Cowboys identity unknown so far this season
IRVING — While we wait for Jerry Jones to set the roster for Sunday's home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, let's try to get a read on how Cowboys players are reacting to their first bit of adversity this season.
I was interested to see if they would be brutally honest about their performance in Seattle or seek comfort in the land of denial. Interestingly, players haven't reached a consensus on how to process Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Seahawks.
First, the good news: Coming off the worst game of his illustrious Cowboys career, tight end Jason Witten basically admitted the Seahawks manhandled his team. That's the sort of honesty you're looking for from a team that has too often refused admit its faults.
It's amazing that one poor performance from Witten on the heels of a scary spleen injury caused some to wonder if Father Time is calling his name. Surely, fans realize that Father Time is more interested in Michael Young and Dirk Nowitzki at this point. Witten will soon reassert himself as one of the best tight ends in the league.
On Wednesday at Valley Ranch, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree might have given the most honest — and humorous — answer in regards to where the Cowboys are at this point.
Reporter: "What about the people who bought into you guys after Week 1?"
Ogletree: "They would be broke if they did."
If you can believe it, Ogletree actually played more snaps against the Seahawks than he did in his breakout performance against the Giants. He wasn't able to provide an explanation for why he was targeted only once Sunday. My explanation is that Seattle has defensive backs who could pass for linebackers. As the game progressed, Cowboys receivers weren't exactly dying to run across the middle.
The best news for the Cowboys is that Tampa Bay's defense yielded more than 600 yards of total offense in a loss to the Giants. Quarterback Eli Manning threw for 510 yards in a 41-34 win. The Bucs' secondary will never be confused with the Seahawks, although former Lions cornerback Eric Wright did have an impressive interception in Sunday's loss. Playing at home against a weaker defense, the Cowboys should be able to move the ball. And it will help even more if they can avoid the special teams blunders that put them in a 10-0 hole against the Seahawks.
That said, it doesn't seem that all the players have dealt with the reality of Sunday's loss. Starting defensive end Jason Hatcher is a pretty good player, but the man can deliver some curious quotes. If the Seahawks manhandled the Cowboys in the second half, it was certainly lost on him. He was asked what the film of that second half revealed.
"Nothing, nothing in general, man," Hatcher told a group of reporters. "Nothing that we did up front as a D-line and as a front seven. Nothing, really. We did a great job knocking them back. It's one of those things. We've just got to eliminate the mistakes we made, the turnovers, the blocked punts and things like that. We've just got to clean up every aspect of our game. It's always something you can get better on, but I didn't see too much."
I must've dozed during the "knock'em back" portion of the second half. I just recall the Seahawks embarking on touchdown drives of 90 and 88 yards. All the while, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was allowed plenty of time to go through his progressions.
If the Cowboys allow Bucs third-year quarterback Josh Freeman that much time in the pocket, he'll probably find Vincent Jackson open at some point. And the Bucs also have shown a commitment to the running game, with varied success. Bucs rookie Doug Martin has 44 carries for 161 yards through two games. That's only three carries fewer than Seahawks workhorse Marshawn Lynch (remember him?). And surely the Bucs' fiery new head coach Greg Schiano, a man who laughs in the face of so-called victory formations, will feed the ball to Martin after watching film from the Seahawks game.
It's really impossible to have a handle on this Cowboys team through two weeks of the season. And the players backed that up with their comments Wednesday.
I'd like to say we'll know a lot more following Sunday's game but even that seems like a stretch at this point.