Despite showing so much promise for much of the 2011 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys once again had their season end in disappointing fashion, as Jerry Jones club missed out on the playoffs for the third time in four years.
After a 7-4 start to the season that put the Cowboys in prime position to win the NFC East division title, the team squandered fourth quarter leads to the Cardinals and Giants in weeks 13 and 14, to lose their stronghold on the division.
In week 14, the Cowboys, who at the time were 7-5 held a 34-22 lead over the 6-6 Giants with under eight minutes left in the game. A win would have given the team a two-game lead with three games to go. Yet Eli Manning took New York on consecutive touchdown drives, giving the Giants the 37-34 lead and eventually the win, which was sealed when Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a last second field goal attempt that would have sent the game into overtime.
Three weeks later, the two teams met in New York, holding identical 8-7 records with the NFC East title on the line. However, the game was never close, as the G-Men blew the doors off Dallas in a 31-14 stomping that was not as close as the score indicates.
Missed opportunities have defined the Cowboys franchise since Tony Romo took over as the team’s quarterback and despite the disappointment, the team has plenty of reason for optimism after acquiring shutdown corner Brandon Carr from Kansas City in free agency and former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The question is will those moves be enough to get Dallas over the hump and into the playoffs? It is hard to say but here is a look at how we project the Cowboys 53-man roster to look on opening day:
QB (3): Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Stephen McGee.
RB/FB (4): DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner, Lawrence Vickers.
WR (5): Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree, Danny Coale, Dwayne Harris.
TE (3): Jason Witten, John Phillips, James Hanna.
OL (9): Tryon Smith, Nate Livings, Phil Costa, Mackenzy Bernadeaum, Doug Free, Jeremy Parnell, Bill Nagy, Kevin Kowalski, David Arkin.
DL (7): Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Tyrone Crawford, Clifton Geathers, Josh Brent.
LB (9): Anthony Spencer, DeMarcus Ware, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Victor Butler, Dan Connor, Caleb McSurdy, Alex Albright, Kyle Wilber.
DB (10): Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Brodney Pool, Gerald Sensabaugh, Orlando Scandrick, Barry Church, Danny McCray, Mike Jenkins, Matt Johnson, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.
ST (3): Chris Jones, Dan Bailey, LP Ladouceur.
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