I know, the Cowboys open at home. They have superb skill-position players. Their 2013 captains – Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Dan Bailey – stack up with any group of upstanding citizens in the NFL.
There are numerous reasons to believe the Cowboys will be better than 8-8 this season. Sports Illustrated picks them to win the NFC East and a playoff game. Vice president Stephen Jones claims the Cowboys have the “secret sauce” to win a championship. And Romo has tweaked his throwing motion into consistent mechanics that won’t falter in the clutch.
“I don’t want to get into all the details of it,” the quarterback said at Valley Ranch this week. “But I really think it can be a positive change. I really am excited about it. It’s going to be a great thing.”
But make no mistake, there are warts. Worrisome warts.
New assistant Rich Bisaccia’s special teams were such a mess in the preseason that the Cowboys made a couple trades (acquiring Edgar Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs) and multiple roster moves (signing Kyle Bosworth from the New York Giants) aimed at fortifying the glaring weakness.
In the secondary, Mo Claiborne didn’t play a single snap in the preseason and inconsistent rookie B.W. Webb will be asked to be a contributor in dime packages. Receiver Miles Austin has endured a steady decline in production.
But mostly, the angst resides along the lines. Otherwise known as where football is won and lost.
We’ve discussed the offensive line, where the disarray has prompted the Cowboys to shuffle personnel and positions. Against the Giants Sunday night, 22-year-old left tackle Tyron Smith will likely be the only offensive lineman starting at a position where he has any experience. Left guard Ron Leary, rookie center Travis Frederick, right guard Doug Free and right tackle Jermey Parnell will all be making their first NFL starts in their new spots.
And then there’s the defensive line. Wow.
Josh Brent is long gone with legal troubles. Jay Ratliff’s out at least the first six games. Sean Lissemore has been traded to the San Diego Chargers for a 7th-round draft pick. Anthony Spencer will be limited at best in the opener. Are you ready for some football? Are you ready for, along the Cowboys’ 4-3 defensive front, some George Selvie and Nick Hayden?
“You have to win in the trenches. That’s the real sauce,” former Cowboy-turned-ESPN analyst Darren Woodson said at last week’s Kickoff Luncheon. “We can say what we want to say about Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and Miles Austin and Tony Romo, but if you’re not winning in the trenches, you’re not winning a championship.”
I’m afraid Woodson is right.
And I’m worried the Cowboys might not be much better than 8-8.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.