Dallas Cowboys: 5 Best Case Scenarios for the Upcoming 2011 NFL Season
Currently, with the NFL Lockout still in place and a deal within the CBA in progress, the Cowboys are still awaiting to get back to business in order to bounce back in the 2011 season.
The offseason has been very quiet thus far, with the players not being able to get in any contact with the coaching staff. Fortunately, Tony Romo has conducted OTAs and mini-camps by getting his teammates together to prepare themselves for training camp and preseason.
With that said, the Cowboys front office has a lot of work to do once the lockout is over, as there are some holes that need to be addressed through free agency.
Under the new CBA rules, Dallas could potentially be roughly $18 million over the cap. Several decisions need to be made in order to get under the cap space and have a chance to attack the open market. Dallas also may not be able to re-sign all the free agents they wish to keep.
Cowboys fans can only hope that the team is able to bring back the players they need as well as upgrade the positions of need (i.e. secondary) in order to compete in the tough NFC East division. With the amount of talent on the Dallas roster, this team definitely has a fighting chance to win the NFC East title.
The players are desperate to get back on the field and redeem themselves in 2011, but they could use a bit of help.
The Washington Redskins Go with Rex Grossman/John Beck as Their Quarterback
Head Coach Mike Shanahan seemed to be uncomfortable with McNabb and decided to bench him for Rex Grossman for the final three games of the season. This is most likely a sign of the 'Skins parting ways with the former Eagle and looking elsewhere for their starting quarterback in 2011.
There are several veteran quarterbacks available in free agency that Washington can pursue. However, there are many holes on the Redskins roster, and they may not be able to address all of them. Signs point to Rex Grossman or John Beck being the starter in Week 1, as both the Shanahans have expressed that they are comfortable with them running Kyle Shanahan's offense.
With Pro Bowlers Tony Romo and Michael Vick, and former Superbowl MVP Eli Manning as the other three quarterbacks in the NFC East, the 'Skins would easily have the worst starting quarterback in the division.
Rex Grossman is average at best, with a career passer rating of 70.9. His lack of mobility doesn't help behind the aging, inconsistent Redskins offensive line, which ranked 28th in the NFL in 2010.
As for John Beck, he has no starting experience in the NFL, which raises many doubts. Although he has a good arm, one can't expect him to be successful in his first year leading the 'Skins pass attack.
This would all be good for the Dallas Cowboys, as their long time rivals won't challenge them for the division title in 2011. The Redskins would still remain competitive in their two match ups vs. Dallas, as it's always a good fight, but the Cowboys would have the advantage of facing a questionable Redskins pass attack.
The New York Giants' 2nd Half Season Struggles Continue in 2011
The New York Giants have consistently been a strong candidate to win the NFC East for the past few years, as they are always in contention when the playoffs are approaching.
For the past couple years, the Giants have had great starts to their season, starting 5-0 in 2009 and 6-2 in 2010. It has been the second half of the season where the Giants have recently made a downward spiral and missed the playoffs.
Whether it's cold weather or injuries, New York has struggled down the stretch and haven't made the postseason since 2008. Despite all of this, the Giants are always a threat to the Dallas Cowboys, having a 3-1 advantage over Dallas in the last couple years.
If the Cowboys want to win the division or even make the playoffs, they must get past New York.
The Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants twice in the month of December in 2011. The schedule is set up so that the Cowboys can play the Giants during the time where they have recently struggled. If the late season decline continues for New York, Dallas might have a break in their two match-ups.
Assuming the Cowboys can stay in the hunt for the playoffs up until Week 14, these two games could have playoff implications all over it. If the blunder for the Giants continue come December, the Cowboys could potentially be looking at a wild card spot or even a division title by beating New York.
Michael Vick Gets Injured and Misses Significant Time
The Philadelphia Eagles are the biggest threat to the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title.
The Eagles have tremendous talent on offense consisting of LeSean McCoy, Desean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin, but most importantly, Michael Vick. The Vick led Philly offense could pose many match-up problems for Dallas and will win many games for the Eagles.
But as great and scary as Michael Vick is, he is human after all, making him injury prone with the type of playing style he displays week in and week out. His tendency to scramble around and run into the secondary makes him vulnerable to a big hit.
With Kevin Kolb most likely to be traded once the lockout ends, Philadelphia could be in trouble if Vick were to go down. Of the games Vick missed in 2010, the Eagles went 2-2 in that span. Now even though that isn't bad, that was with Kolb starting at quarterback.
With him heading elsewhere, the inexperienced Mike Kafka will have to lead the way, which wouldn't be good for the Eagles' offense. The Eagles wouldn't have a reliable backup who could lead Andy Reid's pass happy offense.
The Dallas Cowboys could definitely benefit from Vick suffering an injury since it would cost the Eagles a number of games and essentially increase their chances at winning the division.
CBA Decides on a Soft Salary Cap
Under the new CBA rules, the salary cap is at around $120 million. I mentioned in the first slide that the Cowboys are about $18 million over that limit. However, the Cowboys may not be penalized for this under a soft salary cap.
What this means is that teams can keep their trusted veterans who would've had to be cut in order to get under the cap. Dallas has a lot of veterans with big contracts but wouldn't have to worry about having to cut them because of exceeding the cap space.
Players such as Terence Newman, Bradie James, and Roy Williams all have big contracts but can stay in Dallas under the soft cap without any penalty.
The Cowboys are going to need these players in 2011, as Newman is still the team's best cornerback, James has been the team's leading tackler, and Roy Williams provides depth and a solid No. 3 option at WR.
This also allows for the Dallas Cowboys to re-sign players they need such as Doug Free, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Marcus Spears. The Cowboys front office won't have to worry about losing these key players and can look into the open market and sign a few free agents they need.
The secondary could be upgraded, especially at the free safety position by signing a guy like Eric Weddle, Michael Huff, Dawan Landry, or Brodney Pool. They could also try to find some quality depth at cornerback and defensive line.
The Cowboys can benefit from a soft salary cap since they are a big-market team, which will allow them to keep the players they need as well as attack free agency.
Jason Garrett's Success in 2010 Carries on to the 2011 Season
Now, I know what Garrett did in 2010 was meaningless since it didn't get the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs. But it did give Cowboys fans reason to have some hope for the future.
The Cowboys were absolutely dead at 1-7 after firing Wade Phillips, and the players seemed to have given up. But Garrett stepped in as interim head coach and brought a new attitude to the team and led the Cowboys to a 5-3 finish.
Dallas averaged 30 points per game under Garrett and looked rejuvenated in the second half of the season. This type of performance by the team allowed for Garrett to have the interim tag removed and to be labeled head coach.
Jason Garrett was able to do all of that without Tony Romo, which gives Cowboys fans hope that the team can do even better with their starting quarterback.
Garrett lead a balanced offensive attack in which the running game became more effective in the second half of the season. If Garrett can get the players to respond to him like they did in 2010, the Cowboys can definitely be contenders in 2011.
Dallas hopes to be a winning team in the 2011 season and needs Jason Garrett to enforce the same type of mentality and success that he did last season.