Months after watching another season slip through their fingertips, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to regroup for the upcoming year in football—this time hoping for a longer season and a happier ending.
Another 9-7 season that results in sitting at home come playoff time will not cut it for the Cowboys next year. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if the 2009 season replicates the 2008 disaster, we will be seeing quite a few new faces in Valley Ranch come 2010.
But while next season's results will be expected to far exceed those of last year, one thing is worth mentioning about the makeup of this current Cowboys team.
On paper, not much has changed.
Sure, they have added a new rookie class, but no matter what the experts said on draft day, we really do not know what to expect from them.
Whether Jason Williams and Vincent Butler work out for the Cowboys or whether they disappoint, they will still be—at best—backups to DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer next year, and if Stephen McGee even hits the field, the season is already over.
Igor Olshansky and Keith Brooking were both nice additions, but they were also both brought in to fill holes that were left vacant by players from the 2008 roster who were on the way out.
Olshansky will be filling in for Chris Canty while Brooking will do the same for Zach Thomas. Another noticeable addition, Gerald Sensebaugh, will try to shore up the safety position that has been vacated by once sensational, but now unwatchable, safety Roy Williams.
I am certainly not trying to say that some of the new guys cannot or will not contribute next year, and I also would not be naive enough to suggest that the Cowboys might not miss some of the players who have moved on to other teams.
However, of all the additions and subtractions the Cowboys have made this offseason, only one is truly significant in regards to next year.
If you have read this far, and if you have been paying any attention at all this offseason, then you should probably already know who I am talking about.
Love him or hate him, Owens was a huge part of the Cowboys' offense—many will argue too huge. The Cowboys can elect to keep trying to run the same offense that they ran with him, in which case they will sorely miss him.
Or, rather, the Cowboys can elect to make an adjustment in their offensive philosophy that could actually turn the absence of Owens into a positive thing.
I have been saying it for months, I'm saying it now, and I am sure I will say it again. If the Cowboys want to turn their offense around next year, they are going to have to make it a point to run the football.
Until Roy Williams and the other receivers can step their game up and prove that they are a legitimate receiving corps that can put up big numbers and make big plays, the Cowboys offense needs to play to their already proven strength—running the football.
The Cowboys have a luxury that few teams have. They have three solid running backs in Marion Barber (885 yards in 2008 despite injury), Felix Jones (8.9 yards-per-carry), and Tashard Choice (5.1 YPC).
With two of those backs being rookies last year, it is quite possible that the Cowboys coaching staff did not quite know what they had in their stable coming into the season. However, by season's end, there was absolutely no question that the overall talent in the Cowboys' backfield, when healthy, can rival any team in the league.
Unfortunately, there was never a point during the 2008 season when all three running backs were being used at the same time due to injuries sustained by Jones and Barber at different points in the season.
With the knowledge of what they have got now firmly in place, and with all three running backs entering into next season at full strength, the Cowboys could and should "hit the ground running" come September.