The only thing worse than watching your favorite team succumb to mediocrity is watching them remain consistently average while narrowly missing the playoffs for three straight years. While the Dallas Cowboys are by no means a mediocre franchise, they are a controversially discombobulated organization that has struggled to establish a successful identity.
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Whether it’s the choking antics of quarterback Tony Romo in big moments or the injury ridden, paper-thin defense, the Cowboy have found ways to mar their once respected reputation by shooting themselves in the foot year in and year out. While the Cowboys acquired the appropriate positional players in this years NFL draft to beef up their defensive efficiencies, their inevitable contributions can’t be fully realized until the Cowboys athletic ineptitudes are rectified, starting with their franchise passer Tony Romo.
Although Romo was a liability in 2012 when he threw 19 interceptions and fumbled the ball three times, he was much more vigilant last year as he tied his career low for interceptions thrown in a season (10) while sacrificing a shot at throwing for over 4,000 yards for the first time since 2010 (he threw for 3,828 yards last year). Although Romo had some hiccups in certain situations, he never threw more interceptions than touchdowns and was consistent in terms of his completion percentage that ended up at a respectable 63.9% by the end of the regular season.
Unfortunately, despite Romo’s newfound confidence, the Cowboys incapable defense was the main culprit in their ultimate demise.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones saw it fit to replenish his defensive roster with tough and vigorous pass rushers that could bring back some resiliency to the Cowboys meek defense. After taking offensive tackle Zack Martin from Notre Dame with their first round pick, the Cowboys utilized their second and fourth round draft picks to acquire two outside linebackers in Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens.
When all is said and done, the Dallas Cowboys have to find reliability on both defense and amongst their offensive play callers who continually contradict each other rather than concurring in critical game situations.
While Lawrence has had his fair share of off the field issues, his effectiveness against the run and tackling prowess is what makes him an ideal fit for the Cowboys. As a pass rusher, Lawrence closes fast and has a sizeable frame with which to charge through stout offensive linemen. On top of that, Lawrence is extremely durable and has the toughness and confidence to be an effective third down contributor this season.
Although Hitchens may be a bit smaller than Lawrence at six feet and 240 pounds, his instinctual prowess as a run defender make him a value component for a Cowboys defense that gave up 128.5 rushing yards per game last season (27th in NFL). While Hitchens doesn’t have the fluid hips to hold his own in man or zone coverage, he is a capable Blitzer who has ample amounts of downhill quickness and strength to be a tenacious run stopper.
Even if the Cowboys defense can effectively integrate their young draft picks into their system, they’ll still need to rely on their running game if they hope to remain potent on offense. Although the Cowboys only garnered 94 rushing yards per game last season (24th in NFL), running back DeMarco Murray still rushed for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns (both career highs). Yet, despite Murray’s explosive year, the Cowboys were hesitant to use their capable back especially in third down situations. During their week 15 matchup against the Green Bay Packers last season, the Cowboys trepidation to use the run game in critical situations cost them a victory despite the fact that Murray was averaging 7.4 yards per rush. Ultimately, the Cowboys allowed a 26-3 halftime lead to slip away because of their unreliable defense and their refusal to give their star running back the ball when he was the source of his teams success on offense.
When all is said and done, the Dallas Cowboys have to find reliability on both defense and amongst their offensive play callers who continually contradict each other rather than concurring in critical game situations. While Romo’s improvements last year propelled the Cowboys offense to new heights, their weak defense made their offensive proficiency all but obsolete.
If the Cowboys can find the essential unity between their coaching staff and roster that any competitive franchise needs to succeed, this team could finally earn a coveted playoff berth for the first time since 2009 — but it’s Dallas so let’s not get our hopes up.