IRVING, Texas -Too many times in recent years we've sat back and marveled at the Cowboys' accumulation of offensive talent and said "there's no way to defend all those weapons."
Why, how is anyone going to stop Terrell Owens, Jason Witten, Marion Barber and Roy Williams (2008)? Or, how is anyone going to stop Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Felix Jones *and *Roy Williams. *And *Marion Barber. *And *Martellus Bennett. *And *Dez Bryant (2010).
As we keep learning, there are always ways for good defenses to beat the good offenses, in individual games. Over the course of a season, though, there's one thing that generally separates the good offenses from those offenses that were supposed to be good.
That's what will ultimately make or break this season for the Cowboys' offense. If Austin, Jones, Bryant, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and this new-look offensive line can stay on the field together for 16 games, or near to it, the group is bound to put up some eye-popping numbers. The cumulative talent level is too obvious.
Doing that will require luck, more than anything, though the six Super Bowl track record of strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik suggests that the best teams make their own luck.
Of course, it's a rare season when everybody not named Witten will stay healthy.
Last year all the offensive skill position players were banged up at some point or another. When Romo was knocked out for the year in 2010, it was curtains. Romo, Jones and Kyle Kosier all missed significant time in 2008.
But in 2006, 2007 and 2009, the offense had pretty good health. And when people did get hurt, like Marc Colombo in '09, the depth was sufficient enough to handle the situation, such as with Doug Free's emergence.
If you think the overall talent level is greater now than it was in those three seasons, feel free to dream here. In all three, the Cowboys had two pass-catchers total more than 1,000 yards. There was only one 1,000-yard rusher in the group, Julius Jones in 2006, but Barber was close in '07 and '09.
This offensive line has an uphill climb to draw comparisons to the group in 2006 and 2007, but there might be hope they can outperform what was an already aging front five in 2009.
That's if they all stay healthy, though. Tyron Smith looks like a Pro Bowl player to be, but who knows if Jermey Parnell can play. Nate Livings might be an upgrade over Kosier, but is Kevin Kowalski? Do you feel really good about David Arkin?
All the same things apply to the skill positions, as the depth chart is only truly solid at quarterback. Kyle Orton is a good insurance policy, but the wide receiver and tight end spots are filled with unknowns, and after all the injuries at running back last year, the Cowboys will just have to keep their fingers crossed, and Sammy Morris on speed dial.
It's simply the way of the league in the salary cap era - depth will be a worry for almost every team.
If their guys stay healthy, though, few offenses are as promising as the Cowboys'.