Dallas Cowboys 2010 Season Preview: Jerry Jones Wants Another Ring
With Jerry Jones' Cowboys Stadium playing host to this season's Super Bowl, it's clear the Dallas organization, from top to bottom, will be focused on winning right now. The Cowboys finally cut ties with underwhelming starting left tackle Flozell Adams and defensive weak point Ken Hamilin after last season, clearing the way for talent to rise up the depth charts.
For a franchise with multiple championships to its credit, the last decade-plus has been marked with good but not great teams. The Cowboys were finally able to -- at least briefly -- shake the January bug in 2009, winning a postseason game for the first time in 13 years. This time around, that won't be enough. A season that ends any other way than with Jones hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in his home stadium will be a failure. Does Dallas have the pieces to make him happy?
Offense: In the 90s, the Cowboys were Emmitt Smith's team, with Troy Aikman being the perfect game manager -- that formula brought home multiple Super Bowl wins. The Cowboys are now Tony Romo's team. While revolving running back pieces Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice should lock down a potent running game, the pressure will be on Romo to deliver when it counts. He's a quarterback that's exhibited questionable decision-making ability in the past, but his game has evolved considerably over the last few years, and the idea of him leading a team to a Super Bowl win is no longer a pipe dream. Throw in extremely talented rookie receiver Dez Bryant, who will eventually replace the humongous disappoint Roy Williams in the offensive scheme, and this is the division's best offense. Heat Index: 9
Defense: The Cowboys return most members of a solid and deep defense that was second in the league in points allowed. Including sack artist DeMarcus Ware, their front seven may be the best in the business, with Anthony Spencer joining Ware to put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The linebacking corps added Sean Lee, a talented rookie from Penn State and the man that should eventually replace Keith Brooking on defense. The only questions that arise with the Cowboys defense are at safety -- starting strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh is dealing with a shoulder subluxation, while Alan Ball is tabbed with replacing the jettisoned Ken Hamlin. If the safeties can do an adequate job of taking away deep plays, the Cowboys defense should be one of the league leaders in fewest points allowed. Heat Index: 9
Special Teams: David Buehler did a great job on kickoffs for the Cowboys in 2009, and the team has decided to go with him as the placekicker this season as well. He's had an up-and-down preseason, though. Patrick Crayton was excellent returning punts, averaging 12.1 yards per return and scoring two TDs, but he still has to make the team. Bryant should take over punt return duties either way, while Felix Jones should again be the main return man on kickoffs. Heat Index: 7
Coaching: Wade Phillips inherited a great group of talent when he took over as head coach in 2007, and he did what he needed to in the regular season to keep winning. Last year's wild-card win was his first postseason victory in five trips to the playoffs. Regular-season dominance won't mean much this year, and Phillips will have to perform well in January to keep his job long-term. He'll also be in charge of the defense, with Jason Garrett reprising his role as offensive coordinator. Heat Index: 5
Intangibles: Last year's playoff win was a huge step in the right direction for the franchise, but the pressure is back on for the team to be excellent and reach a Super Bowl hosted at home. Look for Romo's performance under pressure to dictate how this team performs overall. Heat Index: 7
Total Heat Index: 37/50. If all five categories are weighted equally, the Cowboys are expected to finish second in a close division. However, when extra weight is given to the offensive and defensive sections, it appears Dallas could wind up winners of this division. They'll have to prove that last year's January win was not a fluke. I see them tying the Eagles atop the NFC at 10-6.