The most drastic changes are coming on the Defensive side of the football. This should really come as no shock to any of us no matter what we wanted in the Draft, the Defense of 2011 was sub par. Especially in coverage.
In 2011 Terence Newman was the LCB, Mike Jenkins the RCB, with Scandrick and Ball taking up the other two top four spots.
For 2012, unless a trade does happen for Jenkins it looks to me like Morris Claiborne will be at LCB, Brandon Carr at RCB with Jenkins and Scandrick occupying the two backup slots.
A number of things could happen in the CB Corps. Jenkins could conceivably beat out Carr. He certainly has the talent to. I predict if that happens the money spent on Carr will be lamented all season. Jenkins could indeed be traded. He is in the final year of his contract, that is when players are most likely to be dealt. Or they could keep him, lose him in Free Agency, and recoup a draft pick through the compensatory process. That last one is not a given method. You can't recoup anything if you sign more than you lose. Prognosis, expect a trade to happen.
In 2011 Abram Elam was brought in to install Ryan's systems in the secondary. Mixed results occurred. Probably more the fault of the position coaches than Elam. Sensabaugh was finally signed to something other than a 1 year deal.
In 2012 Brodney Pool has replaced Elam. He is considered to be a little better in coverage. Danny McCray is likely gone in favor of Matt Johnson form this Draft class. The selection of Johnson was largely panned by fans at first. but the Mini Camp reports and the praise being heaped on Johnson by scouts and coaches has shifted the sails quite a bit. It is possible that this kid and Barry Church will be our future Safeties. The Cowboys gave strong consideration to not signing Pool and giving Church a shot. Ultimately, they elected to sign Pool and groom Church some more under Jerome Henderson.
I predict the entire Secondary will be the most improved unit on the field in 2012, largely due to Henderson's methods.
Biggest question mark for me from the secondary? The one good thing I could say about Alan Ball was that on Punt Coverage he was great at getting the ball pinned inside the 10. I haven't seen that from Jenkins or Scandrick and I don't expect to see it from Carr or Claiborne. Who from the secondary steps up and takes that kill? I believe it will be Matt Johnson.
Alex Albright has to see the writing on the wall. He was one of our most impressive UDFA rookies in 2011. Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer should also feel some heat. Spencer is less likely to be going anywhere than a lot of Cowboys fans would like to admit. He really only lacks one element that fans want, sacks. In every other way the stats bear him out as a top notch piece of our Defensive puzzle.
Kyle Wilber has impressed in the Mini Camps. So has UDFA Adrian Hamilton. It is going to come down to those 2 kids and Butler and Albright for the backup spots at OLB. Will we carry 2 or 3 backups? A lot will depend on how each of the players does in Special Teams. That is where I give the advantage to Albright. He has already shown he can produce there. Butler could be our surprise cut.
You can't talk about our OLBs and not say a word about DeMarcus Ware, so this is the word I will say about him. DPOY. Nuff said.
Big changes at ILB for 2012. Bradie James, a team leader is gone. Keith Brooking, another team leader is gone. Bruce Carter is back 100% healthy from his 2010 knee injury.
Sean Lee was our best revelation of 2011. If anyone disagrees with this I'd be shocked. The addition of Dan Connor and the emergence of Carter will make this Corps one of the truly improved areas of the team in 2012. Let's face it, no matter how good the leadership of James and Brooking was, they lacked speed and energy to capitalize on it. My hope is that Keith Brooking does not get an offer and takes Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan up on their offer to come here as an Assistant LB Coach.
The talent at ILB is dramatically improved from 2011 from the speed aspect. If Bruce Carter realizes his potential we could have an absolutely great ILB tandem in Lee and Carter. Ironically the names of the Detectives in the "Rush Hour" movies. Connor will provide veteran leadership and if Carter in any way struggles, he would start and still be an improvement over Bradie James.
I have a lot of confidence in the late round pick we acquired in Caleb McSurdy. Every Mini Camp report on him that I saw had him around the football constantly. He will have to contribute on Special Teams. Possibly he is the guy who makes Albright expendable if the team wishes to try and capitalize on Hamilton's potential.
I'm not going to break DEs and NTs apart simply because we made no changes at the Nose. Unless Robert Calloway takes the backup role away from Josh Brent.
I do believe Kenyon Coleman will be a June release. Tyrone Crawford will be a better option at a cheaper price. In 2011, the season started with Spears and Coleman as our DEs if I remember right. By season's end It was Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore who were our most impressive DEs. I firmly believe Lissemore is our 2012 starting LDE. RDE will come down to Hatcher and Crawford. I am going to go out on a limb and say the rookie wins the job.
