As we approach the opening days of the 2010 season, the Dallas Cowboys are one of a few teams with expectations and pressure higher than most teams in the league.
With the Cowboys being a defending division champion and the Superbowl being hosted in Dallas, the big question on every Cowboys fan's mind is, "Can Dallas be the first team to have homefield advantage in the Superbowl"?
While it's only the preseason, the Cowboys have only given fans and anyone watching more reasons to be concerned than optimistic. Their preseason contests have been considerably lopsided and it looks as if the starting offenses and defenses aren't really putting the whole effort into the game. Let's look at a few real issues so far.
This team was extremely solid against the run last year. The reason they've been able to bring so much pressure is due in part to teams not being able to run against them, so they're only left to pass the ball. When this would open up, Wade Phillips would then turn to sending waves of pressure in the form of Ware, Spencer, and anyone else he could send unblocked. So far, they've been gashed up by running backs and have been poorly handling run situations when they're presented with them. If this defense is going to be as good as it was last year, they need to get this immediately under control.
Tony Romo has been under pressure virtually all preseason. He's never really been able to get set and get a solid amount of time consistently and it shows. I know that there are 2 starters missing in Marc Columbo and Kyle Kosier which play a big role in this, but those are also two linemen who missed significant playing time in the past two years. This potentially could end up being the starting set of five guys if their injuries get re-aggravated or something new happens, so they need to be better prepared than they are now.
This was a concern going into the season, and I only think it will show even more once the regular season begins. The injury to Gerald Sensabaugh is one that the Cowboys can not afford to have. They are extremely thin at the depth back there, so any injury they have can have a much bigger impact. They went into the draft knowing they needed depth at safety and OL, and they didn't seem to focus on safety as much as they should have. Now it could come back to haunt them if Sensabaugh can't return to full form or something else happens. Shoulder injuries are never good since its a primary point of contact in tackles and hitting the ground.
Now I know he's been under duress for the majority of the preseason, but the issues of the old Tony Romo have started to resurface slightly. The bobbled snaps, the fumbles, and the pressured throws have been seen in his preseason games early. I know this is not his complete starting offensive line. I am hoping that this will correct itself once he's able to sit in the pocket longer, but any Cowboys fan has to be concerned. He hasn't been the accurate, playmaking QB that we've seen develop over the last season. These errors made a lot of people question whether or not he's the franchise QB we all think he is. If the old Tony Romo starts to show up this season, the Superbowl hopes are probably gone.
I bring this up to remind Cowboys fans of the 2008 season. The prior year, the Cowboys had gone 13-3 and were the top seed in the NFC. They looked to be a lock for the Superbowl that year until they met the eventual Superbowl Champ New York Giants. The following season, all of America thought that would be enough to motivate them to work harder and over-achieve. Instead, the Cowboys went 9-7, missed the playoffs in one of the most embarrassing season finales in franchise history, and had a nation of fans completely disappointed. This team seems to speak that they are a different, refocused, and more unified team than ever before. They did break the playoff streak of 13 years which was a great sign of hope to the Cowboys nation. The pressure is higher than it was before, and potentially this could cost Wade Phillips his job if they fall again like 2008. Is this the team that can handle the real pressure in front of them? I think I speak for all of Cowboys Nation when I say "I hope so."