For today’s NFL preseason fan Q&A, ATCG will take a look at early NFC favorite, the Dallas Cowboys. The questions were answered by Jeff, a friend of a friend and Cowboy fan living outside Austin, TX.
1. Do the Cowboys need to make the Super Bowl for Wade Phillips to return as the head coach next year?
Let me start off by saying that I am a Wade Phillips fan, he wasn’t my first choice of hire, but that was just out of my own ignorance! The guy is a (regular season) winner everywhere he goes and he gets the most out of his players and they respect him. But having said that, the Cowboys don’t just need to make the Super Bowl for Wade to return, they need to win it, and even then we might see a change! It’s pretty apparent that Jerry Jones has designated Jason Garrett as Head Coach in waiting, and there’s a reason that he kept Garrett from signing with another team this offseason. I think most fans like Wade, he’s a helluva coach and a genuine Texan through and through, but that might not be enough.
What’s interesting is the coaching staff. It includes lots of familiar names from the world of football. Wade Wilson, Skip Peete, Ray Sherman, Hudson Houck, Dave Campo, Todd Grantham, Reggie Herring, and Bruce Read are all on the staff and read out like a who’s who of nfl coaches. Former Cowboys LB Dat Nguyen is a linebackers coach. Wade’s son is on the staff, as is Jason Garrett’s brother. With this staff in place, Jason Garrett can take the reins tomorrow and wouldn’t miss a beat.
2. How much will Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones improve the Dallas secondary? Will he cause any off-field headaches?
Getting Adam Jones really gave the secondary some versatility, assuming he behaves himself and is the player he was for the Titans. Dallas’ two weakest links last year were the secondary and the return game. Jones provides valuable options for both. He is a dynamic returner and a solid corner. With the depth now at corner after the draft of Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, you could see up to 7 different corners on the active roster each week. Also, there are rumors that Adam Jones could take over the starting spot sometime in the future with Anthony Henry moving to safety. Then your safeties would be Henry and Ken Hamlin and longtime Cowboy goat Roy Williams could be expendable. Something all Cowboy fans would love to see happen!
I think with the leadership of the Boys office, coaches, former players, and current players, you won’t see Adam Jones provide any headaches much like Terrell Owens and Tank Johnson have moved away from. Both are now considered leaders on this year’s squad. Tank Johnson and former players Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin have really taken Jones under their wing, something that would have really scared you 10 years ago, but seems to fit now.
3. How much will Felix Jones add to the running game in his rookie season?
He might not add that much to the running game this season, but his overall contributions to the team should be valuable enough. I think Jason Garrett hopes to give Felix Jones about 10-12 touches a game through rushing, receiving, and the return game. Felix has impressed through training camp with his ability to run between tackles and see the whole field, something that wasn’t a strength of his last year at Arkansas. If he can show an ability to pass block, I can see Jones playing a lot of third downs. He also gives the offense a lot of options with two back sets, splitting him wide, etc. While not the same “name” power as Reggie Bush, you could see Dallas use Jones the same way that New Orleans does, as they have a similar skill set. And you’ll definitely see him returning kicks next to Adam Jones.
What will be interesting is to see how Jason Garrett and Tony Romo distribute the ball this season. They have playmakers all over the field and can utilize just about any formation they want. They really made an effort to grab playmakers this offseason in Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, and Martellus Bennett and combined with Marion Barber, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten, and Patrick Clayton, it’ll be fun to watch them move the ball around, which in my mind makes Tony Romo the key guy on this team. The offense will live and die by him. If he gets injured, this will be a very average team at best with Brad Johnson at QB.
4. The NFC East is expected to be pretty competitive this year. Will the Cowboys be able to put together a good enough record to receive a first round bye in the playoffs?
The NFC East could be the toughest division outside of the AFC South. Last season, all four teams were over .500. Only the AFC South was able to match that. The East was the only division to have all its teams score more points than they surrendered. It’ll definitely be a tough division once again in 2008.
