Offseason progress reports: Dallas Cowboys

It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Dallas Cowboys.

Free agents lost: OT Joe Berger(notes), LB Kevin Burnett(notes), DE Chris Canty(notes), TE Tony Curtis(notes), DT Tank Johnson(notes), WR Terrell Owens(notes), OT Cory Proctor, LB Zach Thomas(notes), S Roy Williams

Free agents gained: LB Keith Brooking(notes), DT Igor Olshansky(notes), OT Cory Proctor, DB Gerald Sensabaugh(notes)

Lost via trade: CB Anthony Henry(notes)

Acquired via trade: QB Jon Kitna(notes)

Drafted: OLB Jason Williams(notes), OT Robert Brewster(notes), QB Stephen McGee(notes), DE Victor Butler(notes), DE Brandon Williams, CB DeAngelo Smith(notes), FS Michael Hamlin(notes), K David Buehler(notes), SS Stephen Hodge(notes), TE John Phillips(notes), CB Mike Mickens(notes), WR Manuel Johnson(notes)

If the Cowboys are going to have team t-shirts printed up with a slogan for the 2009 season, I'd like to suggest, "FORGET YOUR POPCORN." The era of popcorn needs to be over. It's time to usher in an era of just being a football team.

Now, I'm not blaming Terrell Owens for everything that's gone wrong with the Cowboys in recent years. It's not Owens. It's the culture that Jerry Jones allows; even encourages. It's always something. Terrell Owens said this, Pacman Jones said that, Tony Romo's(notes) girlfriend did this, blah blah blah. Try this for a second: Close your eyes and think about headlines made by the Cowboys over the past couple of years. Now, how many of those actually have to do with football?

Probably not many. And that's not good. A team can get away with some tomfoolery here and there, but tomfoolery cannot be an identity. Recently, it seems like the Cowboys have been more of a general entertainment entity than an actual football team.

That's got to stop, and I think the Cowboys have done a good job of clamping down thus far in the offseason. Big splashes? Only by subtraction. They couldn't even make headlines in the draft, because they didn't pick until the third round. Compared to the norm, we've heard nary a word about the Cowboys in the past couple of months (excepting, of course, the tragic practice facility collapse).

There are real questions about the football team that have to be answered. Will the passing game be as effective with Roy Williams stepping into the number one role, can Igor Olshansky be a force on the defensive line, will the departure of the other Roy Williams improve the secondary ... these things have to be addressed, and they will be in good time.

For now, though, I think the lack of headlines is progress enough. They've signed low-key guys who can contribute, I liked their volume approach to drafting, and they've done it all without being flashy or bringing distractions upon themselves.

Progress: Personnel-wise, the improvements are subtle, but should be effective. More than anything else, I think everyone in the organization can benefit from a big deep breath and a sense of calm.

Plus 1 game. 9-7 last year, 10-6 this year.

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