The Cowboys of recent years have been plagued by a lack of discipline. This is well documented. Bad penalties, turnovers, dropped passes, questionable coaching decisions; all have played a role. But there is more to the story.
Cowboy fans have been consistently disappointed by their team. This stems, in large part, from the idea that Dallas is a squad stacked with talent that always underachieves. While some of this is true, the bottom line is that this team isn’t loaded with ability as much as certain fans seem to believe. As always, the eye in the sky doesn’t lie when it comes to watching these guys on film.
Offensively, the Cowboys have one star, 4th-year Wide Receiver Dez Bryant. Tony Romo is an above-average quarterback who can make all the throws, but has his deficiencies. DeMarco Murray is a strong, physical runner, but lacks explosiveness (unless he’s playing the Rams). Miles Austin is a good receiver who can line up all over the field but is always nicked up and slowed down by injuries. Jason Witten is still solid, but he lacks speed and can’t make as many big plays as we are accustomed to seeing.
This is also a young offensive line that still makes lots of mistakes and gets beat by quicker defensive lines. They have size and strength and might be able to run over smaller, mediocre defenses like the Rams, but as we’ve seen over the past few years, there is no consistency here.
Defensively, Dallas is strong in some spots, but mediocre in others. DeMarcus Ware is a hall-of-fame defensive end, and Sean Lee is one of the best sideline-to-sideline linebackers in the game. However, this team is still getting used to playing the Tampa-2 system devised by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
This is a system that relies on getting to the quarterback with a four-man rush and dropping seven into coverage. The linebackers and defensive backs are supposed to play tight zones and react quickly to routes and formations by the offense, hopefully creating turnovers in the process. A lot of the success of this system comes from reading the quarterback and anticipating certain throws.
Yet watching this defense on film, the players are struggling to adjust and play the Tampa-2 with the discipline that is required. For example, linebacker Bruce Carter, who has incredible speed and raw ability, has struggled in coverage and in making the correct reads. As a result, he’s been benched for veteran Ernie Sims. On the outside Morris Claiborne is also struggling in his coverage responsibilities. The loss of defensive end Anthony Spencer for the year is a huge hit, leaving Dallas without a good second pass rusher to help Ware. The lack of a good pass rush in a Tampa-2 defense undermines the entire system.
The bottom line is that this team does not excel at anything. They have a few elite playmakers scattered throughout the roster, but overall, this is a group that lacks not only the discipline and cohesiveness to play a consistent brand of football, but also is overrated in terms of actual talent. It remains to be seen what the long-tem solution will be for returning this team to prominence. For now, it’s the same Ol’ Cowboys.