Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan have rightfully been scrutinized for highly questionable play calling and game management as, among other things, the late game collapses and abandonment of the run may have cost the Dallas Cowboys a spot in the playoffs. Even though this is inexcusable they and general manager Jerry Jones have the offense going in the right direction. With the pieces that are currently in place the Dallas Cowboys offense has an opportunity to be the best that it has been since Tony Romo took over as quarterback. While the Cowboys’ window of success is being questioned with aging stars clearly on the decline, it is the new young and talented players that are taking over and should make the last years of Tony Romo’s career his best.
Dez Bryant was suspended during his final year at Oklahoma State, and with great uncertainty regarding his off field behavior he managed to drop to 24th when the Dallas Cowboys drafted him. Early on in his career he didn’t help his reputation as he continued to find himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After some time to mature Dez Bryant has proven that the Cowboys absolutely made the right decision in drafting him. He has posted back to back 90+ receptions 1200+ yards and 12+ touchdown seasons. He has become one of the biggest wide out threats in the NFL and, especially this season, has emerged as an emotional leader of the Dallas Cowboys. With his 67 first downs only 3 behind the league leader in Brandon Marshall Dez Bryant is as reliable as he is talented. Dez Bryant’s emotional outburst on the sideline will always be criticized by those too proud to admit he’s proving his doubters wrong but it is that same passion that makes him one of the most dominant players in the league.
As great as Dez Bryant is, he can not do it all himself, and in the Cowboys offense he does not have to. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Miles Austin will be released for the salary cap benefits but there’s another young receiver on the team that has looked like he is more than capable of taking over as the number two to compliment Bryant. Terrance Williams finished the year with 736 yards and 5 touchdowns. While those numbers are not eye popping they are formidable for a rookie wide out and with Miles Austin out of the picture he will have plenty of opportunities to pad his stats. With 12 receptions of 20+ yards maybe the most impressive stat for Williams this season is his 9.9 yards per target. On that pace all he would need is 27 of Miles Austin’s 49 targets and Dez Bryant is teamed up with another 1000 yard receiver. Given that the Broncos and the Bears are the only teams to have a a tandem of wide outs to break 1000 yards, the Cowboys receiving core could be in elite territory. Without Miles Austin the only question would be depth. Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris were a nice surprise this year but if Williams or Bryant fall due to injury, neither one of them have proven that they can be a reliable number two.
Fortunately the Cowboys have one of the most reliable security blankets of all time to fall back on if necessary. Jason Witten is aging but after exceeding 800 yards and finding the end zone 8 times the end is not near. Even if the end is near the Cowboys have already found his replacement. While Escobar’s under usage this season infuriated many considering his was drafted in the second round, his talent can not be denied. Climaxing with his incredible flip into the end zone against the Eagles, Escobar has assured Cowboys nation that tight end will be a position of strength for years to come.
The best part of the Cowboys receiving core is, that aside from Jason Witten, Dez Bryant at 25 years of age is the oldest of the bunch. At 33 years old the Cowboys have given Romo one of the best receiving cores in the NFL for the remainder of his career. This passing game alone is enough to make the Cowboys an offensive force to be reckoned with, and yet it may not even be the best unit on the offense.
Bill Callahan, whose been raked over the coals for his job as offensive coordinator, has also coached one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. It’s easy to see why Dez Bryant is considered the most talented player on the Dallas Cowboys, but Tyron Smith had a breakout year and may not only have passed Bryant as the best player on the Cowboys but is one of the best in the league. Tyron Smith ended his pro bowl season giving up 1.5 sacks along with 4 penalties (3 false starts and 1 holding). These are impressive stats for any position on the offensive line, but considering he is constantly forced to block the opposing teams top pass rusher at the left tackle position he ended up being the Cowboys most impressive player this season. The best part, Tyron Smith is 23 years old and is in a position to be one of the leagues best left tackles for many years to come. Tony Romo now has a flurry of young talented receivers to throw to with a young offensive line to give him all the time he needs to get them the ball.
When Waters went down with a season ending injury, it was uncertain how the Cowboys offensive line would hold up. By season’s end the were the 4th best run blocking unit in the NFL with an adjusted yard line of 4.23. Where Tyron Smith dominated in pass protection, first round draft pick Travis Fredrick managed to match his success in the run game. Pro Football Focus had Fredrick as the third runner up as the offensive rookie of the year and they gave him the second best run blocking grade of all centers in the league, making him more than worth the first round draft pick spent on him.
If Tony Romo and the passing game has an off night, DeMarco Murray has shown the team that i he has the ability to take over the game himself. Running behind Fredrick Murray ranked 3rd in the NFL with 5.2 yards per carry behind only Donald Brown and Andre Ellington, who had almost half as many carries as Murray. When Murray knocked 293 pound Damion Square off his feet in the finale against the Eagles he ensured that no one could ever doubt his toughness and strength. Tie that in with 8 carries of 20+ yards, which was 2 less than the league lead, and Murray becomes one of the more dynamic running backs in the league. At 25 years of age the only issue that can be found with Murray is his health, as he continues to play less than 16 games a season. Fortunately, the Cowboys have an insurance policy in Lance Dunbar. Dunbar also fell to injury and only had 30 carries, but his 5.0 yards per carry and explosiveness on the field gives the Cowboys all they could ask for in the back field.
The Cowboys have the talent to dominate passing the game and running the game and the offensive line to give the protection that is needed for both. The Cowboys youth on offense means that this is an offense as a whole that is poised to be one of the best in the league for years to come. Tony Romo has been a part of a lot of great offensive units in his career and the players surrounding him now could prove to be the best he’s ever had. The most exciting part of it all is, given their ages, this is an offense that should continue to get better.