Just Where This Team Stands In June

title of defensive coordinator. But with no go-between, or as James said, "He's more attentive, more hands-on," the players will hear it now right from the horse's mouth, with nothing potentially lost in translation.

Unresolved Issues

Out Wide: Looks good. Seems good. But who really knows on this one at wide receiver. Roy Williams continues to flash on offense, in a much better spot with quarterback Tony Romo than he was at any time last year. But at times he seems to fade into the background, too, which is OK as long as Patrick Crayton continues to be the solid No. 2 he was in 2007 and appears to have been in these off-season workouts. That's also OK since Jason Witten still is Jason Witten and since Felix Jones will have a bigger role in this offense by popular demand. While there are huge hopes for Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, Isaiah Stanback and Travis Wilson, all four missed at least half of the OTA's and all six mini-camp workouts with injuries or rehabbing surgeries. So again, who knows? At least two of those guys really need to step up this year, and we won't know anything about any of that until at least the preseason, if not the regular season. We'll see.

Pied Piper: Whose team is this? Tony Romo's? Bradie James'? DeMarcus Ware's? Jason Witten's? Tashard Choice's (and not as silly as that might sound)? With Greg Ellis gone and the specter of What's His Name's overbearing personality no longer in the way to create locker room factions, someone on this team must ascend into a leadership role. That's not easy. Not only do you need someone with a magnetic personality and Pro Bowl production, but also the want-to. Being a team leader takes an uncommon amount of time and emotional investment. You are never off, never can have a bad day, never unavailable. And . . . you have to produce on the field. These types are not appointed. They emerge naturally, and this team needs a leader to emerge.

Back-To-Back-To-Back: We still have no definitive answer to how the Cowboys will employ their running back rotation. Will it be the Marion Barber show again, with Felix Jones and Choice simply bit players? Will Barber return to the role which earned him Pro Bowl honors in 2007, the renowned closer and short-yardage and third-down back with Jones and Choice sharing the carry-to-carry duties? No one has said for sure. But there have been clues. Jones will be all over this offense since the Cowboys realize they are desperate to utilize his speed. Phillips continues to say how Barber is Barber, but must be fresh to bang away at the end. And Choice proved last year his talents should not be wasted, that the team needs his ability to open holes with his running ability. All still an issue, but for a change, a nice issue to have.

T-E-A-M: They are talking a good game. They seem to have good intentions. But who really knows if these guys will stick together, unlike last year when losses began carving earthquake-like fractures in this team. Too many fingers pointed, too little responsibility taken. A "not-me" approach doesn't work in team sports. Call it corny, but it's true. Maybe it will help that the root of the "me-first" mentality has been uprooted. But again, we'll see what happens after the first loss.

Burying The Past: No longer are the Cowboys Everybody's Favorites. No longer are they burdened with Super Bowl Or Bust. After getting knocked off their thrones last year, they are perceived to be just another team. That's good maybe, because last year they were haunted by their past, having gone an NFC best 13-3 in 2007 and then, even though they did not win a playoff game, were expected to do even better in '08. They ultimately did not handle what needed to be one game, one series, one play at a time thinking. Well this time, while remembering Philadelphia 44, Cowboys 6 in the season-ending win-or-else game should be motivating, they can't let the past produce suffocating pressure. New season. New team. New circumstances. Sometimes selective amnesia is healthy. So does winning.

But again, as with all of this stuff, we'll see.

So as Crayton said before he walked off on Wednesday, "See you in July."

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