Nobody expected the Dallas Cowboys season to start this way. After all, Dallas was opening against the Washington Redskins who were winners of four games last year. After that was supposed to be another lay up - the Chicago Bears who went 7-9 last year with an offensive line that makes the current incarnation of the Cowboys’ line look good.
Neither of those games went as planned. Dallas now stands at 0-2 with 14 games left in the season. Luckily, it’s still not time to hit the panic button yet. Here are the top five reasons why the Dallas Cowboys - and Cowboys fans - need not panic just yet.
Further, the Redskins always play the Cowboys tough at home. Dating back to 2005, the Cowboys are now 2-4 at FedEx field against the Redskins. Dallas’ two wins in FedEx field in that time span came in 2008 when they won by a meager 14-10 margin and last year when they shut out the Redskins 17-0. It’s not surprising that the Redskins, with their new QB Donovan McNabb and coach Mike Shanahan, beat Dallas in Washington on the season opener. They had been looking forward to that game ever since the schedule was released - much in the same way the Texans had the Colts targeted from the instant the schedule was released.
2: The other teams in the NFC East are flawed.
There’s no juggernaut in this division. Many had anointed Dallas as the team to beat in the NFC East - and they still may be just that. Washington, despite their win over Dallas, still has a long way to go. Through two weeks, they’re dead last in rushing yards in the NFL. The Redskins have also allowed the 31st most passing yards in the league thus far as well. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but Washington doesn’t look like they’ll be a legitimate contender this year. Dallas’ head-to-head loss against them shouldn’t cost the Cowboys.
Philadelphia could be headed towards turmoil. Kevin Kolb was recently benched for the resurgent Michael Vick - a move that could pay off for the Eagles. If Vick struggles many will call for Kolb - and if Kolb in turn struggles many will call for Vick. It’s a situation that seldom lends itself to success in the NFL. Further, it’s been speculated that the Eagles have turned to Vick to try to cover up their offensive line weakness. Vick’s legs give the Eagles the best chance to cover up the offensive line problems. Even with that said, the Eagles defense gave up 32 points to the Detroit Lions - who didn’t even have Matthew Stafford. Their defense looks suspect.
Then there’s the New York football Giants. If you watched them play on Sunday night against the Colts, you’d have seen a team that looked absolutely hapless. They lack a true playmaker on offense and their defense was dissected by Peyton Manning. They did force three interceptions against Matt Moore and the Panthers but that’s likely more an indictment on Moore who was recently benched for rookie Jimmy Claussen. New York is just as much a question if not more than Dallas is given their lack of skill players on offense.
3: Tony Romo will improve and the offense will be explosive.
Romo’s stat line on Sunday may have looked good just by checking the box score on Sunday - 67% completions and 347 yards - but he was noticeably off and just not in sync with his receivers. He threw two interceptions and was throwing low or behind receivers often. Maybe this was a reaction to having little to no time against the Redskins and his internal clock telling him he had less time than he really did, but it’s something that Romo will correct. He’s a good quarterback and much better than he showed on Sunday. If a healthy Tony Romo is a problem for the Cowboys, then they will be just fine going forward.
It’s hard not to get excited by Dez Bryant if you’re a Cowboys fan. He wasn’t as involved in the offense against Chicago but he still managed to excite fans with his punt return for a touchdown. Between Bryant, Austin Miles and Jason Witten the Cowboys aerial attack will be potent.
The running game has been less than spectacular as the Cowboys rank 28th in the league currently in rushing. Jason Garrett needs to simply ride the hot hand when it comes to rushing. Marion Barber had been rushing extremely well on a drive to end the first quarter against Chicago. When the second quarter began, Felix Jones was the running back and immediately lost yardage on a draw play. Garrett should simply run the ball with whomever is hot at the time if the Cowboys are going to have a backfield by committee. All three running backs can be extremely effective at the right time - Garrett and Phillips just need to know how and when to utilize them better.
4: The Cowboys are on a whole extremely healthy.
Take a look at the injury headlines from the first two weeks of the year: Ryan Grant, Kevin Faulk and Jerious Norwood placed on injured reserve, Reggie Bush out for 4-6 weeks, Bob Sanders and Anthony Gonzalez out for an extended period of time, Kevin Kolb concussed and subsequently benched and the beat goes on for injuries around the league.
The Cowboys have really only lost John Phillips for an extended period of time. Further, they were fortunate to avoid a serious injury to Mike Jenkins - who at first blush looked to have blown out his knee. Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo’s return to health - and return to game action - will only make the Cowboys stronger. Jason Witten’s injury is not serious as well and he’ll be on the field this weekend against the Texans.
All things considered, Dallas is one of the healthiest teams in the league.
5: The Cowboys pass rush will improve.
Dallas has just two sacks on the year so far with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer each registering one. Against the Bears early in the game it seemed like the Cowboys were going to have a sack free for all against Cutler and the Bears woeful offensive line but that simply didn’t happen - especially later in the game. The lack of pressure could be why Dallas has yet to record an interception this year as well.
It’s improbable that Ware, Spencer and the Cowboys defensive line won’t improve their pressure. This will in turn force turnovers. So far, Dallas has no takeaways. That is something that will almost certainly change as the season progresses.
Sure, there’s reasons to be discouraged if you’re a Cowboys fan but the season is still a long way from over. That’s not to say that Dallas can still sleepwalk through the next few weeks and still be a legitimate contender - they still need to play much, much better football. For as poorly as Dallas has played in their two losses they still had opportunities in both games to win. While that can leave a sour taste in fans mouths immediately following a loss, it’s in an odd way encouraging knowing that the Cowboys could almost just as easily be 2-0 as they are 0-2.