Transitioning from 2014 to 2015
The Dallas Cowboys stormed onto the scene after being mediocre in previous seasons. Getting a dozen wins, including one against the Detroit Lions in the Wildcard Round of the postseason, put the stamp on a successful 2014 campaign. America’s Team does face an uphill battle, not only with a challenging slate of games this time around, but with some interesting situations in their camp.
Despite the diminishing value of running backs, you still need a good player in the backfield to make plays and endure the pounding. That is what DeMarco Murray was finally able to do, after a few years of offseason focus to improve the offensive line. As good as they were, there is more film on them now, and they were relatively healthy, which is rare to see up front. They performed near an elite level, but Murray had a lot to do with that as the leading rusher, as the team rode the ground game. Simply plugging in another running, especially one like Darren McFadden, doesn’t quite fill the void.
It was great to get reminded with some memories from the 90’s Cowboys, and maybe they can prove me wrong here. A quarterback’s age shouldn’t be as much of a concern when it comes to talent, but a 35-year-old with back issues definitely puts a shorter leash on their window of opportunity. Tony Romo’s passing opportunities decreased dramatically, and although he was efficient, keep in mind that Dez Bryant might not be around in a year and that Jason Witten is nearing the end of his career. Will emotions continue to flare between the offensive stars, especially with Bryant’s lingering contract talk?
Oh, and that simplified defense that over-exceeded expectations after a historically bad season in 2013, I do expect them to get exposed. That all points to the rushing attack taking a step back, forcing Romo to throw more, prone to more hits and turnovers, and less time of possession which will put the D on field longer too. The lack of playmakers on that side of the ball is worrisome, considering that they lost a few of their standouts for salary cap reasons. I won’t be foolish enough to count on their unreliable linebackers and sophomore defensive end, Demarcus Lawrence, as being leaders of last year’s 19th ranked unit.
Dallas, in the Jason Garret era, will always loom around 8-8 with the potential to win a couple more games. The Cowboys will likely be in the picture to defend their NFC East title in December, I just don’t buy them winning out in the final month again.
They open the season against a pair of division rivals, the Giants and Eagles, and then a pair of the NFC South’s best quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. Then they play the champion Patriots, hit the bye week, and they better come out swinging because they play the Giants, Seahawks, and Eagles. They may catch a break against some so-so teams from last season around Thanksgiving, when they face the Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Panthers. They kick off December against the rival Redskins, the same team the end the season against too. In between that time they will collide with the Packers, Jets, and Bills.
I would like them to add a defensive playmaker and another wide receiver in the draft. You could very well recall Terrance Williams making big plays, but really that was here and there, because there were weeks where you didn’t even hear his name. They will likely bring another running back on board, probably to start over their current options, but the majority of their focus should be on the defensive side of the ball. Tight End Gavin Escobar might be needed more this season for them to stay afloat while Witten’s impact in the passing game continues to gradually decline like last season. Even taking a step back,it will be more of a fault towards the front office for their salary cap situation, as opposed to Coach Garrett, who could honestly use more talent.