The title has optimism first, but I am going to give optimism the final voice and start with 5 reasons for pessimism.
5 Reasons for Pessimism
1. It is debatable whether or not we upgraded our interior OL with Costa still projecting as our starting Center at this point. Last year Tony Romo was sacked 38 times. The most in his career. We also scored a measly 5 rushing TDs in 2011 and one of them was a 91 yard scamper. So we did not exemplify an ability to run the hard yards. The team is placing a lot of faith in Nate Livings and Mckenzy Bernadeau as well as a shift of Tackles to opposite sides.
2. There are still questions about our Safeties. Putting it mildly, we have suffered a bit at that position ever since the NFL adopted the stupid horse tackle rule and took the teeth out of our Safety position. Safety is transforming into cover position and it is debatable whether our starting Safeties are cover guys or not.
3. Our top 3 RBs have both suffered injuries of late. It is a position that gets pounded already. Add pounding to an injured body part and further injuries are possible. Last year we scooped Sammie Morris off the streets and he provided some support. Sammie is gone again, a year older, and all we have are unproven UDFAs if it should happen again.
4. We blew five 4th quarter leads last year and we did it with mistakes on both sides of the football. Until we actually see those mistakes fixed they need to be in the forefront of our minds.
5. We have a fairly brutal schedule. The Steelers are no joke. We have never beaten the Ravens. Our division continues to improve and be the toughest division in the NFL. Probably most daunting, we play 6 of our first 9 games on the road. That means 5 of our last 7 at home, but if we don't show a respectable outcome on that early road schedule it may be too little too late.
5 Reasons for Optimism
1. Mike Woicik has a full off season to implement his training regimens. I really do believe this is significant in more ways than people can fathom. We had a lot of roster turnover last year and many of those guys had to train on their own or pay a personal trainer. Hard to pay someone if you don't have paychecks coming due to the lockout. We will see a far superior conditioned team in 2012 because Woicik is driven.
2. Health at WR. I know we all are sure we are going to miss Laurent Robinson as our 3rd WR, but the truth is he spent the majority of 2011 as our 2nd WR due to injuries to Austin and Bryant at different times. I liked Robinson but I have a lot more faith in our 2 starters than I did him. We seem to have decent depth now too which is encouraging.
3. DeMarco Murray is a beast, and his lead blocker is an animal. Our fortunes in 2011 changed when he went down. Truth be told I remained optimistic openly, but inside without his presence I didn't feel we had a real chance. He ran infinitely better behind a solid FB and we got a top 5 model for him to do that behind this year. I predict Vickers and Murray are catalysts in 2012.
4. Huge improvement in the secondary. I am not just talking about the additions of Carr and Claiborne though they are the 2 most significant adds this off season. I am talking about the exit stage left of Dave "Don't be looking for the football" Campo and the welcome to the jungle of Jerome Henderson. Before he had even inked his contract Coach Henderson hit the film room and began breaking down each and every DB on the team play by play. He charted tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses and began a focus on how to make our secondary feared.
5. Three straight solid drafts and off seasons have upgraded our team talent and depth considerably. The guys added have been high character guys with football mentalities and non stop motors to go with their talent. We've gotten younger, faster, stronger, and hungrier three straight off seasons now and when teams do that there is usually a huge payoff coming.