2005 Season Synopsis: The Cowboys had a dreadfully disappointing end to not only their season, but also too many of their games. They lost 5 one-possession games, of which most of them came down to the last drive. That was not a typical season for a Bill Parcells’ coached team, however, the lackluster secondary and inability to protect Drew Bledsoe on the consistent basis resulted in unpredictable play. The Cowboys were incredibly virtuous with the big play, as Terry Glenn was at the top of the league in yards per catch. Jason Witten even furthered his dominance at the TE position as he and Bledsoe began to connect more and more as the season progressed. The defense was particularly good at the blitz, but many of their cover 2 and 3 schemes were not very effective because both the corners and safeties were not especially adept to covering the deep ball. They just missed the playoffs last season, but they ended the year on a positive note.
Off-Season: The Cowboys’ biggest acquisition was Terrell Owens. His ability to both stretch the field and act as a possession receiver is why letting go of Keyshawn Johnson was so easy for the Cowboys. Owens will undoubtedly be the prime time target for Bledsoe going into the season. He is supposed to be the difference between the Cowboys being 8-8, and the Cowboys winning the Superbowl. The addition of Kicker Mike Vanderjagt automatically makes the Cowboys one of the most improved special teams of the off-season. He is the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL and his usual clutch kicking is a threat from anywhere 50 yards and in. If the Cowboys are looking to improve their record in one-possession games, Vanderjagt is a good place to start.
2006 Draft: Once again, Parcells’ draft selection has surprised. While I understand his need to fill certain defensive roles, he still is missing out on too much talent just to fill in these specific roles. When Parcells passed up on Shawne Merriman to get his current OLB, DeMarcus Ware he only did so because Ware was a little bigger, but clearly Merriman is the much better overall OLB. This past first round draft pick for Bobby Carpenter was also interesting because while the OLB position should have been solidified by drafting Ware and a already having DE Ellis, Parcells still thought he needed another OLB even though it is more than likely that Carpenter will not play this season. A much better pick for the Cowboys at this slot could have been a position of not only greater talent, but of greater need as well. Had the Cowboys selected DE Tamba Hali to play in their 3-4 scheme, or even if they had taken OT Winston Justice, the Cowboys could have filled in some obvious holes.
RB: If Julius Jones cannot get it done, who will? Is Marion Barber the answer?
OT: With OT Fabini failing to be the answer at right tackle, Bledsoe is a big target.
CB: The Cowboys signed CB Anthony Henry, but he can’t be trusted alone on an island
CS: The Cowboys need a coverage safety, or else TE’s and Slot-WR’s continue to burn them.
On offense, the Cowboy’s offensive line is dreadfully vulnerable to the blitz. Bledsoe is very scared of pressure, and he does not have the WR’s that are capable of getting open quickly. The Cowboys stand to be a formidable opponent if Julius Jones can run the ball well. Unfortunately, after his first 2 seasons, he has proven himself inefficient and unreliable. The Cowboys are going to try to run more of a one back system this year, making the running lanes more apparent to the young tailback. But Jones has continued to show signs of indecision in the backfield when defensive one-gap schemes penetrate his perforated offensive line. On defense, the Cowboys Defensive Coordinator, Zimmer, likes to blitz, and last year he showed great signs of trust in cornerback Terrance Newman. However, that trust should not have been given to Newman because WR’s often beat him down the sideline. Safety Roy Williams is a great in the box player, but his downfield skills are horrible. He can hang with the more average TE’s in the league, but the more elite TE’s, and even average slot receivers, are more than capable of beating Roy Williams down and across the field. His middle of the field zone coverage has often left his corners with very little help, if any at all.
‘s cover 2 drop is also very susceptible to the double move.
With T.O. in the fold, the Cowboys can look to hide one of there weaknesses with one of their strengths. While the Cowboys have insufficient talent at offensive tackle and along the rest of the offensive line, they may not see too many blitzes because of T.O.’s ability to go deep. While they could benefit from some quick routes on blitzes, these are not the specialties of Owens or WR Terry Glenn. TE Jason Witten will be the X factor on this team because of his ability to get open quickly and hopefully remove some of the pressure on Bledsoe. Defensively, the Cowboys have a great front 7. Their 3-4 scheme is sure to confuse many offenses in the NFC, a conference that features no other 3-4 teams. The Cowboys should look to improve a run defense that was more than satisfactory last season, and hopefully, they can cover up some of their pass defense deficiencies by getting running teams into long yardage situations.
Projected Cowboys’ 2006 Record:
Overall: 9-7; Division 2-4