The Dallas Cowboys' losing streak is at four games. Tony Romo is out for at least the next eight weeks with a fractured left clavicle. The Cowboys now sit in the basement of the NFC East at 1-6, essentially eliminated from playoff contention, barring a miracle.
The latest embarrassment comes as a home loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that had been outscored 72-23 in the two previous weeks.
The question is, How has it come to this?
Dallas entered the season as a popular playoff pick, if not NFC East Champion or Super Bowl contender. Tony Romo was expected to shine with some of the best offensive weapons in the league, including Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The running game was supposed to dominate with a two-pronged attack featuring Marion Barber and Felix Jones.
Jerry Jones expected his defense to be among the top of the league. DeMarcus Ware has performed admirably, but over the last four games the Cowboys have given up more than 31 points per game. Teams are running all over the Cowboys and its 24th-ranked run defense.
Some blame can be placed on the schedule. Before Jacksonville, the only sub .500 team that the Cowboys faced was the Minnesota Vikings, a team that most would agree is more talented than its record would suggest. After a win at Houston in Week 3, it appeared that the Cowboys would recover from a rough start and an 0-2 hole; with each week, however, Dallas has sunk further and further into NFL oblivion.
Most of the blame must fall on the abysmal Dallas running game. The Cowboys rank 31st in the league in rushing yards this year. Marion Barber is averaging just three yards per carry and has only two rushing touchdowns this season. One hundred–yard rushing games seem to be a thing of the past for Barber. In fact, over the last four games, Barber has totaled just 72 yards.
The second half of the running back tandem hasn't fared too well either. Felix Jones, while averaging 4.2 yards per carry, accumulated just 89 rushing yards over the last three games. To add insult to injury, Jones has not found the end zone a single time this season, either through the running or passing game.
So what is the outlook for Jerry Jones's team?
Tony Romo is out for at least eight weeks due to a fractured left clavicle. Jon Kitna has played better than statistics would suggest, but he still had four interceptions in his first game as a starter for the Cowboys.
While two of the interceptions were clearly the fault of his receivers, Kitna has a reputation for throwing a lot of picks. With teams putting just six in the box and lining up in dime and nickel defenses because of the weak Cowboys running game, Kitna will be at risk of turning the ball over more than two or three times each game.
The schedule provides little rest for the weary as well. The Cowboys travel to Lambeau to face Green Bay next week before traveling to the New Meadowlands to play the Giants. It doesn't get any easier with New Orleans and Indianapolis following. Six of the Cowboys' remaining ten games are on the road.
It appears improbable, if not impossible, for the Cowboys to make the postseason this year. Jerry Jones should be looking towards the future. Some questions need to be asked.
Is Wade Phillips the right man to coach this team?
Is the poor running game due to the play-calling, the running backs or the offensive line?
Where can we find a playmaker on defense besides DeMarcus Ware?
One thing is certain. Jerry Jones will have a lot of time to figure these issues out since he no longer has to worry about this year.
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