The 2013 Dallas Cowboys are finally Super Bowl contenders. After years of heartache, America’s Team is ready to elevate its game and actually make some noise in the postseason.
With only two playoff wins since 1996, the Cowboys have been one of the most disappointing franchises the last couple decades.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones received praise throughout the 1990s for helping construct three Super Bowl champions. However, it’s only been the opposite of late. Jones’s critics are louder than ever because of his questionable personnel moves and the added focus he always puts on himself.
Despite having one of the better rosters in all of football, the Cowboys have only gone a mediocre 8-8 the last two years. Blame has been spread all around the team from quarterback Tony Romo to coach Jason Garrett and on up to the front office.
It’s time for the excuses to stop and Dallas to perform like it is capable.
One of the biggest reasons the Cowboys are actually ready to contend for the Lombardi Trophy this year is their offense. Besides not having a great core of linemen, Dallas has more playmaking ability on offense than just about any other team.
It all starts with the quarterback. Tony Romo has been regarded as a good statistical and regular-season quarterback. However, his knock is that he cannot win the big game and chokes during dire situations.
Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, Romo proved this once again last year when they tanked in their final outing in Washington. Romo isn’t going anywhere, though. He signed a six-year extension this offseason worth more than $100 million.
This year he will have no possible excuse because of the supporting cast around him.
DeMarco Murray has shown that when healthy, he’s one of the better running backs in the NFL. In order to lighten Murray’s load and increase his effectiveness, Dallas upgraded their backup option with fifth-round pick Joseph Randle.
Outside of the backfield, Romo also has a fantastic receiving corps.
Dez Bryant leads that bunch, and last year he showed how much potential he has. Bryant totaled 92 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 scores.
Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris and third-round pick Terrance Williams round out the rest of the receiving options. Together this is a very viable crew that should make their quarterback’s job much easier.
Dallas should also be able to control the middle of the field with their dynamic tight ends. Pro Bowler Jason Witten has been beyond consistent for years and remains one of the best.
Behind him are two promising youngsters.
In 2012, James Hanna showed his skill as a receiving tight end in limited time. Dallas also used its second-round draft choice to take San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar. With all this talent at the position, they’ll be sure to use multiple tight end sets to open up defenses.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys will have a completely new look with a lot of familiar faces. With the hiring of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Dallas is moving to the 4-3 defense.
Kiffin’s scheme will hopefully generate more turnovers and opportunities for the defense to get off the field quicker. Dallas’ defense only had 16 takeaways last year and it was evident that they would be exhausted in the latter parts of games.
Part of their issue was injuries to so many key players at essential positions. Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Barry Church and Jay Ratliff all missed significant time.
However, with their health, this defense can do serious damage in 2013.
Lee and Carter are two of the best linebackers in the league that everyone will recognize more next season. Lee had a fantastic 2011 campaign, and once he went out with injury Carter filled in without missing a beat.
Although he’ll no longer be rushing quarterbacks standing up, DeMarcus Ware is still one of the league's best. He played most of last season with nagging injuries to his shoulder and elbow that limited his production. There is little doubt, however, that when healthy Ware can put up numbers like he did in 2011 with 19.5 sacks.
Dallas has plenty of high hopes for its other defensive end too. Anthony Spencer had his best season as a professional last year with 11.5 sacks. If he can duplicate his double-digit sack numbers, Dallas will have one of the scariest DE combinations in the NFL.
Another reason why the Cowboys should be contenders is because they’ve finally shored up most of their secondary.
Brandon Carr had a decent first year at cornerback, while only big things are expected from second-year player Morris Claiborne. Dallas traded a lot to get LSU’s Claiborne in the draft and is anticipating a breakout season for him.
If Dallas can create enough pressure up front, Carr and Claiborne should be able to have field days intercepting passes.
The safety position isn’t a strong point on the roster, but this year’s cast is guaranteed to be an improvement. With a number of injuries to guys like Matt Johnson and Church, Dallas found themselves plugging people in all year. Recently retired Gerald Sensabaugh wasn’t a bad player, but he never became the playmaker Dallas had hoped for.
There’s no denying that the pieces are in place for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys to do something special. This year there will be more pressure than ever on Romo and Garrett to execute and produce.
Romo is off to a promising start to turning things around. A few weeks ago he agreed to be more apart of the decision making and game-planning. Jones wants Romo to be more like Peyton Manning, and if he’s anywhere close to that, the Cowboys will be in the hunt for a Super Bowl.