Cowboys Encouraged By Strong Start, But Know There's Work Left To Do

FRISCO, Texas – As his team began a well-earned bye week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked if a white hot, 5-1 start had surprised him.

Garrett smiled and provided a predictable response: "We don't really look at it that way."

That's totally fine on the part of Garrett and his players. What professional athlete – what competitor, for that matter – doesn't have an abundance of self-belief?

For the rest of us, who looked at the situation in August and saw a rookie quarterback, a sagging pass rush and a wealth of unproven players, it's perfectly acceptable to admit some surprise.

Given the way the 2015 season unfolded, it's also fair to give the Cowboys plenty of credit for not letting the same set of adversities sink another campaign. As everyone as seen by now, they are in fact thriving in the face of the same problems that hindered them just one year ago.

"There was a lot for all of us to learn from that experience, and we're still learning," Garrett said. "We were determined to come back in the early part of this offseason, build the team that could handle and withstand the adversities that are inevitable in the NFL. We've tried to do that and will continue to try to do that each and every day."

At the same press conference, Garrett noted that the 2015 Cowboys fought remarkably hard for a team with a 4-12 record. That's definitely true, as the Cowboys were within one score in six of their losses last year.

This team is built remarkably similar, and with the addition of a sound decision-maker in Dak Prescott, they're executing much better.

"We committed to this formula of offense play, and you can say a lot of different things about it," said Jason Witten. "But when you execute this way, it's a great formula. We all have a role in it, and to be able to execute and play within that."

Witten's point has a lot to say about how the Cowboys have built this roster going back several years. Watching them roll over the Packers last weekend was like watching the front office's Draft Day blueprints come to life.

During the five-game win streak, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 130 rushing yards per game behind an offensive line comprised mainly of top-tier draft picks. The Dallas defense, devoid of many genuine playmakers, is playing well within its scheme and surrendering yards – but not points.

The result is first place in the NFC East standings and some well-earned buzz that has been missing since 2014 – or in some cases, altogether.

"I was injured in 2014, so I have not won this many games in a row," Sean Lee said on Sunday evening. "It's something I've always longed for, and it's great to be a part of."

True to Garrett's mantra, though, Lee was sure to keep the focus on continued improvement. The Cowboys might have a week off to rest and recover, but you're unlikely to hear them listening too much to the praise being thrown at them.

After all, when they return from the bye week, they face a divisional rival – not to mention nine more games after that.

"It means that it's a good start. But it doesn't mean anything if we don't finish it," Lee said. "We know what our ultimate goal is, and we know if we don't continue to improve, we're not going to reach that goal."

Lee and Witten, and a host of other veterans, come in handy in that regard. Because as new as the Cowboys might look during this win streak, the approach is very much the same.

"As Coach Garrett says, you re-commit," Witten said. "That's our job as leaders, is just to continue to re-commit and not get too confident. This team, they'll never be too confident."

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