Dallas Cowboys Team Capsule
What Went Right
West of Foxborough, Massachusetts, few offenses could hold a candle to the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo progressed nicely in his second year as a starter and threw 36 touchdowns, second in the NFL only to Tom Brady. Any hangover concerns from the dropped snap against the Seahawks in the playoffs a season prior were quickly forgotten. Terrell Owens was…Terrell Owens, catching 15 touchdowns. And Marion Barber nearly eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career and scored 12 times while splitting carries with the now departed Julius Jones. It was Jason Witten, not Owens, who led the Cowboys in receptions with 96. When the dust settled, Dallas averaged 28 points per game (second overall) and 365 yards per game (third overall).
What Went Wrong
While Dallas improved defensively, it was still susceptible to big plays and struggled at times allowing 20 points per contest. For the second straight season, the arrival of a blonde singer to Cowboy games coincidentally signaled the slow death of the team’s success. In ’06, Carrie Underwood stopped by towards the season’s end and in ’07 it was Jessica Simpson’s turn. While the season finale against Washington had little value because the Cowboys clinched home field advantage, they averaged only ten points per game in the three contests of the regular season. Compounding matters was a late-season ankle injury suffered by Owens. Then in the playoffs, the offensive line fell apart as the Giants harassed Romo non-stop and eventually overcame Dallas 21-17 in the divisional round.
A team that possessed the NFC’s best record did not need to make wholesale changes on offense. The time is now for Dallas which is why on defense it acquired suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones from Tennessee, who has still yet to be reinstated by the league, to bolster the secondary. Assuming he’s allowed to play, Jones could also have an impact on the special teams as a returner. Former Dolphin linebacker Zach Thomas will join the team to help shore up the depth at linebacker.
Felix Jones is a big play back out of Jerry Jones’ alma mater, Arkansas. He will not play quite the role that the absent Jones did. Instead, look for him to be the lightning to Barber’s thunder. Tight end Martellus Bennett has talent, but is behind Witten which renders his fantasy value rather ineffective for this season. Fourth round selection Tashard Choice may see carries as well. He handled the load while at Georgia Tech and should be able to provide some power running off the bench.
State of the Team
Romo is the rock solid starter for Dallas and should continue his successful ways. Throughout mock drafts and as suggested by fantasy magazines, Romo is the third quarterback typically taken behind Brady and Peyton Manning, which is a fair assessment. Another 30-plus touchdown pass season is well within reach for the Eastern Illinois product. As long as the Dallas offensive line plays like it did during the regular season instead of how it performed in the playoffs against the Giants, Romo will excel again. His level of play dipped in December again for the second straight season, which is a concern for fantasy owners when playoff time rolls around. In fact, over the last four games of the ’06 and ’07 campaigns, Romo has combined for nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. His last four games this season: at Pittsburgh, home against the Giants and Ravens; and at Philadelphia.
Assuming that the Dallas offense continues to stays relatively healthy (which it has since ’06), this might be the hitch in the Cowboys giddy up. Barber returns, but he has two rookies in Jones and Choice behind him. Meanwhile, Barber has yet to prove that he can handle a season as the main go-to guy. His season high in carries is 204. At the very least, he’ll have to shoulder a lot of responsibility early on until the young pups get their bearings. Nonetheless, Barber is a scoring machine and that should continue. This should be the season he finally surpasses the 1,000-yard mark and I expect him to add to another double-digit touchdown campaign.
At 34, Owens is creeping up there in age, but shows little signs of slowing down. The biggest concern with him is injury. He has missed at least one game in five of the last six seasons. However, he is as reliable as any receiver in the league when it comes to making big plays. A potential negative for the Cowboys at receiver is a lack of consistency after Owens. Patrick Crayton is the number two guy, but has shown a propensity to drop the ball at crucial times. His fantasy value as a second or third receiver on a fantasy team is solid though because of T.O.’s presence. Terry Glenn’s situation with the team still remains up in the air as he missed 15 games last season with a knee injury; he may be on his last legs.
Witten is one of the top tight ends in football and is coming off a career year. His totals may not be quite as high from ’07, but he remains the second best option in the passing game behind you know who.
The Cowboy defense should be amongst the league’s best again in 2008. Even if Jones is not reinstated prior to the regular season’s beginning, Dallas still has guys who make plays like DeMarcus Ware, who had 14 sacks last season. The ‘Boys secondary should be in good shape as long as they hide safety Roy Williams, who is quickly falling out of favour in Big D. Whenever Dallas has given up a big pass play in the past two seasons, somewhere Williams was likely trailing the play. Expect Dallas to be one of the top fantasy defense/special teams squads in 2008.