If you've been eagerly following every scrap of news from Cowboys training camp, then you know of the scrimmage that took place on Sunday afternoon. After the first ten days of Jason Garrett's first training camp as head coach, Dallas held its first scrimmage since the Bill Parcell's era. It was also Tony Romo's first game-like situation since he fractured his collarbone last season.
Every year Dallas fans place the highest of expectations on their team. Despite last season being arguably the most disappointing in franchise history, there was legitimate cause for optimism, however cautious, for 2011. A new head coach with a link to the glory days of the 90's brought an approach and attitude that hearkened back to that time. He hired Rob Ryan whose scheme promises to achieve the defensive results that many a fan had demanded for years.
Despite the debates on which free agents to sign, there was a largely shared sense that at least the team had the right coaches for the job. But as the play-by-play of Sunday's scrimmage was tweeted and updated onto ESPN Dallas' chat room, I found more questions than answers about the outlook for this year.
The first occurred when the Cowboy offense, starting from just outside the red zone, ran a screen to Felix Jones on the very first play for 20 yards. With a 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Dallas then proceeded to throw three straight times. Each attempt was incomplete and they settled for a field goal.
Is that supposed to be the norm this season? Are the Cowboys turning into the Colts and not even bothering to run it in from up close?
In fact, of the five possessions by the Cowboy's starters, three ended up inside the 10-yard line (first on the 5-yard line, third on the 8-yard line, fourth on the 6-yard line). Each time, the team elected to throw instead of run, although the fourth possession was part of a two-minute drill and only a few seconds remained.
Now at this point, it's important to remember that training camp is only ten days old and the team has yet to play in it's first preseason game. Garrett may have just wanted Romo and the rest of the offense to get more practice in the passing game. Or maybe he wanted to spare Felix from any undue knocks to the body at this point.
Still, three times inside the 10-yard line and not a single running play called? That's a little curious. The offensive line may be more athletic than they are earth-movers nowadays, but goal-line runs were a weakness last season and teams that can't improve upon that are usually unsuccessful.
Could these series indicate the team's tendencies inside the red zone for this year?
More questions posed themselves as it became evident with each possession for the first stringers, that Dallas' defense was getting shredded. Romo seemed to move across the field at will.
It was an eye-opening experience after reading all of the previous camp updates that depicted Rob Ryan's defense as giving the offensive line fits with their blitzes.
Were the reports exaggerated? Was the defense not picking up the scheme as quickly as initially believed? Was their perceived success due only to the fact that they were beating up on two rookie offensive linemen and an overweight backup? Was Rob Ryan holding back on the blitzes?
Again, for those who are quick to jump to conclusions, it's important to remember not do so. It is only the first week and a half of camp after all. Not to mention there was a lockout that kept players from communicating with coaches for over four months. So cramming in a new scheme without an offseason is an understandably difficult task.
Yet it's hard not to be somewhat conflicted about Sunday's scrimmage. It was good to read how the Cowboy passing attack looked as potent as ever, but disconcerting that the secondary was so thoroughly beaten after a horrid 2010 season. Romo fans should be pleased that he went 3-4 in the red zone, but a little curious as to why the starters didn't run it in from that close.
So just like in any season, all that remains is endless speculation until next time. Maybe that next time will provide more answers and less questions.
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