July 28, 2014
Dave Brown serves as a special contributor to CHANNEL 5 Sports and produces his Overtime blogs on a weekly basis for www.krgv.com/sports.
Summer is the time for a break in the routine. Travel, a vacation, anything that helps recharge the brain from the everyday duties should be part of the June-July-August agenda. I was travelling in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago during baseball's All-Star break. The one thing that caught my eye was the parked car with a sign on the sunshade. It said, "Five more weeks until Saints' pre-season." Because even with some fairly interesting divisional races in baseball (though none involving the Rangers or Astros), the mid-summer dream of the sports fan is the return of football.
The Dallas Cowboys have returned to Oxnard, California for preparation for the 2014 season. It is far too soon to speculate on whether the team will improve on last season's 8-and-8 mark. In a league where the word "parity" is often used, the Cowboys have been a model of parity in the sense they have been 8-and-8 for three straight seasons. Eight wins has not been good enough for the team to make the post-season. In contention, but never able to cash in on playoff football.
The break even records and lack of playoff appearances rest heaviest on head coach Jason Garrett. It's never fair that the head coach gets more than his share of blame when things don't go well. Although it certainly seems as if Garrett has a sympathetic owner in Jerry Jones. There have been no indications that this is a make or break year for Garrett. Jones seems willing to continue to reward Garrett for the potential he has yet to fulfill. Much like paying up huge to lock up an aging Tony Romo, Jones doesn't want to see what Garrett might accomplish as the head coach of another NFL team.
The facts seem simple enough. The Cowboys are good enough to win the NFC East. Once regarded as the toughest division in the NFL, it has now been won by three different teams, none of them named Dallas, over the past three seasons. The Cowboys have been in the hunt every season, yet failed down the stretch when a big win was needed. Every team faces injuries. That can't be used as an excuse for coming up short.
The Dallas defense was horrendous last year. Statistically ranked as the third worst in NFL history as a team, the squad has lost three key components - DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee. Improvement is needed on this side of the ball immediately. However there is a thought that a change in attitude on the offensive side of the ball could jump start the defenders. That means running the football more.
Dallas was the second most efficient team in the league running the ball in 2013. The problem is the balance between run and pass didn't exist. Like a lot of NFL teams, the Cowboys chose to throw by a much greater percentage than run. Hall of famer Emmitt Smith is one who feels running the ball consistantly would eliminate bad decisions that create turnovers. In turn, the defense wouldn't be defending a short field. Plus, better use of the running game would provide better clock management and game control.
The mantra this summer from Oxnard is that the Cowboys will be more balanced on offense. Garrett, Romo and new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan all claim there will be more emphasis on the ground attack. The offensive line has been built. DeMarco Murray is healthy. Whether that really happens might be the difference between a Dallas team that makes inopportune mistakes in the closing minutes of games or kneel down situations for Romo that celebrate Dallas victories. Can leopards change their spots? The three men mentioned above are all known as prone to pass. They're promising the fans a change. 2014 is a time to deliver.more »