Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, and Morris Claiborne- all high draft picks from the past few years, all big question marks for the Cowboys.
Will Dez Bryant stay out of trouble? Will Murray and Carter be healthy enough to reach their potential? Will Claiborne blossom into a shutdown corner?
Signs point to yes, but the ultimate question still remains: when will the Cowboys be good enough?
It's not just the high draft picks, its the team. The mindset, organizational leadership, and sporadic play has left this team 8-8 the past two seasons. The Cowboys have a history of winning and this team, with this much talent, earning this amount of money, has failed. No way around it: the cowboys have been among the most disappointing franchises in professional sports over the past several years.
2007- 13-3- divisional round exit
2008- started 5-0- missed the playoffs
2009- the good year- divisional round exit
2010- 6-10- a texas sized collapse
2011- 8-8- so close
2012- 8-8- so close part 2.
The cowboys rely on athletic ability to win games in a sport with the most athletically gifted people on earth. It is ironic, paradoxical, and most importantly, unsuccessful.
Here's the harsh truth: the Cowboys are soft. Jason Garret is a 12 year old playing Madden. Tony Romo is a whiner. The defense relies on the offense to make plays, while the offense can't get plays off in time because no one wants to listen. The Cowboys are finesse but have no backbone to support it.
So, when the Cowboys entered the 2013 NFL draft, they had one goal in mind: toughness. Team leaders like DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten are good players, but lack toughness. Tony Romo is the toughest player around Dallas (see 2011 San Francisco game) but is given the goat because the rest of the team can't come through when it matters most. They are injured, confused, and lack the most important quality for a football player: toughness.
There are two sides to toughness. There is the physical side and the mental side. The Cowboys needed a player who wasn't scared to hit you (legally, on the field) in the mouth. Someone who was going to sacrifice his body so that the boys can get a first down. Someone who was just big and nasty. The Cowboys also need a player who is mentally tough. Someone who wasn't going to engage in trash talk but not friendly, either. Someone who wasn't going to let the mantra of "America's Team" get in his way. Someone who was going to show his worth on the field.
Someone like Travis Frederick.
Frederick was the highest rated center in my book. He is 6'3, 312 pounds and plays like it too. He is not fast but he is strong as a hog. He can take on any nose tackle in the league. He was also an academic all american at Wisconsin, and was a team leader in a year where Wisconsin really needed it. In one word, he is solid.
Frederick is the prototype offensive lineman from Wisconsin. He doesn't talk much. He plays between the whistles, and rarely after. He is clean, cool, and ready to pancake you.
He is tough.
The Cowboys have spent too much time with sexy players. Frederick, both in his style and look, is the exact opposite of sexy (no offense.) He is a blue collar, lunch pale kind of player. And, looking around Valley Ranch, he may be the only one.
The main question for Frederick will be how he fits with this team. The short answer is that he won't and that's the point. The Cowboys need to take a break from guys who have "potential." I am so sick of hearing about players who are great athletes. The Cowboys don't need great athletes, they need great football players.
Now, maybe Frederick was a reach. Maybe that will inspire him, put a chip on his shoulder, motivate him to work harder. Or maybe he will do what he always does: play solid football. It sounds boring, but the Cowboys need boring. Frederick won't be the star of any commercial, or the player of the game, or the next candidate for Dancing with the Stars. But, you know what he will do?
He will keep Romo on his feet a second longer so that he doesn't throw that interception against Washington.
He will open the hole for DeMarco Murray so that he doesn't have to shake and bake which makes him roll an ankle.
He will give Dez Bryant time to develop his route so that he get's his whole body in the back of the end zone against the Giants.
But, most importantly, he will play tough football.
So, call Travis Frederick a reach. Maybe the Cowboys should have drafted Sharrif Floyd (the biggest question mark this year), or Kyle Long (great athlete, football player?), or Matt Elam (doesn't fit into the Tampa 2.) Jerry Jones has made some awful picks and this may be one of those examples.
But, here's what I do know. Frederick may be a reach, and slow, and a benefactor of playing with a great offensive line. But what's he's not is soft- and that's all that matters.