The Dallas Cowboys will have one less distraction to worry about when the team reports for Training Camp in San Antonio on July 29, with the departure of WR Terrell Owens to Buffalo earlier this off-season. What the Cowboys gain in team chemistry, it loses in on- field production, something that head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will need to address if this year’s team plans on winning its first playoff game since 1996.
The majority of the pressure will be heaped upon wonder-kid Garrett, as he is saddled with the task of transforming Roy Williams into a legitimate number one option at receiver. Make no bones about it, TE Jason Witten is the go to guy for QB Tony Romo, but there has to be consistent production on the outside to open up lanes for Witten to operate. Other than Williams, the depth chart at receiver is void of standouts: Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, and rookie Manuel Johnson out of Oklahoma make up the five deep.
The backfield will be the bright spot of the 2009 Cowboys offense, with quarterback Tony Romo poised to have his best season yet as a starter, in large part due to the three-headed rushing attack that will keep opposing defenses honest. Tashard Choice burst onto the scene last year when Felix Jones suffered a season ending injury, adding depth to the position behind starter Marion Barber.
With the entire offensive line returning, look for the Cowboys to unveil a new smash-mouth style of football this season. Gone will be the flashy, sexy Cowboys of the past few seasons. If you want to win, you have to be able to win ugly, just ask Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
The defense will fall under Wade Phillips’ control this season, after Jerry Jones fired two-year defensive coordinator Brian Stewart at the end of last season. Jay Ratliff has emerged as a legitimate NFL defensive tackle, who looks to improve heading into his fifth season. DeMarcus Ware, new acquisition Keith Brooking, and Bradie James will provide leadership from the linebacker position, which is the unquestioned strength of the Dallas defense. The weak spot will be the secondary, after losing starting cornerback Anthony Henry and S. Roy Williams. Look for Pat Watkins to get an opportunity to replace Williams, and Orlando Scandrick will be counted on to help replace Henry.
Expectations are once again high for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the season, exactly the way Jerry Jones wants it. Missing the playoffs is out of the question, especially in the debut season of the new Cowboys' Stadium. Anything less than a playoff victory, or multiple playoff victories, will be viewed as a failure by both Cowboys fans and front office, and would also result in a one-way ticket out of town for Phillips.