There isn't too much fanfare surrounding the Dallas Cowboys as we head into the last months of the offseason before training camp opens up. There isn't a big star holding out for a deal to be done. There isn't an open competition for the coveted RB1, with no true answers. There isn't a much-maligned outsider that is stirring up the media as well as the locker room. This isn't last year's offseason, it's a little different.
That doesn't mean that there isn't still an absolute metric ton of questions surrounding various aspects of the organization, as every team in the league is sorting out right now. All the moves the Cowboys did or did not make this offseason has led to one hypothesis; they are absolutely betting on themselves. And they are betting on these three keys to a winning season in 2016.
Without Tony Romo, It All Comes Unraveling
It's not that the Cowboys didn't try and upgrade their backup situation but at some point they realized it all begins and ends with Romo. It has been this way for a while now and they are as ecstatic as anyone with the progress he's made in his full participation in the offseason program. We saw, they saw, the whole world saw, what happens to this team without number nine in the lineup. What we've seen in how the front office has gone about handling the backup situation here gives me two thoughts:
a.) They feel that they failed the backups as much as the backups may have failed them. This is a theory that I want to subscribe to after Nick Eatman mentioned something of the sort. They didn't have a lot to work with in terms of what this offense was capable of (i.e. healthy Dez Bryant among others). They may be better prepared to tailor a game for a backup now, but that remains to be seen.
b.) The front office is not too thrilled with what their options were on the market. When you look around the league, is there really a team that you can say, wow they are set at quarterback without any ifs?
No NFL team is sitting there so amazingly well at quarterback that they won't miss their main guy if he were to get hurt. It's been said that if you have two or three quarterbacks, you may still be looking for your one. Cleveland is a prime example right now with their pseudo-competition. This is a team that is at it's best when their Pro Bowl passer and damn-near MVP of 2014 is on the field, period. Without him, the whole team struggles to find success. There are a lot of teams that could have similar problems.
No Offense, The Cowboys Want To Outrun You
Similar to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, the Cowboys subscribe to the belief that a stellar offense is indeed the best defense. It's basically what they have to do in theory. The pick of Ezekiel Elliott is not about rushing for 1,845 yards and winning rushing titles and returning to 2014. They believe they will be better than they were in 2014. You don't have to do that by eclipsing 2,354 rushing yards like they did then, that's not the big picture. Mickey Spagnola pointed this out weeks ago, they plan on running the ball into the end zone. They run the ball to make the entire team better and in essence it goes with point number one on our list.
The Cowboys of 2014 scored 16 rushing touchdowns, they may not eclipse the yardage, they can certainly eclipse 16 rushing touchdowns. This is about the unit as much as this is about Elliott. We all have visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads in regards to Zeke. However, this team isn't concerned with trading any of their backs because the stable as a whole looks pretty good. We can't be entirely sure that there is a better stable of running back in the league except maybe Pittsburgh. The Cowboys even drafted Darius Jackson in the sixth round, a guy who they believe could possibly overtake Lance Dunbar's spot seeing as he won't be occupying anything while he's on PUP. They wanted to return to rushing dominance and their moves dictate that to be what's happening here. They want to outrun the opposition because that will mean points for their offense and potential opportunities for a well-rested defense. One hand washes the other.
In Defense, It's A Young Man's Game
On paper, this is a defensive line that has a combined 22 sacks in their NFL careers. However, it's still better than the makeshift line of 2014. Stephen Jones has made no bones about it, he's not interested in any veteran pass rushers at this moment. It's a question that he's been asked several times this offseason and his answer remains the same. They really want to give opportunities to the young men on the team and see if anyone makes an impact. They still have Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence in the fold despite suspensions.
It doesn't help that now Maliek Collins is out until at least the end of training camp. In fact, that could mean the Cowboys first two defensive picks will likely not be much of a factor. Still, there is optimism that Collins will come back and be ready to contribute as part of the rotation, which is all you can hope for. These rookies aren't the guys that the Cowboys were counting on, the guys they are counting on include Benson Mayowa, David Irving, Jack Crawford, and veterans with a track record like Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thornton. Right now, they have bodies, lots of them. They don't know much about some of them but they have a good feeling that it's better than what is available to them outside their walls. This doesn't preclude a wily veteran from becoming a Cowboy before training camp.
It's not a crime for a team to bet on themselves as the Cowboys are doing right now. Throughout their tenure, they have done this and had some successes, some failures, but it's all part of the business of football. The truth of the matter is that they have an offense that will be really hard for anyone to stop. Though their defense is not as impressive at the moment, they still have players sprinkled throughout the unit that can make them better than what the paper says right now. The Cowboys have become comfortable with their realities and for now all we can do is let the coaches and players put in work.