Dallas Cowboys: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent IMay 31, 2011

Dallas Cowboys: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season

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    With the NFL season still in the process of being decided through litigation and legal wrangling, a lot of fans and experts alike are wondering, "Will there be any football in 2011?" 

    No matter what side of the dispute you take, we in the sports world are always here to offer the latest speculation and up-to the day news on your favorite teams.

    The Dallas Cowboys, picked by many to represent the NFC at Super Bowl XLV and become the first team to play the big game in their stadium, fell way short of that goal.

    After starting the 2010 campaign 1-7, and witnessing their season come to a crashing halt as Tony Romo was lost for the season's final 10 games due to a broken collarbone, Jerry Jones fired Coach Wade Phillips in the middle of the season for the first time in his 20-plus years of ownership.

    Jason Garrett was elevated to head coach after being the team's offensive coordinator since 2007.  With backup quarterback Jon Kitna under center, the Cowboys rebounded to finish the season 5-3 and were competitive down the stretch, as they lost those three games by a grand total of seven points.

    With a healthy Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and other key players such as first round pick Tyron Smith, the team is looking to rebound from one of the worst seasons in recent memory and be right back in the race to de-throne the Green Bay Packers as NFC Champions.

    Here are five predictions for the 'Boys in blue and silver going into 2011: 

1) the Offensive Line Will Be Better with the Addition of Tyron Smith

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    "With the No. 9 selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, The Dallas Cowboys select Tyron Smith, OL, Southern California."

    Before the selection of USC's Tyron Smith, the Cowboys had not taken an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981 when the team selected Missouri's Howard Richards in the first round, 26th pick.  "Richards played six injury-filled seasons in Dallas, before playing one more in Seattle and retiring after the 1987 season." (Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com)

    The Cowboys' offensive line was a sieve last year.  They got two quarterbacks hurt in Tony Romo and Jon Kitna and by the time the end of the season, third quarterback Stephen McGee was taking the snaps with the first-team offense. 

    Garrett will not tolerate poor line play, as he played for some of the best Cowboys teams in history, as the dynasty of the 1990s was keyed by a strong offensive line which was one of many key factors in the Cowboys being the first team to win three Super Bowl titles in four years.

    Smith will make the Cowboys' line instantly better.  Here is an excerpt from the former Trojan's scouting report:

    "Tyron Smith is a long, athletic offensive tackle with a body in the Bruce Campbell mold. He has played almost his entire career at USC on the right side, but is a natural fit to slide to the left side in the NFL. Smith’s athleticism makes him a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme, but he has the upside to play left tackle in most any offense. He is relatively inexperienced, extremely young (20) and recently pulled out of the NFL combine while still recovering from a knee injury, which was slightly disappointing. So there are a lot of issues that need to be ironed out with Smith, But he has the highest upside of any offensive tackle in this class which should place him firmly in the top 15 picks of the upcoming draft." (DraftBreakdown.com)

    I expect Tyron Smith to be the first to inject some youth into an otherwise aging, ineffective line and keep Tony's back (and collarbone) alot cleaner than it was in 2010.

2) Michael Huff Will Be in Dallas This Season

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    Raiders S Michael Huff, one of the top free agents that will be highly sought after once the lockout is lifted has been constantly linked to the Cowboys throughout the offseason.  The Cowboys went with trying to convert Alan Ball to safety, but that was a resounding failure as he was often caught in the wrong place at the wrong time on many occasions.

    Huff is a former University of Texas standout and is also a hometown guy.  The Irving product in four years as the Longhorns' last line of defense won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back.  According to league scouts, Huff is 'outstanding' in coverage and is adept in blitzing from the safety position.  New Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should know Huff well as they were together in Oakland in 2006.

    The Cowboys have not found an answer at safety and do not appear to have any serviceable options on the roster.  If Huff does not re-sign with the Raiders,  he could return home and cure what ails the Cowboys at arguably the team's weakest position.

    The Raiders have not shown an interest in re-signing him, so once the free agency period begins then Dallas should make a smart move and look in Huff's direction quick, fast and in a hurry.

