OXNARD, Calif. -- These are not your father’s Dallas Cowboys.
And we’re not talking about the glory years set forth by Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and so many others and added to by Jimmy Johnson and the Triplets. We’re talking these aren’t your 2010 Cowboys, who preceded this three-year run of nothing but 8-8.
Of the 90 players on the current roster, only eight remain from when Jason Garrett took over from Wade Phillips: Tony Romo, Jason Witten, L.P. LaDouceur, Anthony Spencer, Doug Free, Orlando Scandrick, Dez Bryant and Barry Church.
But dig deeper. The Cowboys have undergone a youth movement. Forty-six of the 90 players are in their first camp with the Cowboys. Only nine players are 30 or older. Forty-two were born in 1990 or later.
More than once in camp Garrett has said the Cowboys have gone from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest over the past few years.
There can be good from coaching youth: they don’t have poor habits, they don’t suffer as many injuries. There can be bad from coaching youth: they don’t have the experience, and most of the time the knowhow, required to win at a high level.
“You have to be mindful of their experience and what they can handle, and you do that all the time with individual players, and the more individual players who are younger that you have, you might have to do that from a system basis as well,” Garrett said. “We’re mindful of that. It’s not the same playbook every year -- ‘Hey, here we go. This is what we’ve been doing forever. I’m handing down the 10 Commandments, the tablets from Mt. Sinai -- that’s not how it works. We have to understand our philosophy, our system of football and offense, defense and the kicking game. We also have to understand the 90 guys we have on our roster and what works best for them and how we can put them in the best light to be the best unit we can be.”
Though the Cowboys will not be offering remedial lessons on their playbook, the defensive scheme will be cut back in order for them to play fast. Jeremy Mincey could be the oldest defensive starter at 31. The next oldest starter would be cornerback Brandon Carr, 28.
“We had a lot of guys on our football team the last couple of years who didn’t practice during the week getting ready for a game, because they were dealing with injuries and they happened to be older guys,” Garrett said. “So it’s always been a younger man’s league. We’ve made that transition and we’re going to give some younger guys a chance to compete.”
In previous camps Garrett would be mindful of the legs of older players like DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin, giving them “vet” days. Now the “vet” days will be fewer and might be far between.
DeMarcus Lawrence was 11 when Tony Romo and Jason Witten were rookies.
For Witten, the influx of youth could help in 2014 because most of the younger faces have not experienced the disappointment of not only the past three seasons, but the past six or seven.
“The urgency that you talk about and you want to play with, you’ve got to show that,” Witten said. “That’s what excites me every day is the leadership of this team. Our best players work the hardest and kind of set the tempo and the stage of what we want to be about. A lot of young players and obviously talented, and they’re going to help our football team (but) we’ve got to show them the way. And I think they’ll be huge assets for us.”