The tease that is July football is finally here, meaning now the painful memory of Dez Bryant’s “The Catch?!” in the playoffs at Lambeau Field can be replaced by different memories, crisis and concerns.
The Dallas Cowboys have arrived at training camp, and 2015 is here. Kinda. There is no greater tease in sports than NFL training camp and the charade that is fake football, but it is a time to celebrate nonetheless. Football is here which means for us Texans cool weather is just three more quick months away.
If one is so inclined, the trip out here to Cowboys training camp is always worth it for one reason — the weather. The mild-to-cool temperatures alone justify the $4.35 these people pay for a gallon of gas.
Despite my long love affair with pessimism and the embrace of the motto that says “When God closes a doors, He closes a window, too,” I am offering my services to Jerry Jones (for a price) to captain his party bus this season; NFL vice president of league officials Dean Blandino is invited, too.
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It took years, years and years — and the Cowboys wasted a lot of quarterback Tony Romo’s prime seasons in the process — but they finally have this thing set up to succeed in a salary cap world. It only took them 20 years.
We all need to board the Cowboys’ party bus — this will be a fun year. Take me to Vegas — the Cowboys are going to the NFC title game. Super Bowl? Do I look stupid … (don’t answer that).
I am waiting to see if the Cowboys are better than the Seattle Seahawks or the Green Bay Packers before envisioning them in a Super Bowl, but right now they are the third-best team in the NFC. The Cowboys may not repeat their 12-4 record from a season ago, but it is a hard sell to think this team is going to flop to 8-8 or 7-9.
In homage to Randy Galloway and Jerry himself — this opinion is fluid; I reserve the right to change my mind as early as tomorrow morning.
The last time there was this much hope, love and optimism for the Cowboys was 2008; that was when Uncle Wade Phillips drove that super-talented team into an abyss of mediocrity with his unique style of being in way over his head as a head coach. Jason Garrett may be boring, but he will not allow such a malaise to infect his team.
The 2015 Cowboys have plenty o’ concerns, ranging from the starting running back to the defense, and a quarterback with a bad back. As good as this offensive line is, Joseph Randle and/or Darren McFadden need to prove they are trustworthy. If they combine to rush for 1,400 yards, call the decision to let DeMarco Murray walk via free agency a smashing success.
This defense has the potential to get bloodied early when linebacker Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy are serving their NFL suspensions. One of the rookies — preferably corner Byron Jones or defensive end Randy Gregory — needs to push the veterans ahead of them and either start, or play a significant role.
Despite the presence of GM Jerry, there are too many facets to this team right now not to like. Granted, every team is an injury or two away from 8-8 or 7-9, but the Cowboys are a decent bet to be more than that. Vegas has the Cowboys’ odds of winning the Super Bowl as 14-1, sixth best in the NFL.
The quarterback is playing the best ball of his life behind the best offensive line in the NFL. The wide receiver is flush with cash. There are some decent players on defense. Who knows? Maybe linebacker Sean Lee will make it to Week 6 before his body explodes? This is a responsible team, for the most part, that has fully embraced the identity of their head coach.
Like any team, a lot will need to go right for the Cowboys to be as good as they were last season. Everything, however, is there to do it again, and more.
Fake football is here, so don’t be afraid to jump on Jerry’s party bus. This should be fun.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog