The Dallas Cowboys can and will win the NFC East in 2009.
Dallas hasn't made the same great moves in free agency or drafted any impact players. However, the Cowboys have several off-the-field factors that have galvanized this team and should make them the Beast of the East this coming season.
Below you'll find 11 reasons, in honor of Roy Williams, that tell you how and why.
1. Improved chemistry—This may be the most-talked about, and talked-to-death, aspect of the upcoming season in Dallas. However, the Cowboys could sure be helped by not dealing with T.O.'s tweets and all else that comes with the mercurial wide receiver.
Despite being great guys, cutting loose Safety Roy Williams and Greg Ellis will rid the Cowboys of two guys constantly upset with their roles on the team.
2. Offseason work—The Dallas media has also run stories of Tony Romo and Roy Williams working out, everyday on the ground. Again though, you have to acknowledge the benefits of this workout chemistry and new-found timing between Romo and his new No. 1 receiver.
3. Injuries balance out—Football Outsiders say the Cowboys were the healthiest team in the NFL from 2003-2007. So, last year, the pendulum swung back and Dallas suffered several key injuries. If the Cowboys return closer toward a healthy extreme, or at least to the mean, Dallas won't suffer from key losses while playing in the toughest division in football.
4. Tony Romo is tired—If you listen to Romo's interviews after OTAs the last couple of days, you would notice something very different about him.
The quarterback is tired of T.O., tired of playoff failure, tired of his own celebrity, and tired of being a great quote. When being "just happy to be here" is no longer good enough, players develop the edge needed to advance to the next level.
5. Improved running game—In Marion Barber III and Tashard Choice, the Cowboys have two chain-moving backs that have proven themselves against teams in tough December and January games.
Felix Jones is a legitimate game-breaker, ready to emerge as a go-to highlight on Sportscenter this year. The offensive line has been together for three years now, and Year Three seems to be when line continuity can make a line dominant.
6. Two-headed tight end monster—Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett are the best tight end combination in the NFL. Most experts consider Witten to be the most complete tight end alive, and Bennett averaged 14 yards per catch and had four touchdowns as a rookie.
7. The best pass rush in football—Our mutual friend Bill Simmons has a theory that in this age of parody in the NFL, the team that does one thing better than anyone else does their best thing should win the Super Bowl, i.e. 2007 Giants' pass rush.
The Dallas Cowboys have had the best pass rush in football going back to the St. Louis game in Week Seven, when DeMarcus Ware had three sacks. With the team breaking even along the front seven during free agency, the pass rush unit should be the story of the 2009 Cowboys.
8. Joe DeCamillis—Before Coach Joe 2.0 turned into a Willis Reed-type story at OTAs, he had already impressed all observers with his attention to detail and passion for special teams. After the disaster that was Bruce Read, Dallas will reap huge rewards from hiring DeCamillis to be Special Teams Moses.
9. Media backing off?—For Tony Romo and every other guy with a star on his helmet, living in a 24 hour media circus can wear you down and hurt your on-field performance.
With T.O. in Buffalo and the collapse at the end of the last three seasons, the national (not the local) media have migrated to better stories for the time being.
10. Demarcus Ware wants to get paid—Ware will lead the NFL in sacks again and challenge for Defensive Player of the Year, either to justify a newly-signed contract or upcoming monster contract.
11. Careers at crossroads—Wade Phillips has never held a head coaching job longer than three years, and this is his third in Dallas. Tony Romo has had three consecutive disastrous ends to his season. Jerry Jones traded for a true No. 1 Receiver in Roy Williams, and so far Williams has played like No. 2.
Considering all of these reasons and more, these players have to prove they can succeed in the spotlight of the Cowboys, or find themselves being exiled to Buffalo or Cincinnati where the lights aren't quite so bright.