For a little perspective: I’m a 36-year old die hard life-long Redskins fan who had nothing better to do a work today then to write my own take on how the Cowboys will fare this year. I believe I have been as objective as possible and I hope that some of my negative opinions don’t get me banned from the board. And I’m certainly not trying to talk trash – after all, I’m well aware of the Redskins record against the Cowboys as of late. And I did say some positive things as well, so hopefully you will take this as the opinion an informed fan and not a troll trying to start a flame war. Let’s start with the offensive line, which I believe is the most important unit on any NFL team. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, this might just be their least formidable unit in several years which could keep the offense from scoring very many points this year. There are serious issues at several key positions, starting at right tackle, which was a trouble spot last year as well – and there does not appear to be an immediate answer. It doesn’t seem likely that a rookie (Rob Petitti) will be ready to handle the position this year, and Jacob Rogers, hardly a force to be reckoned with when healthy, has had knee and shoulder problems. Kurt Vollers hasn’t exactly lit up the league in his three years as a pro. One solution that has been floated around is to move Larry Allen to right tackle and putting newly signed Marco Rivera in his guard spot, but that’s not exactly ideal. Rivera has been hurt himself with back & hammy issues, and Allen is not the same player he was in the 90’s – I doubt he has the necessary speed to deal with outside pass rushers. I predict the O-line will be an ongoing quandary for Dallas this year. This leads us to Drew Bledsoe and the quarterbacks. There’s no doubt that Bledsoe is a damn good QB – if he has time to throw the football. He makes Vinny look like Michael Vick back there, and we’ve all heard about his propensity to hold on to the football too long. Even Bledsoe himself has commented on it. Entering his 13th year in the league, I don’t see him magically exercising himself from this problem. If the line can keep him clean, then Bledsoe can be effective. He is simply unable to make plays with his legs, and if the offensive line is leaky like I expect it to be, this could spell real trouble. I don’t think Tony Romo (who apparently is beating out bonus boy Drew Henson for the backup job) is the answer, but I really haven’t seen him play, so I don’t know what he’s capable of. Maybe being reunited with Parcells will light the fire under Bledsoe’s *** that needs to be lit. I think many Dallas fans are counting on that. Bledsoe’s saving grace might be the play of Julius Jones, who I think is the real deal. A lot of people were tearing Parcells a new one in the press after he passed on Kevin Jones and Stephen Jackson in the draft, but it appears that after all these years, Parcells has developed an eye for the groceries. I don’t expect a sophomore slump for Jones, if he remains healthy. Anthony Thomas provides, at this stage of his career, and experienced leader who can be successful in short yardage situations. From what I understand, Tyson Thompson has made a name for himself in camp & preseason, and has speed like a gazelle. Overall, this is the strength of the Cowboys offense, and clever use of play-action may offset the need for stellar pass protection. The receiving corps is a hard read for me. Keyshawn isn’t getting any faster and Terry Glenn seems to get hurt a lot. Quincy Morgan reminds me of Rod Gardner – makes the spectacular catch but drops the easy one. In all, they are not the best corps in the league but certainly not the worst either. They can win games (as witnessed in the game that made me want to cry last year) but no one is afraid of them. The problem is that if Key has problems getting open and Glenn is always running a deep route, that puts Bledsoe in a vulnerable position with his penchant for holding on to the ball too long. Bledsoe’s main receiver is likely to be Jason Whitten, who has clearly established himself as a top-tier TE. He had 87 grabs last year and I don’t expect that to change much. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him lead the team in catches. Now comes the defense. The big news on the D-line is obviously the switch to the 3-4 defense, but a quick glance at the Cowboys website tells the story of a mix between 3-4 & 4-3, which is probably a wise move. Even though it’s only one player, there’s a big difference IMO between the two schemes, and switching over entirely would mean a lot of growing pains. One of the reasons that many so called experts said the Cowboys had the best off-season was the addition of Jason Ferguson at nose tackle…because Ferguson is a beast in the middle. It’s a great pickup. But it means that some guys will have to adjust to new roles in the 3-4. That’s where reverting back to the 4-3 will help – it will keep a comfort zone there. The big problem I see is depth. While Ferguson has been able to remain relatively healthy during his 8 years with the Jets (though he has certainly missed some games, including the entire 2001 season with a torn rotator cuff), if he gets hurt, that really throws a monkey wrench into things. There will be some serious scrambling to patch things together and teams should be able to run the ball down the throat of the defense in that scenario. But if everyone stays healthy, and rookie Marcus Spears lives up to the hype, the defensive line could be dominant. The linebackers are a solid but not spectacular group. Dat Nguyen will make his tackles but is not a game changer. Apparently Demarcus Ware will move from DE where he played in college to OLB, so it will be interesting to see how he makes that adjustment. I’m really not sure who the other LBs will be to be honest with you, but in any event I’m not anticipating much from this group this year. The secondary should be much better this year than last. RW got exposed a bit in pass coverage in ‘04; his place is stuffing the run and blitzing the QB. His return at SS can only make the entire secondary better. I think Newman had the ol’ sophomore slump last year and he should play a lot better this season. Signing Henry and Glenn adds much needed experience to this group. I expect the secondary to be close to where they were 2 years ago. Punter and kicker? I have no fricken’ idea. What’s the kicker’s name, Billy Cundiff? Whatever. In short I don’t imagine that the Cowboys will do much in 2005. They won’t suck but they won’t turn the league on its head either. I think in the end, the combination of offensive line problems coupled with a slow-footed quarterback who is past his prime will keep the win total to about 7 or 8 games this year, regardless of what happens on the defense.