NFL Team Report - Dallas Cowboys - INSIDE SLANT


Owner Jerry Jones opened Dallas Cowboys training camp last year proclaiming it was not an Armageddon year for coach Jason Garrett.

And while Garrett followed with his third straight 8-8 season, giving him a 29-27 overall slate to extend a four-year streak with a playoff game, Jones was singing a similar tune about his coach to open the 2014 camp, just different wording.

"This is not a make-or-break year," Jones said. "I'm not going to use that word you just used because I'm superstitious. No, this is not. In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make-or-break situation. We both know where our expectations are and when it's looking good and when it's looking dire. And I don't expect it to be the latter."

Jones said the last 8-8 season was not like the first and he sees Garrett as a coach on the come because of the experience he has gained the past three years, his learning curve of a young coach and the continuity of being in his eighth season with the Cowboys.

Even though Garrett is in the final year of his contract, Jones said the final record won't be the only factor in whether he returns in 2015.

"It's just not necessarily the factor," Jones said. "The things that make the record will be the primary consideration, but not the record. That's been the case. Principally it was other things that I'm proud of that creates quite an asset for us. In my mind he is more of an asset after this last 8-8 season than he was before the first 8-8 season we had three years ago."

"I know where he is," Jones said. "I know how he has evolved, if you will, and by the way I think all of us are either going or coming as far as that era is concerned. So I think, I know from where he's been in the past, so I'm excited."

As the son of a former coach and long-time scout and as a long-time player, Garrett knows not to take anything for granted.

He said his focus is on making the Cowboys the best team they can be in 2014 and not his future.

"We have so much to focus on as coaches to try to build this football team the way we want to build it so that's where our focus is," Garrett said. "That's been my focus since Day 1."

Garrett does believe the Cowboys can be better in 2014 because of a dynamic offense behind quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and running back DeMarco Murray along with overhaul of a defense with younger and healthier players. Gone are defensive end DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. The Cowboys will be led up front on defense by former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton and rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence at end.

"We're not going to have those marquee players we've had in the past. Some of the pickups in free agency are talented guys. We're better on the back end, in the secondary," Garrett said. "It's a combination of young guys, guys champing at the bit and coaching."

Jones believes the Cowboys made moves to compete for a playoff spot in 2014.

And if they don't compete right now?

"Well, I'm not anticipating doing that," Jones deadpanned. "You say, can you stomach it? I don't want to have to stomach it. Let's put it like that. You're talking about something that I don't want to spend a lot of time on, and that's what happens after the season's over on any basis."

CAMP CALENDAR

July 23: Cowboys reported to camp.

July 24: First practice.