By Kim Dunning
The Dallas Cowboys will open training camp on July 30, in Oxnard, California to begin their 2016 NFL season.
After an extremely disappointing season in 2015, the Cowboys need to bounce back to the team that showed heart and soul in 2014 and went 12-4. The Cowboys need to find a way this season to stop being “mediocre.”
Unfortunately, with the holes the team has yet to fill they won’t quite get over the hump. There are still numerous reasons as to why Dallas won’t be Super Bowl bound again for the 22nd year.
If Romo falls, so shall the team.
One of the biggest concerns for this team going into the new season, is the health of quarterback Tony Romo.
The veteran playcaller has only played four healthy seasons in his career and with the numerous injuries he’s suffered, combined with his age, this season doesn’t look promising to be his fifth.
People would like to blame the offensive line saying that they are overrated but that is definitely not the case.
The offensive line is still arguably the best currently in the NFL. The problem with Romo continually getting injured falls on Romo alone, as he has yet to learn how to land correctly during a sack to avoid reinjuring himself over and over again. If Romo falls, so shall the team.
The problem is, the Cowboys made the mistake of making their team a “Romo-friendly” team. What I mean by that is the Cowboys coaches and organization made the team so Romo-friendly, that no one can run the offense but Romo.
As Romo goes, so do the Dallas Cowboys. If Romo manages to stay healthy then the Cowboys can put up the points to bail their defense out of tight situations and regain the quarterback leadership they were lacking last year. If he can’t, the team will succeed as well as they did last year because the Cowboys fail to have a solid backup quarterback plan. Dak Prescott is a rookie and will likely make the practice squad, whereas Kellen Moore isn’t the answer either as we saw last season.
The Cowboys defense is cause for concern once again. They finished 16th overall in the league last year but struggled in rushing the passer. The reason for this struggle was that the Cowboys have been so focused on drafting and maintaining a high-powered offense that the organization forgot you need a defense in football.
The old saying holds true “defenses win championships”. To add insult to injury, the Cowboys will be without their young defensive line players, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, who are suspended for four games due to NFL substance abuse policies.
Even if the Cowboys are to retain and move forward with Rolando McClain, who is also serving a 10-game suspension, they will still be hurting on defense to start the season. With the first four games being against the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins, the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers; the presence of the young starters will be missed.
The thing that still continues to be a concern even into this year is the lack of depth the Cowboys have on their roster, especially on defense.
The Cowboys are likely going to go 2-2 in that stretch and it’s a real possibility to end up 0-2 in the division to start out the season. This is not where the Cowboys are going to want to be, especially after finishing last in the division in 2015. Their schedule does not do them the favor of being an easy one for a last place division team. Arguably, on paper, Dallas is unlikely to have a player who will have 10 sacks this season.
Combine this loss of players due to suspensions and the lack of personnel to run a good blitz package, and a less than stellar secondary, the defense could be in a lot of trouble this upcoming season. Let’s just hope defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, has some tricks up his sleeve to get the best out of average talent.
The thing that still continues to be a concern even into this year is the lack of depth the Cowboys have on their roster, especially on defense. This has always been a thorn in the Cowboys side when it comes to injuries on defense. The lack of depth is really felt on the defensive side of the ball. If someone gets injured, there isn’t a serviceable backup to replace the injured player.
Right now, it’s safe to say one of the few positions where there is not a depth issue is at running back.
When Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott in the first round of this year’s draft, it was a head scratcher. Dallas has serviceable running backs on the roster in Darren McFadden in his second year with the Cowboys, newly acquired running back Alfred Morris from the Washington Redskins, and Lance Dunbar, who is returning from injury back. Running back was not a need in Dallas. That first round pick still goads a good number of Cowboys fans as it made no sense. Running back was not the best available option that fit the Cowboys needs.
The Dallas Cowboys organization has failed this team and their fans. The Cowboys are looking more like an 8-8 team this year, which is averaging out a semi-healthy Romo.
If Romo plays the entire season then the Cowboys could go 12-4. Without Romo, Cowboy fans can expect another season like 2015. Once again, the 2016 season hangs on the health of Romo.