The obvious question here is where does that leave us with Spears? I believe he could be moved to NT as Ratliff's backup, or he could be a surprise cut. His versatility is his trump card. If the rookie doesn't start, Hatcher will and I liked what I saw of Hatcher last year. I hope he improves upon it.
In my opinion Sean Lissemore will be our revelation of 2012 unless one of the new starting CBs is amazing.
In 2010 we had our worst Defense ever for points allowed with 436 charity donations. In 2011 I said I hoped for a 100 point improvement from the Defense. I consider that a very tall order by the way. Especially in a season with no OTA's, etc. As bad as the Defense was they almost gave us that improvement. 347 points allowed. An 89 point improvement.
So, what should we realistically expect in 2012 when we are having OTAs, Mike Woicik is leading the training, and we have made what we hope are improvements across the scope? If we don't get below 300 points it is a damned shame. I'd say getting to 280 is a realistic goal, and less than that will be a fantastic improvement. Remember, we are going to score points with this Offense. That means other teams will be throwing the ball a lot and there is always the potential for fast scores and thus more scores. Thinking we can drop much more than that is a bit unrealistic.
Let's talk Offense.
I want to begin this by once again eating crow about Jon Kitna. In 2010 when Romo went down I was on DCF's radio show blasting Kitna to beat the band. I was wrong. He was a revelation, and I can't remember the last time I was as grateful for a backup QB as I was in Jon Kitna. I love the fact that he is going into HS Coaching and I will be a fan of his for the rest of my life. I hope he becomes a great coach. I think he can.
2012 has given me a similar hope in one of our backup QBs. I remain amazed that Kyle Orton wanted to come here. In 2011 we put in a waiver claim on him and I was jazzed. Unfortunately, Kansas City got him and we missed out. That interest in him raised his interest in us. I feel Orton got a raw deal in Denver. No fault of his own for the turn around in Denver that is solely attributed to Tebow and wrongly denies the Broncos Defense some credit. in other words, Kyle Orton was not the problem in Denver.
I don't consider him a star QB, but I do consider him a steady one, who has a great calming influence. If not on anyone else's nerves at least on mine. Point blank, I like the kid. I always have.
I have no faith in our other backups and I sincerely hope that 2013's draft finds us a backup to groom for the future. If I am wrong on Stephen McGee, I will eat some crow just like I did on Kitna. But in 3 years he has not risen enough to give us faith in him as a number 2 man behind Romo. That isn't good in my eyes.
RB & FB
I am combining these two just like I did for DL, but for entirely different reasons since we do have change at FB. We saw in stark contrast the difference in this team when we had a running attack. When Fiammetta was healthy and Murray was too, this was our best team in 2011. We faded down the stretch because the success we were having with our running attack hinged upon those pieces.
I want to make this clear. I have nothing at all against Felix Jones (Happy Birthday to him by the way). I like the guy. I do not think we have used him like I was hoping we would. That is to say as a Preston Pearson type receiver on 3rd downs. He is more elusive than Preston ever was. This is just my opinion, but Preston Pearson was the most under rated weapon in our History. For those too young to have seen him play, I will simply say this. On 3rd down he moved the chains better than any player in the NFL. He was Roger and Danny's safety valve.
Felix could be better in that capacity as a scoring threat because he is more elusive than Preston ever dreamed of being. I wish we were looking at how Preston was used and using Felix that way.
I think Ia m more excited about the addition of Lawrence Vickers than any other addition on the 2012 team. My only complaint about Fiammetta was that he had an injury History and was gone for too long in 2011 when we really needed him. Shaun Chapas was one of my biggest disappointments in 2011. Mostly because we used a draft pick on him and he was not my pet cat FB, who went undrafted and got a Super Bowl ring.
It doesn't seem that long ago that posters here were telling me that FB was no longer important in the NFL. My how the thinking has changed. Thank you Tony Fiammetta. I'm going to go out on a limb here, Lawrence Vickers will be our best Lead Blocker since the days of the Moose call. DeMarco Murray will be the biggest benefactor of this.
I'm also going o go out on another limb and say Phillip Tanner was a one year Dallas Cowboys. I have nothing against him. If I am wrong, I will be happy. I especially loved his coverage on kickoffs. So why am I saying this? I think we got a steal in the Darrell Scott kid. If you read the stuff on him from the Mini Camps you know why.
