Owner Jones expecting big things this season in Dallas
LB J.Durant, S W.Allen
RB F.Jones, S G.Sensabaugh,
DT M.Spears, DE K.Coleman,
CB M.Jenkins, WR K.Ogletree
It's always a little hot around the collar in Texas. So imagine playing or coaching for stringent Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Popular for his controlling ways and hands-on personality, Jones' patience is running thin with his Cowboys and 2013 is expected to be a big one for the franchise. But haven't we heard that each of the past five-plus years or so?
Dallas has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and head coach Jason Garrett should feel some added pressure to get the job done. Garrett could have an easier job coaching now that he has relinquished play- calling duties to new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.
"Being a head coach is a big job and being an offensive coordinator or playcaller is a big job. You have to somehow, someway separate yourself from the two," Garrett said in July. "I've divvied up a lot of the responsibilities I had over the past couple of years, and this is just the next step in doing that."
Jones actually recommended that Garrett make it easier on himself with a team that has finished 8-8 in each of the past two seasons and 6-10 in 2010. There's no question Garrett has struggled with the headphones on the sidelines and injuries have played their role, too. But there will be no excuse this year for Garrett if he fails to live up to his owner's high expectations.
And when expectations are tossed around, how could quarterback Tony Romo not be included in the discussion. Speaking of high hopes, Romo has carried a lightning rod on his back for several seasons now and the conductor that is a new contract could weigh him down. Romo inked a six-year contract extension in late March and the deal is reportedly worth $108 million with $55 million guaranteed.
Did Romo deserve the added comfort and financial flexibility?
That remains to be seen and it's obvious Jones is in Romo's corner. Romo is coming off a 2012 season that included a career-high 4,903 passing yards to go along with 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. However, his passer rating of 90.5 was the lowest of his career. He underwent offseason back surgery to have a cyst removed and missed OTAs. Romo, though, is back for training camp.
"Tony is uniquely qualified to lead this team at the quarterback position for the next several years," Jones said in a statement. "He has an abundance of experience and familiarity with our offensive philosophy, our head coach and the personnel around him. He is moving into a period of time where he can maximize all of his natural skills while continuing to build upon the talents that he has developed since entering the NFL."
Romo has the talent around him, but the defense was an issue in 2012. So the Cowboys brought in veteran defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to run the 4-3 scheme he established with the great Tampa Bay teams about a decade ago. Rob Ryan and his complicated system got the boot, and the Cowboys are hoping the transition bears better results. (-The Sports Network)
Kiffin brings experience to Cowboys' defence
There's no debate that Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware is the most dangerous player on that side of the ball. Offenses must keep an eye out for the freak of nature that is Ware, who has registered at least 11 sacks in each of the past seven years. Ware (56 tackles, 11 1/2 sacks) has never missed a game in his career and should be slighted somewhat he hasn't had the opportunity to play deep into the playoffs.
With Kiffin running the new 4-3 defense and Rod Marinelli guiding the defensive line, Ware could be eyeing another 20-sack seasons, something he achieved in 2008 and came close to in 2011 (19 1/2).
NFC EAST PROJECTIONS
Division Winner, 4th in NFC
Edged out by Redskins again
Adapting to new system
Perception doesn't match reality
The Cowboys should send the Eagles a gift every year for making a draft-day trade back in 2007 for DE Anthony Spencer (95 tackles, 11 sacks). Spencer enjoyed a career year in 2012 and even missed two games. DE Tyrone Crawford is done with an Achilles tear.
Arguably one of the top interior linemen in the game is Jay Ratliff. Ratliff was limited to just six games last season and NFC East opponents were happy for that. Ratliff is back and ready to prove his durability once again. Jason Hatcher (51 tackles, 4 sacks) will start alongside Ratliff.
There shouldn't be much of a problem for the linebackers in the switch to a 4-3 defense. Tackling and reading formations will always require the same technique regardless of what formation the defense is in. Middle linebacker Sean Lee (58 tackles) was limited to six games in 2012 because of a toe issue and the tough kid out of Penn State has something to prove this season. Lee could be a Pro Bowl selection if his body allows it and is one of the smartest on the defense.
Bruce Carter (70 tackles) played well in his second season in 2012 and expectations are high for the 2011 draft pick. Carter has great speed and size as an OLB and an ankle injury on Thanksgiving ended his season.
Newcomer Justin Durant (103 tackles, half sack) came over in the offseason after two years in Detroit. DeVonte Holloman was drafted in April and veteran Ernie Sims is an admirable backup.
The Cowboys allowed 230.2 passing yards per game last season, which was 19th in the NFL. That is an area of concern when Dallas plays in the NFC and within a division with the Giants, Redskins and Eagles. Eli Manning and Robert Griffin III like to air it out and both quarterbacks have their own set of weapons that Cowboys corners Brandon Carr (53 tackles, 3 INT) and Morris Claiborne (55 tackles, INT) have to deal with.
Claiborne showed flashes of brilliance and rookie mistakes in 2012, but with another offseason and training camp under his books it should be a bit smoother. B.W. Webb was drafted in April out of William & Mary and provides added depth. Barry Church (6 tackles) appeared in only three games last season because of a torn Achilles and should be ready to roll by Week 1.
Veteran strong safety Will Allen (34 tackles) came over from Pittsburgh to help Kiffin's suspect secondary. Rookie J.J. Wilcox has some learning to do and Matt Johnson provides insurance.
Where do the Cowboys fit in a clustered conference?
There's only one way to find out and it's by winning. It will be a pressure cooker this season for sure for the hyped-up Cowboys and many could lose their job if goals aren't reached. (-The Sports Network)
Special Teams: K D. Bailey, P C. Jones, KR D. Harris, PR D. Harris
Special Teams: K D. Bailey, P C. Jones, KR D. Harris, PR D. Harris
Fantasy - By The Numbers
QB Tony Romo takes a lot of heat for not winning in the playoffs, or for a league-leading 19 picks last season, but he also threw for a career-high 4,903 yards, which is a lot of fantasy gold, especially if he could do so with fewer interceptions. Nonetheless, Romo is a low-end fantasy starter and has plenty of weapons.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
WR Dez Bryant has steadily improved through his first three seasons and, aside from Calvin Johnson, could be the best option at the position. Miles Austin remains a decent secondary choice at wideout and TE Jason Witten is great, with six straight seasons over 900 yards receiving, but his touchdown totals (five or fewer in four of the last five seasons) keep him a notch below the very best at the position.
RB DeMarco Murray hasn't been able to stay fully healthy through his first two seasons, but has averaged 86.5 yards per game from scrimmage (which pro-rates to 1,384 yards over 16 games), so he's intriguing, but until he proves he can do it, remains a No. 2 fantasy option at running back.
The Cowboys have switched back to a 4-3 defence this season, moving outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to defensive end, a spot at which sackmaster Ware -- 91.5 sacks over the last six seasons leads the NFL -- should rank near the very top. Spencer could miss all of training camp, but is a strong pass rusher when healthy. If healthy, MLB Sean Lee is very productive, and good in coverage, too. (-Scott Cullen)