After the losses of future Hall of Fame defensive end DeMarcus Ware and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher in free agency, many are picking the Dallas Cowboys to be at the cellar of the NFC East in 2014.
I couldn’t blame them. Coming off the worst statistical defensive season in team history, losses like Ware and Hatcher will have many Cowboy fans in panic mode. The Dallas defense gave up a league worse 415 yards per game in 2013. The Cowboys allowed four quarterbacks to pass for more than 400 yards which was an NFL record. Long story short the Cowboys defense was simply atrocious in 2013.
The term “rebuilding” has come up often when discussing the Cowboys lately. Few believe the Cowboys who have recorded three consecutive 8-8 seasons, will be able to compete in a division where every other team improved in free agency. The Giants have improved their defense with the notable signing of Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Redskins added explosive wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles picked up the shifty running back Darren Sproles.
Although things seem bleak for the Cowboys right now in April, I’m not quite ready to buy into the rebuilding talk. The Cowboys have come one game away from winning the NFC East the past three seasons granted they’ve lost all three, but they’ve been in the hunt. Last year Dallas was undefeated in the division heading into their winner take all matchup with the Eagles. The Cowboys were forced to play the NFC East championship game shorthanded when quarterback and team leader Tony Romo went down with a season ending back injury. I believe the Cowboys would have won that game if Romo was healthy.
Now focus is on the 2014 season, and I truly believe the Cowboys are still a candidate to win the division. They still have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. Romo has been a consistent quarterback his entire career and if he successfully returns from his back surgery he will still be a top quarterback.
The offensive line improved greatly last season with left tackle Tyron Smith earning his first pro bowl nod and center Travis Frederick proving he was worth taking a risk on in the first round last year.
Superstar wide receiver Dez Bryant is coming off his first Pro Bowl season as well. Bryant finished with 13 receiving touchdowns which was tied for third last season. Running back DeMarco Murray also had a career year in 2013 where he recorded his first 1,000-yard season. Perennial Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten is showing no signs of letting up, and look for second year wide receiver Terrance Williams to make an even bigger impact than his successful rookie season.
The questions that I have about the Cowboys is the defense and coaching. Head coach Jason Garrett is on the hot seat this season and the offensive play calling was questioned heavily last season. Scott Linehan will now call the shots on offense in 2014. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will try to succeed where Monte Kiffin couldn’t last year. The signing of defensive tackle Henry Melton will help. Melton reached a Pro Bowl under Marinelli in Chicago before tearing his ACL last year. The Cowboys need to make a huge splash in the upcoming NFL Draft preferably on defense. If they can do that I have no doubt the Cowboys will be in fight for the NFC East late in the 2014 season.
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