If Donovan McNabb is healthy, Philly is one of the tougher teams in the conference, evidenced by the fact that they have won the division 5 times, were 11-5 one other year, and have been to 4 conference championship games all over the past 8 years. They could go 5-11 or 11-5 and it wouldn’t surprise me either way. The key to that team once again is McNabb. As bad as it seemed they were last year, they were 8-8 and missed the playoffs by one game.
The Redskins are a tough team to call. Expectations are high every year and every year they fall apart. Daniel Snyder spends money like Angelina has babies! They are always the trendy pick to make that turn around. That being said, I do like Jason Campbell (as much as it pains me to say that about a Redskin!) and think he is getting better. Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts provide a solid, when healthy, running back tandem and they upgraded the receiving corp with Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas. Their defense has a few holes at DT, LB, and FS, but has plenty of stars as pass rushers and cornerbacks to be stable. Once again health will be the ongoing need for Washington to be a playoff team. They could go 9-7 and not make the playoffs.
Only two things pain Cowboy fans more than watching the Giants hoist up that Lombardi Trophy last year, that’s watching the Redskins or Eagles do it! The Giants have a very solid team again this year. Eli Manning might have played himself onto a fantasy football roster spot with his performance late last season. They have running backs, receivers, and a tough offensive line. Losing Jeremy Shockey won’t hurt them one bit. Defensively, once again look for them to create pressure. One word comes to mind when talking about the G-Men: Solid. Just a good, solid all around football team.
With all that being said, I think the Cowboys have the personnel to be the best team at the end of the regular season and secure a first round bye. Anything less than a Super Bowl berth for this team, would be deemed a failure. When you look at the conference the only team that gave the Cowboys a run for that top seed in 2007 was the Green Bay Packers. With a QB change in 08, I don’t see them having that same success this year. I’ll go ahead and predict the playoff teams to look like this…Dallas, NY Giants, New Orleans, Seattle, Minnesota, and about 6 teams competing for that final spot, but Washington grabbing it.
5. The Cowboys’ receiving unit doesn’t look as deep as in past years. Will this hurt the balance of the offense?
I might be the only one, but was in favor of the hard stance taken by the Cowboys over Terry Glenn. He was never healthy enough to contribute and didn’t need that distraction. In fact this question should have been asked prior to last season since Glenn was unaccounted for last year. I feel the receiving unit is deep enough with quality NFL prospects that the team will be fine. When you add in the tight ends to this receiving core, it looks even better. In fact, if you look at last year’s receivers you can take away Terry Glenn for all but what? 3 plays?! So I’m reluctant to call him a loss this year if he hardly played last year. Actually, we added rookie free agent Danny Amendola to the fold. So if anything, we are deeper this year.
Our three tight ends are set and so are Owens and Crayton as your starting wideouts. Scouts say it takes 3 years for receivers to find their way in the NFL, we have two of them in Sam Hurd and Miles Austin. Hurd’s got the hands and Austin’s the fastest guy on the team, if either one of them steps up during training camp expect good dividends. Both have good NFL size and hard work ethics, they both know it won’t be handed to them. The other spots at receiver will be manned by prospect Isaiah Stanback and rookie Amendola. Stanback is a former Washington Huskie QB who also ran track and although he didn’t play baseball in college, was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2006 Amateur Draft. He is definitely a playmaker drawing comparisons with Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle-El. Expect him to see more playing time this season.
As a fellow Texas Tech alum, I have followed Danny Amendola for a few years now. Most compare him to another Red Raider, Wes Welker, and while similar in size, they do offer a few differences. Welker has a little more speed and was a more dynamic punt returner, while Amendola is a hands guy. He’s a sure fire football player who will catch the ball anywhere on the field and isn’t afraid to go across the middle despite his size. You won’t catch him in the open field but look for him in a slot position catching balls in traffic as Mr. First Down.