When people aren't talking about a particular subject matter, it's usually time to take notice or at least peak in. While there have been many storylines and issues (like always) surrounding the Dallas Cowboys off-season, there are two units which have gone fairly unmentioned and almost forgotten. Maybe forgotten is the wrong word, but taken for granted is more like it. Pick up or read any Cowboys' story, blog or headline these days, and all anyone wants to know or talk about is Roy Williams. The receiver. OK, understood, but is that really the "heart" of the concerns for the 2009 Dallas Cowboys? While a definite concern, I don't believe it's the heart and soul that will determine the team's fate this upcoming season.
I believe the success or failure of the Dallas Cowboys will be determined (majority) by what transpires in the trenches. Offensively and defensively. Very little has been said about either unit and that's concerning. Say what you will, but I'm a firm believer the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line is one of the most overrated units in the entire League. Scoff if you must, but either Hudson Houck influences many NFL voters or Pro Bowl voters have been completely brainwashed over the years.
Yes, it has been quite some time since the Cowboys have found themselves in a post-season, play-off victory situation, but is it possible many think the front wall is still manned by Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski, Larry Allen and Erik Williams? Seriously? I honestly believe this unit gets an annual "pass" because of past successes. If assessing the current offensive line, I would give them a gigantic "OK." They are not nearly as good as their accolades proclaim. Are the offensive lines of 31 other teams that bad, or are the Cowboys getting away with a con job?
I tend to lean towards the latter, and I think the shortcomings are masked by points. Since Tony Romo has taken over the reins at quarterback, and when healthy, the Cowboys have successfully lit up the scoreboard. Outscoring opponents is like deodorant. It temporarily masks the problem, but the stink still lurks underneath. The current front five, TE's excluded, can pass block, but their run blocking is atrocious. Go ahead; name me an offensive lineman who is stellar at getting to the second level of an opposition defense? Not "OK," but stellar! Maybe Kyle Kosier (when healthy) or Andre Gurode (stretch)? Anyone else consistently laying out interior linebackers or pan caking 3-4 outside linebackers while the Cowboys' backs are ripping off 10-yard carries with regularity?
As things currently sit, it's pretty much assumed across the League the Cowboys have a worthy trio of running backs. Agreed? Especially when healthy and ready to roll. Here's a little news flash, they need all three, and there's a reason a couple of them are starting to acquire dings and dents. When running backs start to take too many direct hits (insert LT here), the production and effectiveness start to dwindle. In some cases, the drop off is lightning quick. Do you honestly think you can run like MBIII and stay in the League for 8-10 years? You're fooling yourself. That style is not conducive to NFL longevity. People don't realize how much of a blessing and abnormality Emmitt was. Not only was he the King of not taking a direct hit, he had a pretty good group paving his running lanes as well. Make no mistakes about it; the current backs pave their own dirt.
We've all seen what No. 9 can do when he actually has time to throw and protects the football. That's when the Cowboys are at their recent best, but even that aspect of the game has gotten sloppy of late. This is the year the Cowboys must find some answers at OT. The years are piling up on Flozell, and the things Marc Colombo is able to do can be contributed to sheer will and determination. Love the man's intensity, but you have to wonder how much more is in the tank. They must fortify and find answers for OT's as it relates to quality back-ups and future starters. I'm all for the jobs both Jeff Ireland and Tom Ciskowski have pulled off over the past few years, but the Cowboys have to start hitting on offensive linemen!
OK, let's jump to the other side of the ball. Are we all OK on the defensive front three? We are? OK, first of all, who are they? Didn't Chris Canty just get jettisoned off to a division rival and some used-up war weapon known as Tank given his much-needed free agent papers? Is Spears still here? That Ratliff guy is still on the nose, right? What else is there in the hopper? Haley? Tolbert? Manster? Lilly? Anyone want to trade defensive lines with the New York Giants? Ladies and gentlemen, unless I'm missing something here, even one little/major injury is going to hurt like holy you-know-what! Bank that.
Has that Brink's Truck shown up at D-Ware's house yet? What, Jerry can't afford the gas after the big no-hamburger splurge on George and Reba? Best call one of those Sheik friends of his that used to (when winning) parade the sidelines in the glory days. That "franchise" needs to be paid and paid now! Lord help us all if #94 enters the 2009 campaign without a long-term deal. And you think Jerry has so-called regrets on releasing the Buffaloing Buffalo? The comparison would be more pale that Calista Flockhart!! Someone make sure Stephen's office light still burns 24/7 out the Valley Ranch way. Please.
So, no more "whining" Greg Ellis??!! Miracles never cease, but is everyone ready to roll with Anthony Spencer? Really? Based on what body of work? Game film at Purdue? Correct my memory, but wasn't Mr. Spencer a first-round selection? Isn't it about time we started to see a little first-round-like production and much less co-pay and deductible utilization? Riding injury pine will not get you to the quarterback! OK Wade, you're going to have to work some of that defensive magic we've been hearing about for what seems like an eternity now! Someone not named "franchise" better be capable of collapsing a pocket and getting to the opposition's signal-caller. Anybody up to that task?
Forget about the interior linebackers and secondary! They'll be just fine as long as the Cowboys find a way to own first down, mount a consistent pass rush and make 3rd and forever the 2009 defensive mantra. Do those things and give me Keith Brooking or Toby Keith, it doesn't matter. Orlando Scandrick or Tony Orlando (and Dawn). You get the picture. Get busy up front and the rest will take care of itself. You want turnovers? Bring some heat. Bring it consistently and bring it from everywhere. Come on Uncle Wade, if you can't earn the keep of a Head Coach; at least earn some of that "Jing" as the Defensive Coordinator. Please. You send some pressure and we'll keep the same off your career playoff success! Deal?
It's all about the "big uglies" people. On both sides. If the line of scrimmage is not controlled consistently by both Cowboys' fronts, then the only thing ugly is going to be the 2009 season!
Little talk equals big concern
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