The 95th season of the NFL is less than two months away, and Dallas fans are ready. Sure, AT&T Stadium had a few thousand fans to watch the World Cup on a screen, but soon it’ll be packed with real energy. The question is, how will the Cowboys fare this year? Training camp is underway, and we’re starting to get information about the team and what they’re focused
First and foremost, fans want to know about Tony Romo. It’s been about half a year since he had surgery for a herniated disk, his second back procedure in under a year for the 34-year-old quarterback.
Romo says he’s doing very well. He wasn’t participating in team drills last spring, but he was present and active, throwing and taking snaps. The year before, he was idle in the spring, and was just getting moving in July. This means we have the potential for a great season for our starting QB. This summer he’ll be focusing on more fine-tuning. Considering his excellent season last year, we’re on a path that could lead to a really incredible season. There is a reason to be excited about this.
Then there’s linebacker Sean Lee. During offseason practice, he tore is left anterior cruciate ligament…he will be missing the entire season. The Cowboys don’t have another linebacker who can replace Lee in terms of performance, but they’re still opting to fill the spot with in-house players. This will be a hit to the defense.
There’s still time for the team to find a replacement, before the end of training camp. Analysts seem to think that an experienced veteran is what the team needs as a replacement. The team picked up two young linebackers in rounds 4 and 6 of the draft, DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens is still being developed and isn’t quite ready to start, Holloman suffered a spinal contusion in practice after a great performance late last season.
On strategy, the Cowboys have some goals for themselves. Last season they gained 4.5 yards per carry, the eighth highest in the NFL. DeMarco Murray rushed 1,000 yards, the first time the team has seen a running stat like that since 2006.
Despite these running stats, and others, the team really didn’t feature running plays. Dallas is still among the teams with the fewest carries per game (only Atlanta carries less). Scott Lineham, the new play-caller for the Cowboys, ran a pass-heavy game in Detroit over the past five years.
The team seems to be aware that there may be an advantage to running more. Consider this interesting stat – when DeMarco Murray runs the ball at least 20 times, the Cowboys were 11-0 last season. There’s a lot of running plays going on in training camp right now.
Over the course of the offseason, the team said goodbye to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. Since then, the entire defensive line has been rebuilt. There are still a lot of decisions to be made about the lineup because of Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer. Each missed most of last season because of injuries. Melton is ready for training, and is expected to start in September.
Spencer is still recovering from knee surgery, an uncommon microfracture, a surgery that players rarely come back from. He’ll be present at training camp, but he won’t be participating for a while. Most are not expecting him to play in the first six games, at least.
Until we know the status of these two players for sure, the defense lineup won’t be set in stone.