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Stadium : Cowboys Stadium (love that, no corporate sponsor)
Schedule Strength : 30th (vs. Pittsburgh Week 15)
Postseason Weather issues : at Cincinnati (Week 14)
Offensive Line Ranking : 16th
Head Coach – Jason Garrett
Garrett is a former quarterback and Ivy League graduate from Princeton University. Garrett’s professional career began in the World League of America as the quarterback for the San Antonio Riders. He then moved up to become the backup quarterback for multiple teams, including the Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys (behind starter Troy Aikman), the New York Giants (behind starter Kerry Collins), Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins. Spending just one year as the Dolphins quarterbacks coach, Garrett would be hired as the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. After the firing of Wade Phillips in 2010, Garrett would take over as the interim head coach, and later be promoted to the official head coach of the Dallas Cowboys during the 2011 offseason. Being a former quarterback, and based off previous seasons, we know Garrett will employ a wide open aerial offensive system resembling the run-and-shoot. With no major changes to the coaching staff or roster, we should anticipate more of the same in the upcoming season.
Offensive Coordinator – Bill Callahan
Callahan was also a former quarterback, which only lends further credence to the notion that the Cowboys will remain a passing offensive system. Hired more as an offensive line coach, this is Garrett’s offense to run, as Callahan will not be a factor in the game planning or play calling.
QB – Tony Romo
Now entering his 10th season in the league, Romo continues to display many of the characteristics necessary to be a mid-level, every week QB1, including excellent mobility, a high level of intelligence, accuracy on the run and a comprehensive understanding of the Cowboys’ high-powered passing system. Romo also has a solid receiving core with two of the games better wide receivers in Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, and playmaking tight end Jason Witten. We must further factor in the fact that the Cowboys play in the NFC East, meaning they are forced to score a large amount of points if they have any hopes of winning the division. The only downside is a few injury issues, raising a yellow flag. Given a full offseason to work with his starting unit, we should expect Romo’s numbers to be amongst the Top 8 quarterbacks at the end of the season with a player rating of 8.7.
This is where the real confusion ensues. Let’s begin by stating that Murray is the more complete player of the two Dallas running backs, possessing a lethal combination of size, speed and strength necessary to be a three-down back in the NFL. All reports coming out of minicamp indicate Murray will begin the season as the starting running back, which should entail roughly 70 percent of all carries, including goal-line touches (very important). However, Murray has proven to be a huge red flag injury prone player as proven last season, but also dating back to his time at the University Oklahoma. Now factor the 30 percent workload being distributed to Felix Jones, who has shown moments of brilliance, but lacks consistency also as a red flag injury risk. Now playing in a contract year, should Jones suddenly become effective when called upon, this timeshare could move more towards a 60-40 split and possibly 50-50. We must further consider that if Murray or Jones go down with injury, the value of the other would skyrocket (I told you this was confusing). Ultimately, we’ll give Murray a player rating of 8.3 (bust alert). As for Jones, he should be viewed as a must handcuff behind Murray entering the new season with a meager player rating of 7.4.
WR1 – Dez Bryant
Amongst the league’s most talented young wide receivers, in 2011 Bryant became infamous for an amazing first half performance, only to go missing in the second half of games. As with many players around the NFL, reports later surfaced that Bryant was not in “football shape” on the heels of the NFL lockout. On the upside, Bryant is a physical specimen considering his size, speed, body control and hands. We should also upgrade Bryant for playing inside one of the league’s strongest pass-oriented systems alongside a solid quarterback. Also note that Bryant is entering his third season, should you buy into the theory long supporting a wide receivers emergence in his third season. When conducting our evaluation, we must also factor in the release of Laurent Robinson, who consumed 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, now left vacant. Bryant does have minor injury issues, along with a target share between Miles Austin and Jason Witten (Romo’s favorite target), however all signs indicate that Bryant will have solid season in 2012 deserving of a player rating of 8.8.
WR2 – Miles Austin
Hindered by multiple injuries in 2011, Austin missed seven games, cutting his yardage totals in half from the previous two seasons, but ironically his touchdown total remained the same at seven. Showing no injury concerns in the past, last season’s woes are widely contributed to the NFL lockout. Austin does possess amazing speed, great hands, is a red zone threat, and a spin move after the catch that leaves defenders grasping at air. The release of Laurent Robinson will also open up 858 yards and 11 touchdowns to be distributed between Bryant and Austin. The continued emergence of Bryant will slightly limit Austin’s productivity, but Dallas’ offensive system is predicated upon a high volume of passes, enabling multiple wide receivers to have solid fantasy value. Player rating of 8.6.
TE – Jason Witten
Witten is amongst the most consistent fantasy tight ends over the past five seasons mainly due to his durability unmatched by most tight ends around the league. Witten’s forecasted production is hindered slightly with targets being consumed by the wide receivers. But as Romo’s go-to guy in a pinch, Witten is still a very solid player entering 2012 who should have another productive year with player rating of 8.6.
D/ST – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys defense is predicated upon the pressure of Demarcus Ware and the continued growth of middle linebacker Sean Lee (injured in the middle of last season). The Cowboys also traded up in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft to secure potential shutdown cornerback Morris Claiborne. Dallas is still thin at other positions, meaning the Cowboys are not yet amongst the elite fantasy defenses. Also, playing opposite a “prolific offense” creates added pressure. Dallas may be a low-end defense with a pre-draft rating of 7.7.
K – Dan Bailey
I’m always looking for kickers who play in a covered home stadium alongside a dynamic offense, and Bailey has both. He proved last season he can be a solid fantasy producer, and we should expect that to continue with a player rating of 9.3. Make sure to monitor that Week 14 matchup at Cincinnati for any adverse weather.
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