10. Dan Bailey missed 1 field goal during the entire camp. I trust him. And I can barely remember David Buehler.
9. Very encouraged by the play of Barry Church at safety. He’s got a knack for being around the ball and the physicality to make a big hit. Not saying he’s the next Darren Woodson, merely that I don’t think safety will again be a position of glaring liability.
8. As good as DeMarco Murray looks, his backup is worrisome. While Murray caught everything and ran over everybody during camp, Felix Jones failed a conditioning test, dropped two pre-season game passes and has looked slow. Owner Jerry Jones says his roster spot is guaranteed, but he’s in the final year of his contract and his long-term status is iffy.
7. More than ever before, this is Jason Garrett’s team. He was more confident, comfortable and controlling during camp. And even though big sponsor Miller Lite wanted Thursday’s open-to-the-public practice to start at 7 to accommodate more fans, Garrett put his foot down and insisted on 4:30. So there. I can name several former coaches who would have altered their team’s schedule to fit the desires of Jerry and his sponsors.
6. I think – behind Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten – this team’s 4th-leading receiver will be Kevin Ogletree, followed by DeMarco Murray and free agent Cole Beasley.
5. Of Dallas’ draft class, Mo Claiborne looks like a hit. As does 3rd-round defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford and 6th-round tight end James Hanna. Otherwise, the remaining rookies have been too injured to be fairly evaluated.
4. Most troubling about the 2012 Cowboys: Austin’s hamstring and the offensive line. Austin needs to earn his money and prove that his 2009 wasn’t a fluke. And since we’ve only seen new guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings on the field together once, the chemistry is far from complete. Center Phil Costa is injured and, let’s be honest, not real good when he was healthy. Doug Free had a very underwhelming camp.
3. Biggest improvement in this team will be its most glaring need for improvement – the secondary. With Church and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Claiborne, Dallas will be drastically better against the pass. Add to that Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins and suddenly Dallas has an above-average quartet of cover guys. Remember, last year in December debacles against the Giants the Cowboys surrendered 68 points and almost 800 yards of passing.
2. If he can stay healthy and if NFL commish Roger Goodell doesn’t suspend him for his July arrest for domestic violence, Bryant will be a game-changing beast. He knows the playbook. He’s catching with his hands. He mostly dominated Carr. And he’s a threat as a punt returner. Big, breakout year. Again … if.
1. Cowboys left for California on July 28. They’re back today, Aug. 22. After 13 padded practices, a Blue-White scrimmage, 2 pre-season games and 2 days of practices with the Chargers in San Diego, what exactly do we know? Based on defensive upgrades in the secondary, I think this a roster of 10-6 talent. If the Cowboys can avoid game-losing, crunch-time gaffes that plagued them last year, then the playoffs aren’t out of the question. But they’re simply not good enough to give away games.
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