The Dallas Cowboys Football Season Preview


The Associated Press

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Arlington, Texas.

Draike De La Garza

The NFL season begins Wednesday night in the Meadowlands where the Dallas Cowboys will visit the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The last time these teams met, the Cowboys lost to the Giants with a playoff berth at stake. Now it’s a new season where the Dallas Cowboys, as usual, are talented and another 8-8 season is unacceptable.

Despite throwing for more than 4,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions last season, there are still questions about Tony Romo’s production and poise in the clutch. Romo is lacking depth at receiver and tight-end. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, who had 928 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2011, will be put to the test to make plays as seen in the past season. Kevin Ogletree will compete with rookie Danny Coale, a fifth-round pick, among other undrafted players for the slot receiver spot. Tight end Jason Witten’s old-school style made him a constant target for Romo throughout previous seasons.

Witten, who had 942 yards and five touchdowns last season and battled an injured spleen this offseason, is doubtful for the season opener. Austin and Bryant are also hurting. The Dallas two-back, two-tight end offense is dependent on DeMarco Murray’s power between the tackles. Murray has the power to get Dallas the necessary yards and Felix Jones has the ability to make game-changing plays. Playing a big role for the Cowboys is the third-year center Phil Costa who will have some more help against defensive linemen this season. He is now playing between the free-agent pickups Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Last season’s team would have won the NFC East if not for its inconsistent secondary as the Cowboys were 23rd in pass defense. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones traded up in the draft to select the prized LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick. Using a base 3-4 defense, the Cowboys had the NFL’s 7th-best rush defense.

DeMarcus Ware leads the NFL with 80 sacks over the past five years. The Cowboys had 42 sacks in 2011, 19.5 of them coming from Ware. Players such as Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff should give Ware more help this year while the versatile Sean Lee will play a crucial role as an inside linebacker. The defense needs to put Tom Coughlin’s strong coaching style to the test and have a plan to disorganize the opposing teams’s attack.

For Cowboys fans, it’s Super Bowl or bust. Dallas picked up good talent in the draft and has a quarterback that put up solid numbers last season. There are still some unanswered questions and the Cowboys will have an early test in their season opener against their rival in the Giants Wednesday night, a potential monumental victory in a promising season or a possible crushing defeat in what might be another disappointing year.