September 08, 2009 by
Dr. Bill Chachkes
2009 Dallas Cowboys Preview By J.P Fox-Football Reporters Online
Coming off of a horrific ending to the 2008 campaign, the Dallas Cowboys are desperate to not let another season without a playoff victory pass them by. With a season that ended with a 44-6 loss in Philadelphia, with a playoff spot on the line, people in Dallas, and around the country, could begin to wonder about the job security of head coach Wade Phillips. Criticized for running “cupcake” training camps, not being tough on his players, and failing to fully prepare his teams for games, Phillips is definitely on the hot seat coming into his third season as head coach of America’s Team. With an impressive 22-10 regular season record in two years with Dallas, Phillips has not been impressive in the closing months of the season in both years with the team. In his final three games of the ’07 season, Phillips and the Cowboys went 1-2. Dallas ended up losing to the division rival New York Giants in the Divisional round of the playoffs. In his final four games of the ’08 season, the Cowboys went 1-3 and missed the playoffs. With an owner like Jerry Jones, mediocrity will not be accepted. Phillips better get the Cowboys to the playoffs, and WIN in the playoffs, to keep his job.
Quarterback Tony Romo could also be in a make or break year. He was inserted into the starting lineup midway through the 2006 season and brought the team to the playoffs. The following year, he led Dallas to a 13-3 record, but ended the season without a playoff victory. And in 2008, the Cowboys missed the playoffs by getting romped in Philly to end the season. Romo is the heart and soul of the Cowboys. When he goes, the team goes. Some people are ready to put Romo is the same breath as a Peyton Manning, before he won the Super Bowl. Manning just couldn’t get the Colts over the hump. Now Romo has got to get the Cowboys over that hump or he will have a lot of people not too happy about him receiving a $67 million contract before proving himself.
Jerry Jones has rid the offense of Terrell Owens but inserted Roy Williams as the #1 Wide Receiver. The team gave up three draft picks and a $45 million contract to get Williams to Dallas, from Detroit, midway through last season. The team also has speedster Miles Austin at wideout, as well as Patrick Crayton, a good possession receiver, and Sam Hurd, an up-and-coming player. But the receiving corps with probably only go as far as Roy Williams takes them. He will step into the huge, gaping shoes that Terrell Owens left behind. Roy Williams will probably need to have a season like his 2006 campaign, for the Cowboys to keep on ticking. Dallas had T.O. for the last three seasons to be their #1 receiver and now that elite role for the ‘Boys will go to big #11. And at tight end, the Cowboys will have All-Pro Jason Witten, who is Tony Romo’s favorite target, as well as super-athletic, second-year player Martellus Bennett. Bennett has shown flashes of a super-star-type tight end, and will help the offense take pressure off of Jason Witten when he is on the field.
The strength for the Cowboys offense will be their running game. They have a three headed monster in Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. Felix Jones is the teams’ biggest weapon and with him healthy, the team will have an extra dimension that they lacked in the ten games he missed last season due to injury. Three players on the offensive line, Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis, and Andre Gurode, have made the Pro Bowl at least twice in their career. With Marion “The Barbarian” as the between the tackles, short yardage runner and #1 back, Felix Jones as a change-of-pace and third down back, and Tashard Choice available to give both of them a breather, the Cowboys should have no problem running the ball this season.
The Cowboys were ranked 8th overall in the NFL in total defense last season. But one thing the team did lack was forced turnovers. They ranked in the bottom half of the league in that category. Returning for the defense is star linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who racked up 20 sacks in 2008, Terence Newman (cornerback), Jay Ratliff (defensive tackle), and Ken Hamlin (safety), who each have made at least one pro-bowl, and linebackers Bradie James and Anthony Spencer. Gerald Sensabaugh comes over from Jacksonville and will replace Roy Williams at the strong safety spot. Sensabaugh will bring more play-making ability than the aging Williams. Keith Brooking, who had 100+ tackles with Atlanta last season, replaces Zach Thomas. At defensive end, the Cowboys will have Marcus Spears, a young player who is coming into his contract year, and Igor Olshansky, who comes over from San Diego to replace Chris Canty. Olshansky was drafted by San Diego when Wade Phillips was the defensive coordinator there. And lastly, at the cornerback spot opposite Terence Newman, the Cowboys will go with a rotation of second-year players, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Jenkins was drafted in the first round last year and Scandrick, the fifth. Throughout the year, Scandrick outplayed Jenkins and many thought Scandrick would open the season as the starter. Instead, Jenkins will start the first game, Scandrick will start the second, and they will rotate until one significantly outplays the other.
So that outlines who will be playing for the 2009 Cowboys. The team is not too far off from becoming relevant again. They have a strong defense that will look to improve on their strong 2008 numbers with a couple of new faces. Also, a strong running game will only better Tony Romo’s chances of becoming that quarterback that every Cowboy fan hopes he is. A strong running game only opens up big things for a quarterback, and when you have three young, hungry runners, your quarterback is set up to flourish. I believe the Cowboys need a couple players to have big years for the team to break out: Felix Jones, Roy Williams, DeMarcus Ware. Jones missed 10 games last year, Williams had 19 catches in 10 games with the Cowboys, and Ware is looking to force more fumbles and become more relentless in the running game this season. Every Cowboy fan is hoping that the ‘Boys can claim that first playoff victory since 1996 but mostly, they are hoping the team can join the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only teams with 6 World Championships.