Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (8): Tony Romo had a breakthrough season in 2009, throwing for a career-high 4,483 yards and earning his first playoff win as a starting quarterback.

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Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Cowboys:

1. The Cowboys are dangerously thin along the offensive line: And I'm not talking about weight-loss issues. They will start the season with Montrae Holland at left guard and RT Marc Colombo will just be returning from a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. Alex Barron is supposed to be the swing tackle, but he has been banged up throughout camp and hasn't been effective on the rare occasions he has been involved in team drills. If the starters can't stay healthy, there's not enough depth to hold this thing together.

2.What a risky venture to enter the season with an inexperienced place-kicker: David Buehler has a powerful leg, but he can be wildly unpredictable. He's an excellent weapon as a kickoff specialist, but handing him the place-kicking role could come back to haunt the Cowboys. The Carneys and Stovers of the world could be claimed early in the season, which could put the Cowboys in more peril. Buehler is an engaging personality who doesn't back down from any challenge. But there was not a good reason to simply hand him the job.

3. If the Cowboys flame out, it won't be left tackle Doug Free's fault: Some of my media brethren have done a lot of second-guessing on Flozell Adams' release, but I think Free is ready for the challenge. You think Jerry Jones would make this move if offensive line coach Hudson Houck told him Free wasn't ready? I don't think so. Free has excellent athleticism for a 6-foot-6 man and he'll start in this league for the next eight or nine years. I've really enjoyed watching him in space on some of those slip screens. Excellent balance and footwork.

4. Dez Bryant will bust out in the second half of the season: If you want a good comparison for the Cowboys' popular rookie wide receiver, look at Hakeem Nicks' 2009 season for the New York Giants. It will take Bryant a week or four to establish chemistry with Tony Romo, but he'll be in the starting lineup by midseason as long as he holds up physically. Bryant's a tough matchup for any cornerback or safety and his ability to use his body to shield defenders will set him apart. Miles Austin will keep him away from double-teams early in his career, and I think he'll take advantage of those opportunities. His hands are scary good. I sat there and watched him one day during training camp snag fastballs with one hand like he was wearing a first-baseman's mitt.

5. The Cowboys will be much better in the red zone this season: Romo told a couple of us during training camp that Jason Garrett has added several things that will not be unveiled in the preseason. Hopefully those things involve a steady dose of Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. The tight ends were not targeted enough in the red zone last season, but I don't think Garrett will let that happen again. And it's OK to pound the ball into the end zone on the ground. Maybe the 2007 version of Marion Barber will make an appearance near the goal line.

-- Matt Mosley, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five


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