I couldn’t help but watch Sunday’s games in awe. With the exception of Arizona, these teams seemed absolutely brilliant, both from a personnel and strategic standpoint.
Could the Cowboys have played with these teams? That is a tough question to answer.
My problem with the Dallas Cowboys is their unpredictability. When completely healthy, the common theme for a while now is that the Cowboys will play with some of the league’s elite teams and shock you, but they’ll struggle, surprisingly, against some of the bad teams.
This makes me think that the Cowboys could have played with these teams this weekend. They play up to their opponents.
Take that out of the equation. Pretend they aren’t the Dallas Cowboys. Imagine that personnel, with Jason Garrett and company coaching. Is that a team that can make a deep playoff run? What makes us think they can? What makes us think they can’t?
My first observation is that their defense isn’t ready yet. It’s showing the makings of what some of these teams have, but it isn’t there yet. I watched these games and kept thinking to myself how the Cowboys have the infant version of some of these defenses.
I can totally see this Cowboys defense developing into what Denver or Carolina has now. They are kind of lurking in the shadows. From a defense that most said would be historically bad just a year ago, they now have a lot of young and promising talent.
Sean Lee is our Luke Kuechly.
Can Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Tyrone Crawford develop into a defensive line that strikes fear? Lawrence is that technical guy on the end and Gregory has insane speed and bend. Can those two be a defensive end tandem like Ware and Willer? What will come of David Irving? How about some Terrell McClain?
Byron Jones has all the makings of a rangy free safety and Orlando Scandrick brings that passion and energy to the cornerback position.
If the Cowboys can add more talent to their defensive backfield and re-sign Rolando McClain, they can become a really scary unit.
How about the offense?
I watch the Carolina Panthers and just can’t believe what they have. On paper, their offense should be completely mediocre. Their offensive line isn’t anything special, their wide receivers are no-names and Jonathan Stewart is far from a running back that garners admiration.
Their offense as a unit…they are unstoppable. This is what intrigues me so much. Their offense clicks and they have a perfect game plan for every game. Plus, Cam Newton is just so good, he elevates the games of everyone around him.
The Cowboys offense needs more cohesion. Find an identity and commit to it. The Cowboys offensive line is the biggest strength of the team and is one of the best units in the entire NFL.
With a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, coupled with DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys offense looked great in 2014. This is what they should look for going forward. Rely heavily on the run game. This is a zone blocking offensive line, so find a running back that fits that rather than adjust your offensive line to your running back. Darren McFadden should be a complimentary piece as Dallas gets a running back that an entire game flows through.
Let Tony Romo work off of the running game to use Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and company to hit defenses when they least expect it. This offense could be surgical when employed correctly.
Like Carolina does, find something you’re great at, use it and then make everything a result of that strength.
In conclusion, the Cowboys aren’t too far away from the football we saw this weekend. But in order to make this happen, they must commit to an offensive identity and that means upgrading at the running back position to a guy that can have an entire offense on his shoulders. Whether that guy is Lamar Miller or someone in the draft, a better fit can be had than Darren McFadden.
Defensively, the Cowboys need to continue the development of their promising young players as well as add to their defensive backfield. Forcing turnovers should be an offseason priority. You can get that through several avenues, like improved pass rush from the young players forcing bad quarterback decisions, new talent in the secondary that can force turnovers or scheme changes to trick quarterbacks into mistakes.
The talent is on the Cowboys roster. If they can remain healthy and plug some holes they could find themselves playing deep into the postseason.