America’s team made some renovations this past off-season and Al Dannity says it should lead to mixed results. Dallas should look better this year but the Cowboys may not see a significant improvement in the win column.
The players The Cowboys cut loose Marion Barber and Roy Williams, decisions that make sense for a team looking to change a losing culture. Barber had shown a distinct decline in recent years and rookie DeMarco Murray should represent a significant upgrade for 2011. The decision to part ways with Williams was more clear cut as the former Detroit Lion never performed at the level expected of him in Big D.
The more concerning changes came on the offensive line with three starters getting cut loose, including Andre Gurode. I understand Jason Garrett’s desire to change the way Dallas play up front but the only significant replacement to come into the fold was first round pick Tyron Smith out of USC. Having put up significant offensive numbers last season, the change in personnel could see a drop-off in production in 2011.
Mark your calendar The Eagles will certainly be on the minds of Dallas but it’s the Cowboys’ other four divisional games that stand out most for me. If they can go 3-1 or 2-2 against the Giants and Redskins, it’s entirely feasible that Dallas finishes second in the NFC East and could even be in the shake up for the playoffs.
Road dates at the Jets (Week 1) and Patriots (Week 6) look particularly daunting for Dallas. Much like the Giants, the Cowboys will look to feast on their four games against NFC West opponents. The home date with the Rams in Week 7 will be no easy match-up for the Dallas nor will the trip to Arizona.
The verdict The Cowboys may not call it rebuilding but there’s no other way to really look at it. Dallas can still call on some fantastic weapons on offense but rebuilding the line will take at least a season. A few lucky breaks here and there could propel the Cowboys to a winning record and a shot at the wildcard. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened in the NFL. The more likely scenario however is that the Cowboys will be forced to take some big hits this season before retooling for 2012. Finishing 7-9 would be progress for this season and I like the Cowboys to at least manage that much.