    I think I speak for all the Cowboys fans out there: I don't want to see Greg Olsen get down the seam by the safety untouched for a 39-yard touchdown anymore, not anytime soon.

3.) the Defense Will Be Top-10

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    The defense was blamed for alot of Dallas' problems last year.  It was a team effort as the defense was often left with defending short fields enroute to giving up a franchise-record 431 points.

    Terence Newman's season was filled with injury and Mike Jenkins regressed and was consistently beaten.  The Cowboys' pass defense was near the bottom of the league (26th) and teams took advantage.  The 'Boys gave up a 92.7 QB rating to some of the best quarterbacks in the league.

    The schedule in 2011 only has them facing three elite-tier quarterbacks in  New England's Tom Brady, Philadelphia's Michael Vick and Tampa Bay's Joshua Freeman.  Every other team is starting a new quarterback, or is actively looking for a serviceable signal-caller.

    The Cowboys have been linked to possibly have interest in Raider CB and S Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff and Packers DL Cullen Jenkins, and while it would be unclear what the new signing rules would be, signing any combination of these guys would be huge for Ryan and his defense.

    Led by Rob Ryan and the NFL's reigning sack champion DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys' defense should be able to rebound and make a strong statement in the 2011 season.

4) Tony Romo Will Finally Silence His Critics and Win

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    Tony Romo is the face of the Cowboys' franchise.  Like Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Danny White and Troy Aikman before him, when you are the quarterback of America's Team everything you do is constantly scrutinized.

    From the trip to Cabo with Jessica Simpson to the recent marriage to Candice Crawford, the embattled Eastern Illinois product just can't seem to catch a break.  He is also an avid golfer and has tried to make the U.S. Open on many occasions.  His critics believe that he is too much 'Hollywood' for football and spends too much time not concentrating on winning games. 

    In over four seasons as starter, Romo has amassed 1,326 completions for 16,650 yards passing with 118 touchdowns and 62 interceptions, with a career passer rating of 95.5.  In Dallas, quarterbacks are not measured by how many yards or touchdowns they throw (see Danny White) but they are measured by how many NFC Championship games and Super Bowls they win. (See Staubach and Aikman)

    In 2011, Tony Romo has to come back and win back HIS team and lead this talented team deep in the playoffs if he wants to get the monkey off his back once and for all. 

    I believe that sitting out a whole season and watching Jon Kitna guide the team to a 5-3 finish and seven points from going 8-0, has made an impression on him.  With a healthy Dez Bryant and the always reliable Jason Witten and Miles Austin, I believe Tony will be the MVP not only for the Cowboys, but I believe he is going to tear it up in 2011 and earn the NFL MVP..Yep, you heard that here first.

    For my fifth and final BOLD PREDICTION: 

5) the Cowboys Have a Realistic Shot at Winning the NFC Title

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    OK, OK, OK...When you read this, whether you are a "realistic" Cowboys fan or a hater that will look for any reason to discredit me, think as a FOOTBALL fan for a second.

    Yes, they went 6-10 last year, yes, they have won ONE playoff game in 13 years and.....yes, their last Super Bowl win was when President Clinton was in office...or any other sad, tired argument that people feel like filling in this blank with. 

    But they lost EIGHT games by seven points or fewer.  They lost three of the final eight games by a TOTAL of seven points.   That sure seems competitive to me.

    They have, in my opinion (and Roger Staubach's) a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, who can win it all and got a lesson after sitting out the remainder of the season.  They may not have a Super Bowl winning coach like some of their division rivals, but Jason Garrett knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl having been a part of the Cowboys' last Super Bowl teams in the 1990s. 

    The Cowboys have one of the most talented teams in the NFL.  With the resolution of the labor impasse, and the addition of a few key free agents, the Cowboys have the talent and the easier schedule to win the NFC East for the third time in five years and be able to de-throne the Green Bay Packers and.............

    Hoist the team's ninth NFC Championship and represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.


    Let the comments and hating begin!