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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.