By John Helsley
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We’re already 1/3 of the way through the football season.
Doesn’t seem possible, probably because so much of the meat in the schedule remains ahead for the Cowboys, Saturday’s game against Kansas not included.
Still, fresh from an off week (and entering another?), four games provide a good checkpoint to consider the things we’ve learned so far in 2011.
A list of five:
1. Mental Toughness. This team has already endured a weather-delayed game played in the wee-morning hours – the bars beat the coaches at last call! – and a 20-3 deficit at one of the nation’s toughest venues to start 4-0. We saw the makings of a mentally tough team a year ago, when the Cowboys rolled unbeaten on the road. We’ve now seen more, which should suggest that this team can handle anything that stands in their way from this point on, including more rugged road tests.
2. Loaded Gun.
The Cowboys roll with the best in the weapons race, with an offense expanding well beyond Weeden2Blackmon. Sure, Brandon Weeden-to-Justin Blackmon remains a premium production, but these Pokes can pick teams apart in a variety of ways, whether charging with running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, or spreading the wealth through the air with a deep wideout rotation that includes Josh Cooper, Tracy Moore, Hubert Anyiam, Michael Harrison and more.
3. Inconsistent Defense. Looking ahead, the major issue is a familiar issue: is the defense good enough? And by good enough, we mean championship good enough. The Cowboys define the glass half-full/half-empty proposition, looking stout on defense at times, even extended periods of time, and appearing porous at others. There are reasons to believe, if the defensive tackles and the young linebackers continue to grow. The secondary remains the strength of the team, which is vital in a league where the elite teams all fling the ball with frequency.
4. Still The One. Panic nearly set in when Dana Holgorsen left for West Virginia, with worriers fretting about a potential shift in offensive philosophy. But new coordinator Todd Monken has kept the offense rolling, ranking No. 2 nationally in passing offense and No. 3 in total offense. Yes, Monken has tweaked the attack to include more power run formations, but with this stout offensive line and these running backs, it’s a fit, and only in bits.
5. More To Come? The Cowboys haven’t put together a complete performance yet, where you felt like they were fully focused and on task for four quarters. Some of that can be attributed to blowouts. Not A&M, where OSU went Jekyll-and-Hyde in the two halves. On the bright side, there’s a sense that we still haven’t seen how good this Cowboys team can be, that they still haven’t peaked, which you don’t want in September. But against the competition coming – at Texas, at Missouri, at Texas Tech, home against OU – anything less than a full effort can get you beat.