Dallas Cowboys: Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses Through First 3 Games
This past Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys squeaked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10 behind three field goals from kicker Dan Bailey. They take on the 2-1 Chicago Bears on Monday night, and both teams will be looking for a little breathing room in their win/loss records.
Last season when these two units met Marion Barber was still a Cowboy and Wade Phillips still had a head coaching job.
Chicago beat Dallas 27-20, sending the Cowboys to an 0-2 start and a season where former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett finished the year as head coach.
This season is different.
Dallas is 2-1, Barber is no longer a Cowboy or a Bear and Wade Phillips works for a different team in Texas.
Against Tampa Bay, I believed that Dallas would exploit the Bucs' inability to cover the pass. Before kickoff, Tampa allowed 400 passing yards per game. Once the game was over, the Bucs allowed just under 300 yards through the air and no passing touchdowns.
The Bears are a little different, but whatever weaknesses they have, I'm not sure Dallas can truly exploit them.
Which leads me to wonder about the Cowboys' strengths and weaknesses this season and if they can eventually overcome their imperfections.
Here is a listing of the team's strengths and weaknesses.
STRENGTH: Tony Romo
I was close to saying the passing game but Romo represents what I'm trying to convey. If not for Romo, I believe the Cowboys would be 0-3.
The offensive line is giving him just about nothing to work with and, despite his mistakes, Dallas is still winning.
Now, granted, winning only represents two wins, but they are in the positive and not the negative.
Through three games, Romo has 841 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Keeping him at the helm gives the Cowboys their best chance at victory.
WEAKNESS: Offensive Line
These guys are playing some of the worst football in the league. My view is as a commentator who has watched all three Cowboys games and only a few others outside of Dallas.
But with that viewpoint, the gentlemen charged with protecting Romo and opening lanes for Murray have done a lousy job. They were flagged mercilessly on Sunday against the Bucs and never corrected their own mistakes.
The false-start penalties, holding, missed assignments and lack of communication have to be righted moving forward.
If not, the Cowboys are in trouble.
STRENGTH: Wide Receivers
Miles Austin had a season-high 107 yards on Sunday, and Dez Bryant showed why the Cowboys have no plans to cut him no matter how many reservations they may have about his character.
Bryant returned a punt for 44 yards late in the game to help seal the team's victory. Austin played through an injured rib and hamstring issues to lead the team in receiving.
Kevin Ogletree slipped on a ref's hat in the end zone, which resulted in a missed opportunity for the Cowboys.
But all played well, even through injuries and unskilled officiating.
Dallas lost center Phil Costa to a bad back against the Giants. Jay Ratliff has a high ankle sprain that he suffered in the preseason. Gerald Sensabaugh is struggling through a calf strain. Barry Church has been lost for the year with a torn ACL. Kenyon Coleman is away with a bad knee. Alex Albright has an injured neck...and there are still a host of others.
The Cowboys signed their fair share of players in the offseason to get better and improve their depth. Injuries are taking away from that depth as some players will be away longer than others.
I guess the bright side for Dallas is that the injuries are happening early and not late, so the team will have the opportunity to get healthy late in the season.
But as of right now, the Cowboys are being beat up by a lack of players due to injury.
This past Sunday, Dallas held the Bucs to just 166 total yards and only 91 net passing yards.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman was rendered useless as the Cowboys secondary forced him into bad throws or just no throws at all. The Cowboys defense sacked him twice and the Bucs running game never got going either.
Sans the Seahawks game in Week 2, the Cowboys defense has been a pretty good unit so far. The secondary did a great job against Eli in Week 1, and if not for Marshawn Lynch wearing that defensive line down in the second half in Seattle, they very well may be 3-0.
Well, that may be a stretch, but the defense has been a bright spot for the Cowboys.
Dallas had 13 penalties on Sunday for 105 yards, a season-high for Dallas so far.
The bad thing about the yellow flags and the amount called on Dallas against Tampa is that this unit may surpass that amount later this season.
No team can have success in the NFL's second season making that many mistakes.
Since the days of Bill Parcells and the current group of players on the roster, Dallas has struggled with mental errors.
I'm not sure if this will ever be fixed, but Dallas has to find a way to overcome its shortcomings.
STRENGTH: Running Game
So, walk with me on this one. The Cowboys haven't had much success with running the ball on the ground so far this year. Murray's best game came against the Giants in Week 1 when he rushed for 131 yards.
He went for just 44 in Week 2, and on Sunday he gained a paltry 38.
But the reason I state it as a strength is that Garrett is sticking with it and not just defaulting to the pass.
Against the Seahawks, the Cowboys had to pass to get back into the game. They weren't behind to completely warrant giving up on it versus Tampa and they stayed with it.
Maybe Garrett has turned a corner and believes in balance, or he just trusts Murray and his ability to make big plays.
WEAKNESS: Felix Jones
Earlier I said that the Cowboys running game was a strength because of Garrett's willingness to stick with it.
But that doesn't really include Mr. Jones.
Through three games, Jones has one carry for one yard.
He fumbled the opening kickoff in Seattle and has been ineffective for the entire season.
I do not believe that Jones will be back with the Cowboys in 2013 as this is the last year of his contract and he hasn't made an impact on the season yet.
There is still time for him to change his course, but it's not looking as if he will get that opportunity.