Some of the players have already been hanging around Valley Ranch over the last few weeks getting in workouts to begin preparation for the 2010 season. The rest of the team is expected on Monday for the official start of voluntary workouts. It doesn't appear there is going to be much change in the core group of players on the roster so the focus will be on improving the existing roster. Here is what I am hoping is addressed during the workouts.
1. Chemistry between Tony Romo and Roy Williams. I know both players reported early last offseason to try to get on the same page. And early last preseason things looked headed in the right direction. But for whatever reason it appeared that these two could never really click during the regular season. These two need to get comfortable to the point that Tony knows what Roy is going to do before Roy even makes a move. That kind of chemistry only comes with endless repetition.
2. Better footwork from the offensive tackles. The biggest flaw in the team last year was exposed in the playoff games with the Vikings. The tackles were slow off the ball. Part of that was due to the crowd and part of it was Marc Columbo playing injured. But the bottom line is that the tackles have to be quicker off the ball to prevent the speed rushers from putting pressure on Romo from the outside. Free and Columbo are still young enough that they can improve their technique. Flozell needs to try to maintain whatever quickness he has left in the tank at this point in his career.
3. Field goal kicking. Obviously field goals were horrible for the Cowboys last year. David Beuhler and Conner Hughes are supposed to be fighting for the job of place kicker. With the new kicking coach, Chris Boniol, on the staff there is no reason these guys shouldn't be working every day on their technique. I would love to see Beuhler show up at training camp with new accuracy and win the job.
4. Marion Barber needs to train to get back in Marion the Barbarian mode. Barber has gone into the last two offseasons expected to be the starting back and carry most of the load for the running game. With Felix Jones emerging as the #1 back at the end of the 2009 season it would appear that Barber will return to his short yardage and closer role. The training required to be the starter is different than what Barber should be doing to carry the ball in short yardage situations. Barber needs to regain his power burst that he had previously and seems to have lost over the last two seasons.
5. Last years rookies need to get ready for a much bigger role next season. Jason Williams, Brandon Williams, Mike Hamlin and several others are going to be expected to be big contributors this season. A few of the rookies got a little playing time last season but most of them were injured or inactive most of the season. They all need to prepare to get on the field this season. Jason Williams has incredible athletic talent and he should be ready for a bigger role in the defense this year. And Mike Hamlin is expected to take over one of the starting safety jobs some day. Robert Brewster has a chance to develop into a viable backup at tackle this offseason.
Offseason workouts don't get the media attention that free agency and the draft receive but their importance can't be underestimated. No cameras, no microphones, just hard work. The workouts give the players an opportunity to improve their skills but they also build camaraderie among the team. The team leaders all attend the workouts religiously and their example brings in nearly all of the players during the offseason. Hopefully every player on the roster can make improvements to their game.