9 questions for 2009 - #9

The Ranch Report begins the first of a nine-part series analyzing the upcoming season for America's Team. It's been asked time after time since the 2008 season came to a crashing end … "will the Dallas Cowboys have improved chemistry now that Terrell Owens, Adam Jones, Tank Johnson and others are no longer on the team?"

Right or wrong, the lack of cohesiveness has been blamed for collapses in each of the last two seasons, including a 1-3 finish last year that ended with a humiliating 44-6 loss to the Eagles and the Cowboys sitting at home watching the playoffs.

However with a new-and-improved locker room filled with a nice mix of former Pro Bowlers and fresh faces, the franchise is certainly under what could best be described as a "different kind" of leadership.

Whether it's Jason Witten or DeMarcus Ware, there will be no more "we're not getting along" excuses in 2009.

Of course, whether or not that means the team is actually better, remains to be seen.

Tony Romo, who insiders suggest had the biggest issues with Owens last season, said this summer injuries played just as big of a role with the Cowboys' collapse as anything else.

"I don't know that the chemistry was that different last year than the year before when we went 13-3," he said. "I think injuries were a part of it. I think people not performing up to all of our own levels that we might be able to perform up to. I think we all looked at ourselves and wished we would have played better last year in certain games and in certain situations.

"You go back and you look at it and you try to improve and you try to fix it for the next time. And that's all you can do as a competitor."

Injuries certainly don't help the morale of a team, but there's little doubting that there was much more going on behind the scenes, especially when confrontations seem to be ocurring week after week in the locker room.

Remember, football is a team sport, and most coaches will tell you the team aspect to the game is as important as anything outside of pure talent.

Without Owens in the mix, the Cowboys' talent level has gone down, the question remains; will team chemistry improve enough to make up for it?

The true answer to that question won't be known until the end of the 2009 season, but as things stand now, expect less drama and more focus on the task at hand ... starting with beginning of training camp later this month.

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