Confession time. The player I was most disappointed in for 2011 was John Phillips. Perhaps he simply wasn't back from his 2010 injury enough. But I didn't see the effort in him that I saw before he got hurt. I really expected him to come back in 2011 and take the backup TE spot for himself. I believe he was really close to doing it before he got hurt.
So I am going to say James Hanna beats him out for the backup TE spot. I like Hanna. I liked him at OU. There were only a few TEs I liked as much as him in the Draft. I never had him in my Mocks, mostly because I felt he would go in the 3rd round or higher after his Combine. To get him where we did is kind of fun. I know he has suspect hands per the Mini Camps. I know he is nowhere near the blocker Martellus was. I will take what his strengths are and utilize them. That appears to be speed and speed. You move a TE that fast into a formation and it can cause a Defense fits.
Jason Witten is in my not so humble opinion the greatest all around TE in NFL History. He may never reach Tony Gonzalez's stats even though he is ahead of Tony's pace. Gonzalez in his best year never approached what Witten does as an unheralded blocker. He is the best combination I have seen since John Mackey and Mike Ditka and he is a better receiver than either of them.
Barring injury in 2012 Jason Witten will pass Michael Irvin as the Cowboys all time leading receiver for receptions. I think my favorite task of 2011 other than praying for wins was tracking his rise up the receiving ranks. He now stands alone as the 3rd leading receiver for TEs in NFL history, trailing only Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe. He will probably easily catch Sharpe in the next 2 seasons.
He will not hold off Larry Fitzgerald form passing him on the all time list, and a healthy Andre Johnson could also stay ahead of him, but he most likely will move very close to the top 25 all time receptions. Point blank he has been one of the greatest Dallas Cowboys ever, as a person and as a player.
On Offense in 2011 our revelation was a toss up between Fiammetta and Laurent Robinson up until Fiammetta's egg got scrambled. The loss of Laurent Robinson in 2012 is probably without a doubt the biggest blow we have suffered. Whether it was injuries to Dez or to Miles, or Laurent as the 3rd guy, he and Tony Romo simply had a marvelous chemistry. I will miss him.
Time for Dez Bryant to seize the reigns as one of the best WRs in the NFL. He has been on the cusp of that, and he certainly is one of the most dangerous, to himself, the Cowboys, and our opponents. It is time for the first two victims of Dez to go away and he only be dangerous to our opponents. I would gladly like to point out that so far in 2012 he has not made negative headlines. This is encouraging. He will likely always be a lightning rod. Diva WRs are, and make no mistake about it, he is a Diva WR.
What he also is for the Dallas Cowboys is potentially the most dangerous WR in the NFL. Right now that title belongs to Calvin Johnson and I do not believe Dez can pry it away from him. However, I do believe he can loosen Megatron's grip. It is entirely up to him how great he can be. It starts by silencing those who say he can only run three routes. He runs those three to perfection. Adding to his arsenal takes his talent to another stratosphere.
Miles Austin's absence last year was blunted by the emergence of Robinson. Thank goodness. We cannot afford a sequel from Miles. Everything Robinson gave us in 2011 was formerly the sole property of Miles Austin. A bounce back year is not only needed, it needs to be expected. If that Happens, look out.
We do need a fall back option like Robinson. Let's face it, our Wideouts do get dinged. I believe the Andre Holmes hype. Sue me. When I hear our top CBs are saying they can't handle him it moves me. When I hear our QB praise him, it moves me. The last time Tony spoke about a WR the way he does about Holmes it was Miles Austin. Oh how he did arrive as predicted. We're going to see Tony the Prophet emerge again. I am calling that shot now.
The 4th and 5th WR slots are up for grabs between Danny Cole, Dwayne Harris, and Kevin Ogletree. I know many want O-Tree gone, but hopefully they don't if he produces. It shouldn't be personal, it should entirely be about production. He hasn't lived up to his rookie potential. No one can argue that. He hasn't got any time left to do it. The kids are overtaking him fast.
If anyone on this forum was not thrilled with the emergence of Tyron Smith in 2011 that person is either a fan of another team or a fool. This kid was a straight up manna from heaven. As someone firmly implanted in the Patrick Peterson hopes and resigned to the fact we were going to take Tyron, let me simply begin by saying, oh my gosh. I knew he could be good. I was never going to dislike his selection. I had no idea how good he was going to be.
