one game as a starter is among the lowest rated passers in the NFL. As the late Chris Farley would say...great...grand...wonderful.
So as the season comes to a close, it is back to the drawing board for the Dallas Cowboys. Just about the only thing to look forward to is potential draft positioning. It's been a bad year in the NFL, but as I said in a previous post, Dallas will recover. Now, where do we begin to heal this team?