Jones wants Cowboys to be more than average again
Jerry Jones opened training camp for the Dallas Cowboys
enthusiastically talking about wanting to return to the team’s
With quarterback Tony Romo coming off arguably his best season
and DeMarcus Ware still one of the league’s premier linebackers,
there certainly is some reason for Jones to again be
But there is also the harsh reality. Even with Romo, Ware and
Jason Witten being standouts over an extended period, the Cowboys
overall have been distinctly average since winning three Super Bowl
championships in a four-year span in the first half of the 1990s,
early in Jones’ ownership.
”They’ve tasted a lot of disappointment,” Jones said.
Take the end of last season, when Dallas and the New York Giants
both were 8-7 going into their regular-season finale to determine
the NFC East champion and the league’s final playoff spot. The
Giants won 31-14, then went on to win their second Super Bowl in
”I can without any stretch of imagination see where we could
have been where the Giants were as far as getting into the
(playoffs) and then turning around and having some of that
success,” Jones said. ”That’s not hard for me to reach
The Cowboys and coach Jason Garrett could get an early
indication if things can be different this season.
After playing the final regular-season game in 2011, the Cowboys
and Giants also play the first one of 2012. Their unprecedented
Wednesday night opener next week is again in New Jersey.
”I’m excited about having the opportunity to go back to that
position to play the team that obviously ended up winning the Super
Bowl,” Romo said. ”There is motivation to have a great season
this year, there is motivation to accomplish certain goals that you
set out that you haven’t yet. Each time you step out here that is
what you are thinking about.”
Since Romo took over as the starting quarterback midway through
the 2006 season, the Cowboys have only one playoff victory.
That is their only postseason victory the past 15 seasons, when
their overall record was 120-120. They have now missed the playoffs
in consecutive seasons for the first time with Romo, who threw for
4,184 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last
The Cowboys tried with their offseason moves to provide better
protection for Romo, who is 47-30 as a starter, and to get Ware
some help on the back end.
Rob Ryan’s defense was bolstered with several additions,
primarily two new cornerbacks. After signing $50 million free agent
Brandon Carr, the Cowboys traded their second-round draft pick,
moved up eight spots and got Morris Claiborne sixth overall.
”Having Brandon Carr come in, Morris Claiborne, all those guys
back there, that’s going to increase a little more time for you,
and to get a little bit more pressure on the quarterback,” said
Ware, the six-time Pro Bowler whose 19 1/2 sacks last season pushed
his career total to 99 1/2. ”We are going to be a defense to be
On the offensive side, veteran free agent guards Mackenzy
Bernadeau and Nate Livings both got multiyear deals to be starters
and make the Cowboys bigger in the middle of the line. Both have
dealt with injuries, with Bernadeau missing the entire offseason
after hip and knee surgeries.
The starting tackles from last season switched sides. Tyron
Smith moved to the left as Romo’s blind-side protector after
starting all 16 games as a 20-year-old rookie on the right side,
where Doug Free returned. Running back DeMarco Murray is healthy
after rushing for a team-high 897 yards before missing the final
three games with a broken right ankle. He could combine with Felix
Jones for a nice 1-2 running punch, and Dallas also added veteran
fullback Lawrence Vickers.
Witten, the perennial Pro Bowl tight end going into his 10th
season, sustained a lacerated spleen in the preseason opener and
his status for the start of the season was uncertain.
Also pressing is finding a No. 3 receiver behind Miles Austin
and Dez Bryant, especially because Austin hurt his hamstring again
after missing six games last season because of problems with both
hamstrings. Laurent Robinson had 11 TDs last season in his only
season with Romo, and converted that into a big free-agent deal
Without making a move before this season, like they did a year
ago with Robinson, Dallas will depend one of its young receivers in
Even though he took over as head coach midway through the 2010
season, this is the first time Garrett has had a full normal
offseason. After Garrett’s first half-season in charge, the NFL
lockout wiped out all offseason workouts in 2011. Not having that
summer work also affected then new-defensive coordinator Ryan
installing his complicated 3-4 schemes.
The defense was significantly improved under Ryan, but there
were five blown fourth-quarter leads.
”We realize what happened last year,” Ryan said. ”We were the
reason we didn’t get to the playoffs. … We are looking forward to
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