Why haven't the Dallas Cowboys been better? It's not just the fact that they are "the Cowboys" but on paper this has looked like a talented team for some time. Romo, Barber, Murray, Austin, Witten, Bryant, Terrell Owens, Julius Jones, Laurent Robinson even. On offense, they've had players. Heck, on defense they've had players. But none of it has added up to a Super Bowl appearance, or even all that close to it.
Maybe it has to do with consistency. It's funny because while Romo has been a mainstay for most of the last six seasons, the rest have not. Look back to the dynasty of the nineties and you'll see something pretty amazing:
Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin were the leading passer, rusher, and receiver in Dallas from 1991 to 1998. That's consistency.
In the nine seasons since Smith left, five players have led the team in rushing. In the thirteen seasons since Irvin last led the team in receiving, eight different players have led the team in that category. And while Romo has become a Pro Bowl quarterback and an elite statistical quarterback since 2006, he hasn't been nearly as elite in December or January.
Will it get better?
Playing in a division with the defending champion Giants, the threatening Eagles, and the new-look Redskins, the Cowboys are going to have to be pretty good to make the playoffs this year and remain a consistent threat. How much longer Romo stays remains to be seen, but he's got weapons again. Here is a look at the offense of the 2012 Dallas Cowboys.
2011 Record: 8-8
Drafted Skill Players: Danny Coale, WR (5th), James Hanna, TE (6th)
Dearly Departed: Laurent Robinson, Martellus Bennett
Despite his continued inability to win the big games, Romo is coming off the best statistical season of his career, like most quarterbacks this year. He threw just ten interceptions on the year and five of those came by week four. He had 23 touchdowns and four interceptions in his last eleven games. That's ridiculously good. But I worry about the loss of Laurent Robinson and the depth at wide receiver, especially with Dez Bryant getting in trouble. Romo can be solid, but I don't think he'll be able to build on that strong finish to the year unless Miles Austin and Bryant play a lot and play well.
2012 Projection: 65% completions, 4000 yards, 29 TD, 13 INT
I hope Dallas fans don't think that Orton will turn into the answer if Romo still can't win games in December. He's taking over the Jon Kitna role only, but he's probably better than Kitna... at least Kitna at this age.
2012 Projection: Overrated by Dallas fans as the answer.
If you think that Murray was a flash in the pan last year, please pass on DeMarco so that I can draft him. Watching him play against the Seahawks, he hits the outside faster than almost any back in the league. If he stays healthy, Murray is going to be a top 10 back, in my opinion. He's got all the tools and he's going to also be getting the ball inside the five.
We can't predict injury, we can only hope for the best.
2012 Projection: 1,300 yards, 12 TD
I don't want to forget about Jones entirely though. He's still really talented, but he might just be at his best when he's only asked to carry the ball 100 times per year. If Murray is healthy, that's all he'll have to do and they'll be a good tandem for Dallas but I don't think that Jones will put up very big numbers. Even if Murray gets hurt, I don't entirely trust Jones as a fantasy starter.
2012 Projection: 140 touches, 750 total yards, 4 TD
He's seen his yards per catch decline from 16.3 in 2009 to 13.5 last season, but Austin got off to a big start: 21 catches for 307 yards in the first three games. Injuries were part of what kept him from having a really good game for the rest of the season, but Austin is healthy now. When healthy, he should be productive. The Cowboys are going to throw the ball plenty, and Austin is usually the most reliable receiver on the team. With Robinson gone, he's going to have to be.
2012 Projection: 85 catches, 1150 yards, 10 TD
News after his arrest seemed to stem on the side of "maximum suspension" but in the last couple of days has moved to "probably won't be suspended." I was very high on Bryant going into last season and he came up with some big games and some nice numbers (a touchdown in eight different games) but he didn't top 100 yards a single time. His ceiling is immensely high, but he's got to make more of those big plays for fantasy owners. He's made some circus catches, would be nice to see some of those huge plays that turn around a fantasy game in a second.
2012 Projection: 55 catches, 1050 yards, 7 TD
The Cowboys could have two guys at the top with 1,500 yard potential but the absence of Robinson really shows when you get past them. Hey, Robinson wasn't a fantasy receiver worth noticing up until last year, so maybe someone else will step up. Knowing that Romo could pass for between 4000 and 5000 yards, its imperative to pay attention to who ultimately wins the third job and so on. Any injuries to Bryant or Austin will open the door for the next guy. But what about Ogletree?
I listed him as a sleeper because he's probably the favorite to win the number three job, but he's yet to step up and really claim anything in Dallas and the fans are getting impatient. Ogletree was targeted just 26 times last season and made 15 catches. Just keep paying attention on how the receiver situation shakes out.
2012 Projection: Not worth guessing until the preseason plays out.
2011 undrafted free agent and signed from the Vikings to the practice squad, Holmes is being named as a sleeper that could be the favorite to snatch the job from Ogletree. The only reason that Holmes is so unknown at this point is because he went to Hillsdale College where he set many school records. At 6'5", 208 lbs, and a 4.51 40 time with track and field experience, Holmes is a major sleeper to keep an eye on. He's got the package but how will he do against NFL competition?
2012 draft pick Danny Coale is currently on the PUP.
Reliability, talent, great system, size, good quarterback... there isn't much to not like about Witten. But he's got the same problem now that I had said about him last season when it comes to fantasy: Witten has 41 touchdowns in nine seasons. That's what keeps him from being with the upper-echelon of fantasy tight ends, because if he had some 10 touchdown seasons, he'd be dynamite.
Instead, he's just a really good player that you take after the elite ones are gone.
2012 Projection: 75 catches, 900 yards, 5 TD
Backup rookie James Hanna has excellent size and speed (4.49 40 at 6'4", 252) and should be watched in camp and preseason.