After a disappointing finish to a roller coaster season in 2008, the Dallas Cowboys players, coaches, and fans were left with plenty to worry about over the offseason.
A team that had looked like a true contender to start the year was suddenly looking like just another team.
If the Cowboys hope to improve their bottom line in 2009, then there is absolutely no arguing that a lot has to change between now and then.
Of all of the disappointments that the 2008 season brought to the forefront, perhaps none was more surprising than the decline of their once-stellar offense.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who only one year prior had been considered the odds-on favorite to replace Wade Phillips when and if he left Dallas, was suddenly being questioned by Dallas players, fans, media members, and even opposing players for his lack of offensive creativity.
However, while he certainly has some adjustments to make, the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it " also comes to mind. And while the 2008 season certainly doesn't leave a whole lot of fuzzy feelings in the average Cowboy fan's gut, it wasn't all bad.
In the following slides, you will find five plays from the Cowboys' 2008 season that "ain't broke." These plays should continue to be a big part of the Cowboys offense in 2009.
Barring yet another unexpected injury, Felix Jones will be returning to the Dallas Cowboys' lineup next season, and Cowboys fans everywhere are rejoicing.
In his short time with the team in his rookie season, Felix took the opposition by storm, rushing for 266 yards on only 30 carries, for a ridiculous 8.9 yards per carry.
Without the threat of Terrell Owens on the outside next year, the running game is looking to take on a more prominent role in the Cowboys offense, and Felix Jones should be a huge part of that.
With breakneck speed and amazing agility, Jones is most useful when he can get into open space. A halfback toss to the weak side with a tackle leading the way allows Jones to do just that.
If the defense is playing man, then Jones will have less defenders on that side of the field to beat and more room to gain speed, which more often than not will lead to positive results for both Felix and the Cowboys.
Known by many as "Tony Romo's security blanket," Cowboys' tight end Jason Witten can—and will—catch just about anything thrown his way. When the Cowboys need a big play in the passing game, Romo is almost certain to look his way.
There is not one particular thing that makes Witten great, but rather a combination of "all the small things." He can catch the football. He is an above average—and some would say great—blocker. He has heart, toughness, and a high football IQ.
While he is probably not the single best at any one particular quality, he is arguably the best all-around tight end in the NFL today.
One of his most deadly routes, and yet most simplistic, is the seam route. The seam route is one of the most effective routes for finding holes in the zone, and for Witten, it can be just as effective against man-coverage.
Although a big, lumbering, oftentimes clumsy-looking player, Witten is deceptively quick. Linebackers are often too slow to cover him, and corners and safeties will simply get overpowered by him.
If Witten is left single covered, he will beat his man with the seam route almost every time.
Roy Williams' greatest strength is most certainly not his speed, although he is by no definition a slow man. His true advantage comes with his great size and tremendous hands.
While Williams has certainly not done anything in Dallas as of yet to prove that he is a legit No.1 receiver, he has already made some highlight reel worthy catches.
Although not exactly similar in the way they play the game, Williams shares a certain likeness with ex-Cowboy and Hall of Fame receiver, Michael Irvin. Like Irvin, Williams is the kind of receiver that can flat out move the chains.
He is at his best when he is able to run quick, short stop routes near the sideline to pick up first downs. This route allows him to almost always have only one man on him, whom he will most certainly have the advantage against in both size and hands.
Without Terrell Owens opposite Williams next season, the Cowboys will most likely have to run more of a ball control offense, and these kinds of routes will help them to do just that.
Of the three promising running backs in the Cowboys' young stable, Marion Barber is the bruiser of the bunch.
As good as Felix is on the outside, Barber is equally as good running between the tackles. He has a knack for breaking tackles and almost never loses yardage. If the defense gives him an inch, he will take a mile.
By spreading the field with a three wide receiver set, the opposing defense is forced to account for the Cowboys great pass catchers, and the extra deception added by showing pass gives Barber just a little more space to work with.
While this play typically is not the kind of game breaking play that will go for 25-plus yards, Barber has shown in the past that he can consistently pick up 10-15 yards.
The formation shows run, and then the ball is snapped and the defense sees pass. But with perennial Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten and sure-handed Roy Williams on the field, it is easy to forget about young Martellus Bennett.
When his rookie season started, Bennett was widely considered to be a lazy, albeit talented, rookie that would probably have little impact in his debut season, particularly when considering who was above him on the depth chart.
By the end of the season, however, Bennett proved that he can be a legitimate play maker for the Cowboys. Not only can he catch the ball, but he can do some damage after he does.
With his size, he has the ability to run people over, but he can also make a few nice plays with his feet in the open field. When left open in the flats, Martellus can flat out make the opposing defense pay.
The last time the Dallas Cowboys ran the flea-flicker, Bill Parcells was running the show and Terry Glenn was catching the ball.
This play left town with the old coaching regime, but in 2009, it is time for it to make its triumphant return.
With Terry Glenn, it seemed as if the flea-flicker always resulted in a touchdown. After one game, he actually made a comment that every time the play was called, he would look at the yard marker to see how long his touchdown would be.
With Miles Austin coming back healthy next year and the running game most likely becoming more of an offensive focus, the flea-flicker should once again be a viable weapon for Dallas.
Austin is the first real burner that the Cowboys have had since Glenn left the team, and he has also really improved his hands in the last few years. If the Cowboys can really establish a solid running game, then look out for the flea-flicker in 2009!