Thursday, August 20, 2009

How the Dallas Cowboys Can Win the NFC East

by Jason Henry (Scribe) Written on August 20, 2009

Remember a couple of years ago when the Patriots went 16-0 and lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl? Remember one of the teams the Giants had to beat in order to reach the Super Bowl that season?

If you can recall it was the Dallas Cowboys that went 13-3 and won the NFC East that year, but lost in the playoffs to the hated Giants.

Fast forward to the 2008 season and the Cowboys were once again favored to win the NFC East. But those hopes were dashed when Romo injured his hand, the punter broke his foot, Felix Jones did something strange to his hamstring, Marion Barber got banged up, and the team just plain imploded.

That led to a disappointing 9-7 finish and the team subsequently missing the playoffs. Needless to say, the Cowboys did not win the division last season.

Well 2009 is a new year and the Giants and Eagles are favored to win the NFC Beast with the Cowboys projected to finish at least third, ahead of the hated Washington Redskins.

All through training camp there was no noise coming from the Alamo Dome, no Terrell Owens, no Pacman Jones, no Tank Johnson, and no Jessica Simpson. In fact, it’s a little strange that there is no drama in big D right now.

That may be a good thing for the Cowboys as they aren’t used to an atmosphere that does not include circus clowns and animals.

But how does this pertain to the Cowboys winning the NFC East you ask? Well I’ll tell you.

For the first time in a few years the ‘Boys of Valley Ranch are un-assuming; no one is expecting the Cowboys to do much this season. The Giants have one of the best defenses in the league, the Eagles added two dangerous offensive weapons in Jeremy Maclin and Michael Vick, and the Redskins have…well…Albert Haynesworth.

With all that competition in the East how in the world can the Cowboys emerge from the fray?

1. The Cowboys will run two tight end sets maybe 60 percent of the time. This will give the offense a new weapon in Martellus Bennett and the running game should have new opportunities to shine. Marion Barber does not have the shoulder the load alone as he now has Felix Jones and Tashard Choice as change of pace backs.

Since defense coordinators usually try and double Jason Witten, that option should be taken away with the addition of Bennett streaking or cutting across the middle.

If opposing defenses attempt to shadow the middle with a linebacker and place a safety on either Witten or Roy Williams, then the running game should take over with Barber, Jones, or Choice.

2. The defense should be even better with the addition of Keith Brooking and a healthy DeMarcus Ware. An elder Greg Ellis is now in Oakland which opened up the door for a younger Anthony Spencer. Basically Spencer is a younger more athletic version of Ellis, so that side of the defense should not see a slip in production

Keith Brooking came over from Atlanta to replace Zach Thomas. According to early reports Brooking is meshing well with middle linebacker Bradie James. James stated last season that he and Thomas weren’t always on the same page, which caused a little defensive confusion to say the least.

What does worry me about the Cowboys is their lack of depth on the offensive line. If the team does manage to make it through the season without any injuries on the line, which is highly un-likely, the team should be ok. But if there is even an injured big toe or pulled hamstring Tony Romo could be in big trouble.

Jerry Jones failed to address the offensive line in free agency or the draft, so the Cowboys go into the season with their hopes hinging on an injury free year.

Just like any team, if all goes according to plan and the Cowboys are able to execute their game plan better than their opponent, look for the ‘Boys of Valley Ranch to make another playoff run and pose a serious threat to the Eagles and Giants.

If not, it could be another long off-season for Tony, Wade, and Jason.