With the Cowboys preseason over and the 53 man roster set, it’s now time to get the 2012 season started. With every season comes new hope and excitement. This season is no different. I’m excited for some of the new players like Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Cole Beasley, Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber. The 2012 Cowboys have a nice mix of experience and youth. Of course the core players of Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee are still in place and are ready to make a run at a championship. The excitement level is high and I can’t wait to see what kind of team the Cowboys will be in 2012.
Even with the excitement and all the talent the Cowboys have on their roster and the new players with so much potential, there is also concern. My first concern is how the offensive line will come together this season. With two new guards in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, center Phil Costa who has been less than impressive and tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free switching sides, it’s something that will be looked at early and often. I think Costa will benefit from having Livings and Bernadeau on each side and he won’t struggle like he did in 2011. The one player I worry about is Doug Free. If preseason is any indication he is going to be the weak link on the Cowboys line and he should be watched closely. If these chosen five players do come together and become a solid unit the first player who will benefit from it is Tony Romo who seemed to get hit throughout the 2011 season.
In 2011 Romo seemed to be under constant pressure, but was able to put up some good numbers despite the offensive line. With a solid offensive line in front of him Romo will have the time to find his weapons in Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. It seems as though Kevin Ogletree has become the Cowboys third receiver and that worries me. Ever since joining the Cowboys Ogletree has been inconsistent at best. Dwayne Harris once again has shown signs of being a really good receiver during the preseason, but he showed those same signs in the 2011 preseason and then did nothing in the regular season. The player I’m really hoping gets a chance to play is rookie Cole Beasley. To me if Beasley is given the chance can own the middle of the field. He seems to catch everything thrown his way and can take a hit as well. I believe he can also be a difference maker as the Cowboys punt returner. But he needs to given the chance and I’m hoping Jason Garrett will give it to him.
The running game now belongs to DeMarco Murray who rushed for 897 yards in 2011 before being lost for the season with a broken ankle. Murray has shown no signs that his ankle will affect him in 2012 as he showed great quickness and speed in the preseason. Felix Jones will be the change of pace back and Cowboys fans are hoping he can stay healthy for a full season. Jones will also most likely help out on kick returns as well. Phillip Tanner is back from injury and will be the short yardage back. Free agent fullback Lawrence Vickers is going to greatly improve the running game with his toughness and leadership.
Some say that defensive line pressure will make a weak secondary look good. With the Cowboys I believe it’s the exact opposite. The Cowboys secondary has been rebuilt with new corners Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne. Gerald Sensabaugh is back at safety and will be joined by Barry Church who has been promoted to a starter. I’m also hoping that Mike Jenkins can come back from his shoulder injury and be given the chance to play some in the slot. My reason for wanting this is because I believe Orlando Scandrick is the weak link in the secondary. He seems to always give up the big play or ends up being called for a penalty. If the rebuilt Cowboys secondary can do a better job in coverage compared to 2011, when they were ranked 23rd and opposing receivers seemed to always make a big play, it’s going to greatly improve the defense and allow more pressure on opposing quarterbacks..
The only constant pressure in 2011 seemed to come from DeMarcus Ware who collected 19.5 sacks. The Cowboys need to do a better job getting to the quarterback. Last season opposing quarterbacks had way too much time to set up and make a play. I think this season will be a big year for Jason Hatcher who had 4.5 sacks in 2011 and I’m hoping that rookie Tyrone Crawford is everything the Cowboys think he is when they drafted him in April. As far as stopping the run, the Cowboys defense was ranked 7th in 2011 and I believe in 2012 they will once again be in the top 10 as far as rushing defense. The Cowboys need Jay Ratliff get healthy and stay healthy so that he can clog up the middle and disrupt the running lanes, which will allow Sean Lee, Dan Connor and Bruce Carter to get the job done in the running game.
When it comes to the kicking game I don’t think there is a Cowboys fan alive that doesn’t feel like Dan Bailey will miss when he lines up for a field goal attempt. Bailey made 32 of 37 field goals in his rookie season, which included 26 straight at one point. Bailey picked up where he left off last season as he made all three of his field goal attempts in the preseason. The punting job has been given to Chris Jones as the Cowboys said goodbye to Matt McBriar. This preseason Jones averaged 45.8 yards on eight punts and also kicked four of them inside the 20 yard line.
So there are my thoughts as the Cowboys get ready for the 2012 season. Even with my concerns about the offensive line and defensive line I’m excited to get this season going. I’m excited to see the veterans continue to grow and get better and I’m excited to see the new players get out on the field and show what they can add to the Cowboys. I want nothing more than to beat the Giants come next week. Beating them will do a lot for the Cowboys as a team and set the tone for the season.