|The ascension of Jason Garrett to the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator position implies that something was wrong with the play calling of Tony Sparano in 2006. Although Sparano remains on the staff, it will be Garrett who makes the important decisions on game day. Surely that demotion means the Dallas offense is in need of a significant overhaul, right?
Not so fast there, Junior. While Sparano gracefully accepted his “re-assignment,” the Cowboy offense was in no way broken. The team ranked fifth in the NFL in offense, averaging 360.8 yards a game – the team’s highest total since 1995 and its second highest since 1983.
The real reason for Garrett’s arrival is he will one day be Dallas’ head coach. Plain and simple. If all goes as planned, he’ll be the No. 1 guy in probably two or three years.
And with Garrett calling the shots on offense, 2007 is shaping up as an explosive one for Dallas. “Explosive” is the exact word that was being thrown around during spring minicamps as players and coaches described the biggest difference between last season and this one. Look for this offense to have a heavy Norv Turner influence while retaining a significant amount of the 2006 version.
Again, there wasn’t really anything wrong with the offense to start with. The Cowboys had a season that was one of the best in team history. They scored 425 points (most for a Dallas squad since 1995), 52 touchdowns (most since 1983) and had 3,836 net yards passing (the most since 1985). And during that last 20-something years Dallas has mixed in a few Super Bowl titles, so we’re not talking run-of-the-mill offenses here.
So the thought of that production being ratcheted up a notch should make fantasy players salivate. Here’s a look at some of the key players and how they may be affected by the change at the top.
Romo came out blazing in his first few games after taking over for Drew Bledsoe but cooled off considerably during the stretch run. However, he was still in the Top 5 in several categories, including yards per attempt (first/7.44), completion percentage (second/65.1) and quarterback rating (fifth/95.1). Extrapolated over an entire 16-game schedule, Romo’s numbers would have been 4,172 yards passing and 26 touchdowns, which would have ranked fifth and third in the league, respectively.
With Garrett calling the plays those numbers could improve dramatically, making Romo a truly elite fantasy quarterback. Considering the extrapolated numbers would have occurred under the somewhat more conservative Bill Parcells, Top 3 numbers for Romo across the board aren’t out of the question.
The beauty of Romo is he’s a Top 5 talent who will be readily available in most drafts. Let everyone else jump on guys like Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Marc Bulger and Jon Kitna. Romo could be drafted as late as Round 10 in a lot of leagues, making him an incredible value.
The only real negatives surrounding Romo are he has gunslinger mentality and the fact that he gets hit. A lot. Make sure that one of your top priorities after getting Romo becomes drafting his backup, Brad Johnson. But ignore whatever talk you hear about Romo “going Hollywood” and letting his newfound fame go to his head. He’ll be focused when the time comes, and he can’t wait to cleanse the bitter taste of how Dallas’ season ended against Seattle.
Julius Jones / Marion Barber
As long as Marion Barber is on the roster, Jones’ fantasy value will remain low. However, the Cowboys will look to use Jones’ strengths more than they did last year, when he accumulated 1,084 yards. The Cowboys will try to use Jones more on the edges, to “get him in space where he can cut,” as new head coach Wade Phillips said in May.
Also, look for a lot of swing passes in the flat to both Jones and Barber, going back to the days of Emmitt Smith in the Turner offense.
But there has been no mention of altering the goal-line distribution of the ball, which in 2006 led to Barber scoring 14 touchdowns compared to Jones’ measly total of four. Barber remains the Cowboy runner with more fantasy value, but even that is middling at best. He’s a beast in touchdown-only leagues but mostly an afterthought in other formats.
T.O. is happy – for now at least – because he envisions a more vertically-oriented attack that should result in monster numbers. Owens is coming off what most consider a down season even though he caught 85 passes for 1,180 yards (No. 9 in the league) and 13 touchdowns (No. 1 in the league). This season he should be huge – as evidenced by the fact The Huddle has him ranked as the No. 3 receiver available. A 1,700-yard, 15-18 TD season is possible.
Of course, his volatile nature and a finger injury raise warning flags. But, as stated before, it sounds like Owens is ecstatic with the direction of the offense and he exhibited no problems catching the ball during minicamps.
The “other” receiver doesn’t get the hype, but has been very effective during his stay in Dallas. In four seasons with the Cowboys, Glenn has averaged nearly 1,000 yards and six TD’s in three of them (he was hurt most of the 2004 season.) With the more aggressive philosophy of the Cowboy offense, Glenn’s numbers should approach those of Owens’ in 2006.
The trickle-down effect should benefit Crayton as well. In 2006, the No. 3 Cowboy wideout caught 36 balls for 516 yards and four TD’s. Like Glenn should approach Owens’ 2006 numbers, Crayton should approach Glenn’s. He probably won’t have 1,047 yards and six scores like Glenn did, but an 800-yard, five-TD campaign isn’t out of the question.
There aren’t going to be enough receptions to go around this season, when you take into account how busy Owens, Glenn and Crayton should be, as well as the increased number of passes expected to be directed toward Jones and Barber. But Jay Novacek averaged about 600 yards and three TD’s a season when he manned the tight end position in Dallas during the Turner era. Those are reachable totals for Witten this season.
The Bottom Line
Dallas’ offensive output has increased every season since 2002, and there’s every indication it’s going to skyrocket this season. Even if Garrett struggles with play calling, which is doubtful, the Cowboys will have Sparano and long-time NFL offensive coach Ray Sherman to turn to.
From a fantasy perspective, Cowboy players other than T.O. aren’t on a lot of guys’ radar. Come draft day there should be an incredible amount of value available in the mid, and even late, rounds.