I know that every Dallas fan out there has heard the stats over and over again. "Only 5 percent of the 1-4 teams have made the playoffs after being 1-4," and blah, blah, blah...
This also isn't your "typical" season.
No team looks truly dominant. A lot of teams appear stagnant, and injuries are piling up left and right for some of the biggest contenders in the NFC. To say that Dallas' season is a wrap and they can't come back, I beg to differ.
Their margin of error is extremely small, but they have the talent to do it. People seem to forget how good this team can be when it plays to its ability. This team has the offense that can hang 30+ points a game and hold opponents to 15 points or less.
Can they make it happen? I believe they can IF they can learn to fix some issues that have brought them to where they are now. They have a luxury that they've only played one divisional game, so if the turnaround is going to happen, it needs to start this week.
I truly believe that offensive balance would fix more problems than people realize. We have three capable backs, yet they're getting less than 30 percent of the offensive touches a game. What gives?!
Garrett has to take this one to heart and map the game plan out as such in order to turn this ship around. When teams are expecting Romo to throw 40-50 passes a game, of course you're going to see some interceptions out of him. That's part of his "gunslinger" mentality.
People also tend to forget that he's completing almost 70 percent of his passes and one of the top five passers in the league currently.
How about taking some pressure off his shoulders, Jason? Can we work in Jones and Barber some more? It would definitely help with our offensive line as well, seeing as how Kosier can't seem to stay healthy at all.
It can't hurt to throw a couple runs in the mix to keep defenses from having a solid idea on what we're going to do, and I'm not referring to that delayed draw run that we were infamous for last year. While it worked last year, teams are much more willing to wait and see if its a draw than just jump back and play the pass.
Look, everyone knows that Ware is coming. Its almost a gimme nowadays with the abilities that he has. For some reason, Wade's blitz schemes have been a little stale and predictable.
Both Bradie James and Brooking have been giving away their intentions early by biting on hard snap counts. Those two guys are too experienced to fall for something like that.
Wade needs to change this up a bit. I don't think that Ware will be the difference maker, but Anthony Spencer should be. Get him moving around in different gaps. This guy proved he can be a difference maker, so give him opportunities to be. Every offensive coordinator will account for where No. 94 is every play, but they might forget occasionally where No. 93 is.
Teams see that they can attack the Dallas secondary if given enough time, so take that time away from them. The personnel last year in the secondary was, in my opinion, worse than it is this year. The Dallas front seven has the raw ability, so Wade needs to start mixing it up to keep teams guessing, which will help that ugly turnover ratio.
He might be that veteran lineman that gives our line the blocking assignments, but his injury problems are actually hurting more than helping. He's taking more pressure than relieving it, and when Holland comes in behind him, that side of the line seems to hold strong again.
Don't get me wrong, Kosier is a very good offensive lineman, but he's good when he's healthy. He's been coming back early and it just seems to cause even more issues because he's not able to consistently hold a block and suffers even worse against speedy guys in space. When he's left to man the B gap by himself, while Doug Free has the one on one against the weak-side rusher, Kosier looks more like a liability than a gap stop.
Let him rest, and rest fully. If he's truly going to contribute to the season, than give him the time that he really needs. Montrae Holland is a more than capable backup, so it wouldn't be a drop in talent when Kosier's out. Hudson Houck, the O-Line coach, will need to work with Gurode or Davis on getting one of them to call out the blocking assignments.
I think this is a three-part problem, not completely falling on Tony's shoulders. I know some people feel that he doesn't get enough of the blame, which is true. He has made some dumb decisions, but I think there are a couple contributing factors which I've discussed that have made some of his mistakes look worse than they were.
Last year he put an improved focus on cleaning up turnovers, and it worked. He finished with a season low nine INT's. He looks like he's on pace to have another year similar to 2007 when he finished with 19 INT's.
Now to his defense, I will say I've seen a lot of tipped balls this year. I can safely say that four of those seven INT's have come on tipped balls or bad hands. Two of which were off Miles Austin, one of Roy Williams and another off Jason Witten.
Regardless how they happen, they have to stop. How do they stop, you ask?
Tony needs to work a little more on his pocket poise. He doesn't trust his offensive line, and it shows. The game in Minnesota was a perfect example. He saw EJ Henderson about to rush the A gap and let the ball go immediately instead of waiting for the play to fully develop. EJ instead faked back into zone and picked the ball off perfectly.
Second, I go back to balance. Tony needs to stop throwing the ball so much. Tony averaged 34 attempts last season per game and he had his best year. This year, he's averaging over 41 attempts a game.
Problem? You bet. Take the ball out of his hands and give him help. Follow that, and I promise you'll see the turnovers drop and the offense start taking off almost instantly.
This has been a weaker spot over the past couple seasons for us, but it seemed we had a solid answer last year. David Buehler.
Now we still have that same player, but he's not pinning opponents back in their own 20 and further like he used to, so what gives?
Well, for starters, they are trying to get him to do both field goals and kickoffs, something that I think is a bad idea altogether. Currently, Buehler is kicking 67 percent on the season. Anywhere else in the league, that would have a kicker in jeopardy for his job. In Dallas, that will suffice, and until that standard is changed, our special teams unit will continue to suffer.
Second, why can't anyone on our special teams unit tackle? We had a guy by the name of Pat Watkins (who still seems to be on the market right now) who was great on special teams. He could tackle, he could hit, and he had no problem doing either of them. We decided he wasn't worth either the salary or the roster spot, so he still currently sits on the free agency market waiting for someone to call.
Jerry, it'd be wise to pick the phone up. And while you're at it, there's another guy named Matt Stover who's a much more experienced field goal kicker than Buehler who's also sitting around unemployed.
Maybe put Buehler back to his original job of just working strictly on kickoffs to get that booming kick back again, and bring in some experience to kick field goals? Sounds like that could be a nice way to sure up a very shaky coverage unit.
I don't even think I would have to speak on this, but you could easily say this is the biggest problem that Dallas is facing this season.
They lead the league in offensive penalties. They're third in the NFL in total penalties. They've successfully defeated themselves in games by penalties. (See Week 1, Alex Barron for prime example of how to lose a game thanks to a flag.)
This team says they are better than what the 1-4 record reflects. While that is correct, this has been a ridiculously sloppy start to the season. Penalties are a reflection of poor practice and coaching, but there's enough blame to this problem to go around for everyone. The good part is that penalties are an issue that can be corrected, and corrected immediately.
Imagine if just two penalties, a holding call in Week 1 against Washington and an offensive pass interference call in Week 6 against Minnesota both could come back. Now the record would be 3-2, not 1-4. Makes a world of difference what one call can do.
Take back the excessive celebration call in the Tennessee game, and you potentially could have swung that game in Dallas's favor since they could have been more prepared for the 73-yard kick return. Now you would be 4-1. Amazing, isn't it?
Recently, Wade commented that they were discussing bringing refs in during practice to help get the penalties under control. My question would be "Why did you wait until now?!" This should have been done after Week 2 when the penalties had already cost them two games essentially.