By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys have entered their bye week with a .500 record, which isn’t bad, but there is a lot of work to be done. There have been a few bright spots, but there has also been a lot of problems and deficiencies, especially with the defense giving up more yards than almost anyone in NFL history.
Here is a look at the studs and duds of the season so far for the Dallas Cowboys.
Stud: Dez Bryant
A lot of people have been pointing at Bryant as being a cancer to the team because of his excitement and enthusiasm on the sidelines. However, his excitement is what Dallas needs more of if they want to turn their season around and start winning the games they need to win. Bryant is on pace for 83 receptions, 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season. All of those numbers are low, but that has more to do with poor play calling than Bryant’s efforts.
Dud: Miles Austin
The biggest reason that Bryant is not getting the receptions expected is because the other starting receiver, Miles Austin is suffering through hamstring problems for the third year in a row. Just like always, Austin exploded at the start of the season with big numbers only to hurt his hamstring again and end up on the bench. While Terrance Williams has been impressive as a rookie, he is still dropping passes and running bad routes – all expected from a rookie – but teams are double teaming Bryant every game with Austin out. On the season, Austin has 15 receptions for 125 yards and has played in five games.
Dud: Bill Callahan
Earlier in the season, DeMarco Murray was one of the top five rushers in the NFL. Despite this fact, Bill Callahan continued to call on Tony Romo to throw the ball 40 times a game and gave his top rusher less than 10 carries a game. As a result, Dallas couldn’t control the clock in their losses to teams like Denver, Detroit and New Orleans. This became even more evident when Dallas was leading and Callahan was still calling three straight passing plays, giving the opposition the ball back without eating any time off the clock. He is asking too much of Dallas’ defense when he doesn’t work the clock properly with the offensive play calling.
Stud: Sean Lee
There is very little positive on a defense that has broken its own record for futility in a game, only to break that record again later in the season. However, Sean Lee remains the brightest spot on this defense. While Jason Hatcher is also a positive force, with seven sacks through 10 games, Lee leads the team with 93 tackles through 10 games, 64 of them solo, as well as four interceptions, a fantastic number for a linebacker. He also has a fumble recovery and has scored a touchdown on defense. If Dallas had 10 more guys who played with the fire of Sean Lee, the Cowboys would be a much better team.
Dud: Morris Claiborne
When Dallas drafted Morris Claiborne, he was expected to be the next star cornerback for the Cowboys. This year, he was not able to even win the starting job, losing it to veteran Orlando Scandrick. When Scandrick and his co-starter Brandon Carr rank fourth and fifth on the team in tackles, that means Dallas can’t stop the pass and much of that is due to Claiborne’s inability to step up. He has 23 total tackles on the season with one interception.
Dud: Monte Kiffin
The biggest dud on the Cowboys team through the first 10 games is someone who Jason Garrett, Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones keep making excuses for. Jones fired Rob Ryan after the 2012 season despite having a middle-of-the-road defense, and hired Monte Kiffin, who had helped Dallas demote their defense to the worst one in the NFL. Dallas has given up over 400 yards passing to four quarterbacks and has given up the most yards in franchise history twice this season. Monte Kiffin’s defense is why Dallas has lost five games this season.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.