Dallas Cowboys 2009 Preview

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Dallas Cowboys 2009 Preview
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
2008 Summary
The Dallas Cowboys were penciled in by many experts as the Super Bowl Champions before the season even began.

With a disappointing loss to the Giants, coming off of the 13-3 regular season, the Cowboys figured to be just as dangerous in 2008.

And at the beginning of the season, it looked like they were going to live up to the billing. The Cowboys started the season 4-1 and looked just as potent on offense as they did a year before that.
But then in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys season would began to take a turn for the worse. Tony Romo would break a finger on his throwing hand during the game, forcing him to miss the next month.
During the time off, veterans Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger would both prove to not be anything remotely close to Romo and the Cowboys would see their record slide from 4-1 to 5-4.

Following the loss, in an effort to keep the offense going and make it even more potent would Romo would return, the Cowboys would complete a rare midseason trade with Detroit to bring talented receiver Roy Williams over to Big D.

Romo would return in time for Dallas to run off 3 straight wins and be in the thick of a very competitive NFC Wild Card race.

But when the Cowboys were sitting at 8-4, the distractions that doomed this team a season ago would resurface when anonymous reports would come out about Terrell Owens having rifts with teammates.
The story, as most Cowboy stories go, would be analyzed by the media with a fine tooth comb and the team would wind up losing 3 of the final 4 games, including a 'win and you're in' situation in Week 17 against Philadelphia to miss the playoffs altogether.

It was a very disappointing finish to a season that began with so much promise and no shortage of hope.
The acquisition of Williams blew up in the Cowboys faces, at least so far, as Williams best output as a Cowboy was a 51 yard receiving day against Seattle on Thanksgiving. He would end the year with only one touchdown in ten games.

The season also wasted one of the best individual efforts by a defensive player in recent memory as DeMarcus Ware recorded 84 tackles, 20 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles in 2008.
But this was a microcosm of the Cowboys season in a nutshell.
There were plenty of good individual performances in 2008, but there weren't many times when it all came together and play as a cohesive unit.

And in the end, it left the Cowboys well shy of their lofty expectations.

2009 Free Agency Additions:
DE Igor Olshansky (San Diego)
SS Gerald Sensabaugh (Jacksonville)
LB Keith Brooking (Atlanta)

2009 Trade Acquisitions:
QB Jon Kitna (Detroit)

2009 Offseason Departures:
WR Terrell Owens (Buffalo)
DE Chris Canty (NY Giants)
DE Greg Ellis (Oakland)
DT Tank Johnson (Cincinnati)
CB Anthony Henry (Traded to Detroit)
S Roy Williams (Cincinnati)
CB Pacman Jones (Unsigned)
LB Zach Thomas (Kansas City)
S Keith Davis (Oakland)
LB Kevin Burnett (San Diego)
TE Tony Curtis (Kansas City)
G Joe Berger (Miami)

2009 NFL Draft:
3-69. Jason Williams, LB, Western Illinois
3-75. Robert Brewster, OT, Ball State
4-101. Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M
4-110. Victor Butler, DE/OLB, Oregon State
4-120. Brandon Williams, DE/OLB, Texas Tech
5-143. DeAngelo Smith, CB, Cincinnati
5-166. Michael Hamlin, S, Clemson
5-172. David Buehler, K, USC
6-197. Stephen Hodge, SS/OLB, TCU
6-208. John Phillips, TE, Virginia
7-227. Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati
7-229. Manuel Johnson, WR, Oklahoma

2009 Outlook
The Cowboys overhauled their roster in the weeks after a blowout loss against the Eagles, addressing team chemistry more than anything. Most notably, the team released the controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens.

With Owens gone, the Cowboys hope the circus that comes with him with leave town as well.
Wade Phillips returns for his third season in Dallas, and the seat could not be any hotter than it will be in 2009 - especially given the 'free agents' in the coaching pool in 2010.
It could very well take a Super Bowl appearance to save Phillips job, and even then it's unsure what Jerry Jones will do.

With that being said, Phillips will inherit a roster that looks noticeably different from a year ago, and it's not just the departure of Owens.
Gone are locker room pests Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson, along with veteran safety Roy Williams and veteran ends Chris Canty and Greg Ellis. Linebacker Zach Thomas, who struggled in the Wade Phillips scheme, left Dallas for Kansas City and was soon replaced by longtime Atlanta Falcon middle linebacker Keith Brooking.
To fill the void left by Canty and Ellis, the Cowboys signed ex-Charger Igor Olshansky.

The defense will once again revolve around one of the most complete players in football in DeMarcus Ware.
Ware was downright unstoppable in 2008, and as scary as it seems, is actually improving as a player with each passing year. Bradie James and Anthony Spencer will round out the linebacking corps, with rookie Jaison Williams also seeing plenty of playing time.

In the secondary, the Cowboys will be led by Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins at the cornerback position. At safety, Dallas will start Ken Hamlin and free-agent acquisition Gerald Sensabaugh. Draft pick Michael Hamlin (no relation to Ken) will provide depth at the position with Pat Watkins.

Offensively, the keys to the Cowboys and subsequently the spotlight will be turned over to Tony Romo. With Terrell Owens now in Buffalo, Dallas hopes to get a much better season out of the other Roy Williams, who struggled mightily in his first season as a Cowboy.
Jason Witten, arguably the best tight end in football now, will remain one of Romo's favorite targets and is basically the Cowboys second option in the passing game.
Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin will try to give the Cowboys a reliable second wide receiver to play alongside Williams, and Martellus Bennett could see more plays on offense after a solid rookie season.

In the running game, the Cowboys discovered they have three solid tailbacks following injuries last season. Marion Barber will once again be the starter but will rotate with explosive back Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Once again, the Cowboy offensive line will be highlighted by big Flozell Adams and Leonard Davis.

2009 Schedule
Sun 9/13 at Tampa Bay
Sun 9/20 NY Giants
Mon 9/28 Carolina
Sun 10/4 at Denver
Sun 10/11 at Kansas City
  BYE
Sun 10/25 Atlanta
Sun 11/1 Seattle
Sun 11/8 at Philadelphia
Sun 11/15 at Green Bay
Sun 11/22 Washington
Thu 11/26 Oakland
Sun 12/6 at NY Giants
Sun 12/13 San Diego
Sat 12/19 at New Orleans
Sun 12/27 at Washington
Sun 1/3 Philadelphia

2009 Prediction
The Cowboys will kick off the 2009 season on the road against the Bucs before opening up their extravagant new billion dollar stadium on national TV against the New York Giants.
With all the glamour and glitz that comes with the new stadium, the product that will be taking the field may not match the product they will be playing in.

Dallas definitely did one thing very well in the offseason; they upgraded the team's chemistry and got rid of many of the main sources of their distractions the past two seasons.
Gone are Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson, and that alone could have a major impact on their season.

With that being said, there are still fair questions about the play of Tony Romo when the games take on a much greater scale of meaning.
It's undeniable that in games that Romo has had to win, he has come up short. It's hard to peg how well Roy Williams will replace the void left by Owens and whether or not this offense can flourish without the major distractions.

But even if it does, the Cowboys play in a very difficult division with a tough schedule and may be the odd team out in the NFC for a second straight season.

Which isn't exactly the way you would like to open a new billion dollar stadium.

Predicted Finish: 9-7, 3rd place NFC East
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Hassellbeck - VSN Writer
www.virtualsportsnetwork.com
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