Gil Brandt of NFL.com put out an article yesterday predicting that the Cowboys would win the division. On my first pass through his piece (skimming it), I thought there were some relevant points that he made. However, after his article seemed to get a lot of play, I took a closer look and although I respect the hell out of Gil Brandt, I realized that it was actually a pretty poor argument. I’ve been burnt by ripping these kinds of predictions in the past, but alas, here we go again.
Brandt had 10 bullet points on why the Cowboys would be better than they were last year. Here are the points he made (in quotes) that don’t pass the smell test:
Kiffin has a long history of success, but one of the most important things he’ll bring to the table in Dallas is a familiarity with college offenses. The long-time coaching veteran’s most recent career stop before this one was at USC, where he certainly got a taste of both the increasingly popular pistol offense and the hurry-up, no-huddle offense that new Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly ran at Oregon.
Here’s what Oregon did to Kiffin’s defenses the last 3 years:
So yeah, I’d say Kiffin “got a taste” of Kelly’s no-huddle offense.
In Gavin Escobar, the Cowboys have another pass-catching tight end to run out there with Witten, expanding the matchup strategies available to the Dallas offense. Also, with his size (6-foot-6, 254 pounds), Escobar promises to be a threat in the red zone.
Terrance Williams, meanwhile, can be productive on the outside, which could allow Austin to switch to the slot position. I think Austin is a stronger receiver between the hashes; that is, after all, where he’s had most of his NFL success.
Many questioned the Cowboys’ decision to draft Wisconsin center Travis Frederick in the first round, but as I said last week, I think that pick will pay off. As a rookie, Frederick will solidify the interior of Dallas’ offensive line, which was one of the team’s biggest problems last season.
With fifth-round draft pick Joseph Randle in the fold, the Cowboys finally have two legitimate runners/receivers in the backfield. Randle and incumbent starter DeMarco Murray are very much alike in terms of size, running style and ability to catch the football; they’re really two peas in a pod.
The above was actually 3 of Brandt’s 10 bullet points, and they all talk about rookies. The analysis is fine and good, however, the same argument about rookie contributors can be made for all 32 teams. And frankly, in my opinion, a better argument for rookie contributors can be made in most cases for the other teams around the league.
Because they’ll be playing in the Hall of Fame Game, the Cowboys will get an extra week of time in training camp, which has the potential to be an important advantage. If you get more time to get ready as a team — and if you know what you’re doing — you’re able to use that to get better.
If the Cowboys need an extra preseason game to get their act together, they’re already toast. There’s also a point to be made here that the extra preseason game could lead to more injuries.
Dallas has a fine young kicker in Dan Bailey, who converted 93.5 percent of the field goals he attempted in 2012, tied for second-best in the NFL. That’s a necessity in this league, what with how many close games there are.
The theme of Brandt’s entire piece is how the team will improve over their 2012 version. He notes Bailey, who hit 93.5% of his attempts last year. Isn’t it more likely that his accuracy will go down?
The relationship between a quarterback and his center can be important, and Frederick should have an easy “in” with Romo. The town he grew up in, Sharon, Wis., is just about 50 minutes by car from Romo’s hometown of Burlington, Wis. I would expect Romo to take a special interest in his fellow Wisconsinite and help give his career a jump-start.
Come on, Gil.
The Cowboys may very well win the NFC East next year, but I just don’t see much in Brandt’s analysis that has me all that convinced that they’re a significantly better team.