With the Dallas Cowboys kicking off the 2013 preseason this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins in the Hall-of-Fame Game, it’s worth taking a final look at the must-dos behind this year’s team making the playoffs before anything we see sways our opinions.
You could look at the 2012 and 2013 rosters and think little has changed. But the differences between the two squads are significant, if not obvious. Bill Callahan calling the plays suggests a stronger ground game — an area that was augmented in the draft. Monte Kiffin instituting the Tampa 2 to feature DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer as true defensive ends and to cater to the physicality of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, gives the defense a new, hard-nosed identity to build upon. And, of course, the most important player is now taking the field under a fresh contract with a tremendous amount of guaranteed money.
This year is legitimately different. But you can’t overstate how crucial divisional success is to a postseason run, or how a number of smaller factors can still ruin another season in Dallas. With that in mind, here are four big-picture, overarching essentials to the Cowboys translating their talent and new scheme into a playoff berth.