Every prognosticator from here to Hawaii will tell you the key to the Cowboys' success is Tony Romo or DeMarcus Ware or Jason Garrett or Rob Ryan, but they are all wrong. Honestly, while players like Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware are of vital importance, they are not the key.
Does anyone really think Tony Romo or DeMarcus Ware will not be their Pro Bowl selves on the field this season? I certainly expect them to play at their normally high level all year as they have for their entire careers.
Does anyone think Jason Garrett or Rob Ryan will just phone it in and not really game plan for an opponent? I don’t think so.
Instead, the guys I have zeroed in on that will likely control whether the Cowboys have a playoff year or not are Kyle Orton, Kevin Ogletree, John Phillips, Dan Connor and Orlando Scandrick.
He has big shoes to fill with the departure of Jon Kitna to retirement. Kyle has been around long enough and needs to execute the offense and keep the team competitive until Tony’s return.
A perfect example last year was when Jon Kitna came in for Romo during Week 2 against the 49ers and kept them in the game until Tony came back and led the team to victory.
Personally, I think the Orton signing was a steal and enjoy reading that Dallas has the best backup quarterback in the league.
I am not sold 100 percent on Ogletree as the Cowboys’ No. 3 wide receiver, but if Dallas is going into battle with him, then he needs to watch last year’s tapes of Laurent Robinson and emulate everything he did for the Cowboys.
This is the chance of a lifetime for Ogletree, who, if he steps up and makes the catches when called upon, will be rewarded with a nice payday at the end of the season.
With Jason Witten’s health, a question before the season even starts, more pressure than ever is on the Cowboys’ No. 2 tight end.
No one could expect Phillips to come in and play close to future Hall of Famer, Witten, but what he needs to do is block well, make the catch when open (something his predecessor never mastered) and he needs to be ready in case he has to play for a significant time.
A career year could be ahead for John Phillips, and I expect he will be up for the challenge.
Connor is currently running behind Bruce Carter for the starting job, but that does not mean his role is any less vital.
Everyone expects Sean Lee to make plays like he can, but Connor needs to continue to push Carter to do his best and make the plays when he is on the field. Sean Lee, while a spectacular player, is not exactly an iron man, and how Connor fills in for him will go a long way in determining how successful the Cowboys are this year.
There is probably no other player on the defense who, if he blows his assignment, everyone will know his name in a heartbeat. Scandrick will be covering the slot receiver as the Cowboys' No. 3 corner this year.
If Scandrick struggles in his role to cover the No. 3 receiver, it could make for a very long season defensively. With Mike Jenkins hurt and sulking over his status on the team, success from Scandrick is vital to the long-term health of the defense.
There you have it; if these five guys do their part when put in the game, the chances of regular-season success and a trip to the playoffs increase a great deal. If Ogletree or Phillips make that tough third-down catch and Scrandrick can lock up a good slot receiver, the chances increase immensely that Cowboys fans will be happy on their ride to work Monday morning.
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