How good was he? So good that he is being switched to LT as many hoped and he is expected to be one of the best LTs in the NFL in 2012. Last year one of the scouts told me that Mike Woicik said he could add 25 pounds to Tyron, raise his bench press to over 500 pounds and Tyron still would not lose a step of his unreal speed. Does that give you an idea of this kid's ceiling? Here is a way premature prediction from this Cowboys fan. This kid will end his career being talked about as the best LT we ever had. We've had incredible presense at RT in our History between Rayfield Wright and Erik Williams. We've also had some amazing LTs in Tuinei and others. This kid will be better than all of them. Calling it now.
Doug Free disappointed the hell out of me in 2011. He was John Phillip's rival for disappointing as far as I am concerned. It isn't that I don't think he was awful. I don't think he was ready to play and he never really got ready. I think the lack of an off season ruined him more than any other player. I pray that 2012 in Woicik's sinister clutches and with Callahan moving him back to where he excelled at RT for an injured Marc Colombo puts the fire back in him that we all saw until last year. If it does, he can be great. If it doesn't, start thinking about RT in the 2013 Draft.
I was a bit sketchy on only having one backup OT in 2011. I also wish I had a bit more faith in Parnell. I like the Jeff Adams kid.
Well, here we go. I don't have a lot of faith in our Guards. In 2010 I wanted Miek Iupati. In 2012 I wanted David DeCastro. It should be safe to say that for a while now I have been wanting to improve interior OL. I have no idea why the team isn't as anxious as I am. I don't know what they see in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. They are frankly not options I was looking at.
I openly admit to being myopic at times on OL. I never saw the value of Kyle Kosier. I was wrong. Point blank, I was wrong. If he were not advancing quickly in age and piling up injuries I would still be wrong. I pray that I am going to be as impressed with these 2 additions as I was with him. I want to be that wrong times two.
I have my doubts that I am. In fact, I won't be shocked if this Ron Leary kid starts for us over one of these 2 FA acquisitions. I recently said I felt he was going to be our best UDGA find in 2012. I stand behind that. If his knee holds up, and I pray it does, he could start for this team. I hope he does. I hope he is so good that Bernadeau is moved to Center and he still shuts me up.
Interior OL is where I see the weakest part of this team. I remain skeptical of improvement to the type that DeCastro or Iupati could have provided. However, if these guys can improve to the level Kosier did, we can be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
Nagy needs to rebound from his injury. Arkin is on the bubble. I'd like to see Nagy moved permanently to Center. I can even see him starting there if Bernadeua doesn't. Nagy moving may be the thing that saves Arkin from the PS.
I don't dislike Phil Costa as a person. I want to make that clear. I like his fight. I also like the way Jose Aldo fights in MMA. I wouldn't pit him against Jon "Bones" Jones. I feel Costa is simply too often outmanned. I wouldn't mind him as a backup but I openly admit I hope he is no longer our starter at Center. Right now he is by default. That concerns me more than any other position on the football team. The only position that comes close for me in concern is Punter.
In 2010 we lost Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. We still scored 394 points. In 2011 we went backwards to 369 points. This despite an improved running attack and a marvelous season from Tony Romo. Why then did we go backwards? The simple answer is, 3 position changes on the OL and a side swap for Kyle Kosier. We were disjointed at best on OL in 2011. We paid for it with points on the scoreboard.
In particular this was true on the ground attack. 5 rushing TDs on the season. To say that is alarming would be a huge understatement.
Now, I want to say that I agreed with Jason Garrett's decision to overhaul the OL. Quite frankly we had dead weight there. Good players to be sure. But guys who were past their primes, and not living up to their salaries. I did not expect a great OL, but I did expect better than we got. Tony Romo was sacked 38 times in 2011. The most in his career and for an elusive QB that is too often.
That is why I want interior OL improvement on this team. I hope we got it. I hope I'm wrong. If not, prepare for me in 2013 to be in love with another OG or a C in the Draft.
In 2012 we are potentially looking at 3 new OL again, and the other 2 switching sides. However I don't think it will have the same chaotic effect as long as the OGs are improvements over the aging Kosier, Holland, and Dockery. We better hope this is the case. Otherwise, this team is going to once again be mired as a team just below where we all hope.
What is a realistic expectation of this Offense in 2012? A climb back up over 400 points better be expected. I think we're a hell of a lot better if our WRs are healthy and our running game scores. If we get anywhere near a full season out of Murray that we saw from him for an all too brief spurt in 2011, we will be one of the best Offenses in the NFL. Yes, I just dumped a lot on the the 2nd year RBs plate, but I put a lot more of that on the OL.
We go as far as the OL carries us in 2012. If we fail, look no further than the off season plans that focused on D and left interior OL as a secondary focus.
Briefly going to look at Special Teams.
