Dallas Cowboys: Quarter Season Review

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After the first four games of the 2012 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys sit at 2-2. They are very much in the race for NFC East division title, which will probably, as always, come down to the last week or two of the season. How have have they played to get to that record, and how should we expect them to play as the season develops? Let’s take a look.


Quarterback: .

I personally am not a huge fan of Tony Romo’s play. He has good elusiveness which will at times result in him being able to extend plays, but he also continues to make some terrible decisions with the football. At times, Romo shows no understanding of ball security. Outside of the Buccaneers game, he hasn’t made many mistakes, but when he does make those mistakes, they are maddening turnovers that you would expect from a rookie not a seasoned veteran. In the Buccaneers game, he was awful; his inaccurate throws and inability to hit open receivers was the primary reason the Dallas Cowboys only scored 16 points against the Tampa Bay defense.

Oct 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton (69) pressures Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) during the third quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

Wide Receiver:

Miles Austin has consistently played well when he has the opportunity, but Romo doesn’t target him enough. Dez Bryant took a lot of slack after the Bears game for being unreliable, and he is. But if you put that aside, he has actually played ok this year. A number of balls have hit the turf due to miscommunications between Romo and receivers, but that is not limited to Bryant (from now on I am going to be counting the number of miscommunications per receiver). Could he be better? Yes. But has he been bad? No. Kevin Ogletree has been a pleasant surprise. Before this season, Ogletree never displayed much athleticism for a WR. This year he has consistently caught the ball, and looked shifty with it after the catch. None of the other young and inexperienced WRs on the squad (Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, and Andre Holmes) have done much to stand out yet. Holmes was an undrafted rookie last year and Beasley was a rookie free agent this year, so the coaches should expect the biggest contribution from Harris who was drafted in th 6th round in 2011 and has the benefit of the NFL experience he earned last year.

Tight End:

The Cowboys are stacked at TE. Jason Witten has been inconsistent, but he had his best game of the year against the Bears. Given Witten’s history of perennial Pro-Bowl level of play, Cowboys fans should look at his recent struggles as an aberration. Jason Witten still has a few more years of solid production in him. John Phillips has blocked really well in two tight end sets, and undrafted rookie free agent James Hanna looks extremely fast running routes, although he doesn’t appear to have the frame to be a good blocker. He fluidity in running routes and soft hands actually suggest he might make a nice slot receiver.

Running Back and Fullback:

Oct 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Demarco Murray has had a decent year, but he has yet to show dominance. The biggest problem maybe that his blocking has limited his ability to impact games. Lawrence Vickers has been solid enough. Felix Jones has been slightly less than average in his role, which is one that never impacts the game. He has lost his athletic ability, and he still looks fat. It makes no sense to have him returning kicks.  Has he returned a kick past the 30 yet this season? He can pass block and catch, and that’s it.

Offensive line:

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is a topic of much controversy, I have been told I have my head in the sand for saying that the Cowboys don’t have one of the worst lines in the league. By no means do I think they are good, but they are better than some lines. Many of the analyses of the Cowboys offensive line are ridiculously lazy. Mackenzy Bernadeu got a cheap contract and a bad rap from profootballfocus.com, so when the o-line plays bad, he gets blamed as being the worst.  He has been below average, but Nate Livings has been worse, as has Doug Free. Bernadeu played adequately in the first two games, but he has been subpar in the last two. As previously mentioned, Nate Livings has been consistently below average (other than in the first game). Phil Costa played adequate in the first game, since then Ryan Cook has been below average. Doug Free was ok for the first couple of games, but terrible against the Bucs, and bad against the Bears. Tyron Smith has played better than you think. He gave up NO pressure versus the Bears, and was solid before that game. Overall, the line has been decent in pass protection and very inconsistent at run blocking (good vs Giants, bad vs Seahawks, AWFUL vs Bucs, and ok vs Bears) with the exception of Tyron Smith.

For a recent post looking at potential additions to the Dallas Cowboys offensive line, please read here.

Overall, the offense hasn’t played as badly as the stats might suggest. This is due to Romo turning the ball over too much, they have actually shown the ability to move the ball. The Dallas Cowboys have faced very strong run defences so far, hopefully against some lesser competition, they can improve the running game.

The review of the Defense is on the next page.

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  • californy

    A much better assessment Ben, I agree with most of what you are saying here. Finally you open your eyes up. I only disagree with your assessment on Lissemore, I think he is having a solid year. Last Year he had 28 tackles, I see this year he on a pace for 88 tackles that would be three times last year total. . Lissemore is not a Pass rusher he a run stopper. Brent is in the same mold. The OL is still really bad and must be address. I dont think any amount of practice will get this OL back into a top 10 rushing team.
    I may be very critical on the boys at time but I give Romo the benefit of the doubt the most of the time. I always said this the more Romo does the worst this team will be. We can not win to many games throwing for 50 times in a game, this would put Romo in more harms way.
    I like the fact you saw Carter as not being a complete player yet. I knew Chicago was going to attack the middle and the LB, their game plan didnt surprise me at all. It make me wonder what JG & RR are doing. Most team have played us straight up and it seem like we are not ready for it. What is this coaching staff looking at, in prepairing for the other team

    • Ben Fitzgerald

      I’m not sure what I’m opening my eyes up to, my opinion of most things on this team have been pretty consistent.

      I agree Lissemore has been solid, but with his glowing PFF reports I expected more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/directortom Tom Salagaj

    Your careful and painstaking evaluations are mostly accurate even though slightly based on personal opinion. We all have our opinions but yours is somewhat based on facts rather than emotion. I like that in you. However, there is one glowing fact that has not been stated. The fact is, that, as a team, the Dallas Cowboys are not very good. I think some of it is a lack of head coaching schemes. Even I can usually tell what offensive plays are coming. I think I could scheme a defense against what is obvious. I don’t blame Jason Garrett totally. In my opinion, since the Jimmy Johnson era, the head coach of the Cowboys has been somewhat of a puppet coach having to align everything with the owner. I think Jerry Jones and his staff do not want to give the head coach the full authority that a good head coach needs. For example, look at the great teams of these past few years. Pittsburg, Atlanta, Green Bay, New England have head coaches who do not have to worry about the owner getting on the field and taking over football operations. Jimmy Johnson had full control and set this team up for three Superbowl victories even though he was gone for the third. It was still his team he’d made. Since then, the only head coach that had a chance at full success was Bill Parcells. The problems began for him when, again, Jerry began to take more control of football decisions. T. Owens was the “straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s been rather downhill ever since. Phillips had it going for a short while but again, the Jones boys got in his way by favoring Jason Garrett as the next head coach. Only a fool would think that Jerry Jones had not planned this Jason Garrett future change because he knew Jason would be a worthy puppet. Fortunately for Jones, Phillips team losing badly in his last year gave Jones all he needed to put his plan into operation. Now look at the team…doomed to be a loser.
    It saddens me to have to lost another year of the same ole stuff. But I think the chances of this current team winning many more games this year is just a pipe dream. Talent? Yes, we have a lot. Teamwork? Not there… Schemes? Predictable. Results? This team is mostly a smile for the other teams’ win categories. End result of this year? 5-11. Sad…no changes are forthcoming unless and until the owner gets the heck out of the way. But I think Jason Garrett has already been evaluated and found wanting. Sad…