Dan Bailey did an amazing job in 2011. Let us pray we don't see the proverbial Sophomore slump.
Here is my other big worry in 2012. I had become so used to relying upon Mat McBriar's effectiveness that I simply have little or no faith in Chris Jones yet. I hope he proves me wrong, but I have to say I would have accepted a 2012 draft pick being used on a Punter, and I also have hopes that a healthy McBriar comes back to compete for the job. I got blasted by one poster last year for my concerns over McBriar. But when you see the drop off in his production last year be as drastic as it was, there is cause for concern. There is still cause for concern because at this point he is gone from the roster and the replacement is largely unproven and may never approach what he was capable of.
I am not at all concerned about this position. L.P. remains a steady influence. Perhaps our best since Hellestrae was the guy.
I wish I knew who it was going to be. I suspect it will be Andre Holmes of Felix Jones. Regardless of who it is I hope we stop seeing our KRs jog to the 20 before they try to hit high gear. I wish we had a dedicated return guy. I say that every year. We could have a weapon here. Instead we have a position filled that has so so results.
I think Dez Bryant is the 2nd most dangerous PR guy in the NFL. I am hesitant to keep him in the duty. That is insane by the way. Deion Sanders handled the added duty and he was extremely valuable in his primary duty. Patrick Peterson stood the NFL on end last year and he was valuable in his primary duty. So why am I so hesitant to let Dez be valuable in the same way? Like I said, it is insane of me. Mix it up between him and Claiborne and we could have good results. Maybe great results. I still wish we had a Devin Hester or Vai Sikahema who this was his main job and we could stash our blue chips in one role on Offense and Defense.
Could be our downfall in 2012. A Sophomore slump, an unproven Punter, and continued less than stellar results in the return games could hamper and hinder this team. Frankly I wish we had gone after Tedd Ginn for this very reason. Jason Garrett preaches all three phases of the game. Here is the phase where I have the least amount of faith.
TOTAL SCOPE OF 2012 TEAM
There is no doubt I am fully on board with what Jason Garrett is doing here. In all the time I was hoping for his ascension to our Head Coach position it was for one primary reason. I knew he was going to build a team that its strength was in the chemistry. I believe you will see it more in 2012 than in any season of recent years and I believe it will yield positive results.
Get ready to hear "the right kind of guy" a much as we heard "process" in 2011. They are the same thing. Did you ever watch the movie "Hoosiers?" The kids could all shoot the basketball, except Ollie. But they were not a team. A long time ago one of my football coaches told me that TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves Magic. That is what we want, magic.
In the History Zone yesterday Nick Zepp posted the youtube videos of Super Bowl VI. If you give those a listen you will hear Tom Landry say something that too many fans deny. You need some luck on your side because so many other teams are good. That is the magic. I believe magic is possible if a team comes together in the right way. That is what Garrett means by "Process." You have to keep working towards that goal and even if you never reach magic, you build a system that works.
That is where we are headed. I realize it is not as fast as many would like for it to be. But we will get there quicker with the "Right Kinds of Guys." We may not achieve a Championship any time soon. Please know that is so possible that it is almost probable. Not because we lack the pieces, although that could prove to be true. Championships are not a birthright, they are a rare privilege for any fan base. As Tom Landry said, other teams out there are so good. The NFC in particular looks tough.
So expect some bumps. Hope for some magic. Pray if that is what moves you. I enjoy the journey regardless of the trip. I realize that is rare. I enjoy football so much that even a disappointing season is still a treat for me in a lot of ways. I will never ask anyone to think as I do on those things. I don't see Landry as a 27 year failure with 2 years of greatness. I think Landry was great from the opening gun. He had to build to that. He had to have the right kinds of guys buying into his systems, or processes.
We are seeing that in this team. They buy into Jason Garrett's philosophies. That is more important than any of us can comprehend at this point. Will it matter? That is the $64,000 question. I can't answer that. No one can.
The last I checked Las Vegas puts us at 18 to 1 to win the Super Bowl. I don't often bet on horse racing, but when I do those are the types of odds I like looking at. In other words, I like the odds of this team. But that is me. I am by nature a positive thinking person. I can't stand negativity around me. It chafes at me. That is why I live up to my username here. I can get very hostile towards negativity. Just my nature. I am that way in real life as well as on this forum. If you are a by nature negative person and you are happy with being that way, that is your right. I submit unto you however, that if you were that person on this football team you would not be a "Right Kind of Guy" and the only process you'd be a part of would be the search for a new employer.
Just my two cents.