7 Bold Predictions for Dallas Cowboys' 2014 Season
The Dallas Cowboys had a disappointing 2013 season that led to them missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive time. With a fresh start just around the corner, people around the team are optimistic for the new year, despite the injury to Sean Lee.
It seems Dallas has simply underachieved the last several years, finishing with an 8-8 record while owning one of the better rosters in the NFL. Specifically, the defense was dreadful last season and the offense couldn’t do enough to overcome its deficiencies.
However, the defense is retooled and new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli should have a much better product on the field. The offense is just as powerful and now has Scott Linehan pushing the buttons.
Let’s take a look at some bold predictions for the Cowboys’ upcoming season.
Dez Bryant Scores 15 Touchdowns
Dez Bryant has proven himself the last two years. He’s totaled 185 receptions, 2,615 yards and 25 touchdowns over his last 32 games.
He was Dallas’ big-play threat and one of the only players it turned to when it was in a desperate situation. Bryant has done just about all the Cowboys have asked of him. He’s been great on the field and has kept relatively quiet off of it.
Although Bryant scoring only two more touchdowns than a year ago may not be extremely bold, saying someone will tie or break a team record is. Bryant has the talent, durability and drive to reach at least 15 touchdowns this season.
Henry Melton Makes Pro Bowl
Henry Melton is only three games removed from his Pro Bowl performance in 2012, when he recorded six sacks and 44 tackles for Chicago. After an injury ended his season early last year, the defensive tackle is ready to get back to playing at an elite level.
The Cowboys defense was dreadful and the front four was largely to blame. Even with Jason Hatcher having his best year as a pro, it wasn’t enough to keep Dallas’ defense from being a laughing stock.
Melton joins the Cowboys and teams up with his former coach in Marinelli. Although players like Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware are no longer with the team, I can see Dallas’ defensive front being improved in 2014.
Anthony Spencer is back in rotation and rookie defensive end Demarcus Lawrence looks promising. Despite Ware’s incredible career, he really didn’t have it last year and the fresh legs on the edge-rushers could prove to be effective.
If guys like Spencer, Lawrence and George Selvie are successful in rushing the passer, Melton won’t face double teams as often. Then as long as he can stay healthy, there’s no reason he can’t find himself back in Hawaii.
Tony Romo Throws Less Than 8 Interceptions
Tony Romo had one of his best seasons last year even though he missed the final game due to injury. The quarterback passed for more than 3,800 yards including 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.
Though the 34-year-old is coming off another back surgery, his expectations are higher than ever. In order for the Cowboys to win, they know they need another awesome campaign from their leader.
The least amount of interceptions Romo has thrown in a season was seven, back in 2010 when he played only six games. Otherwise, in 2009 he threw just nine picks in leading Dallas to an 11-5 record.
If Romo can somehow limit his turnovers again in 2014, Dallas has a real chance to win enough games to earn a playoff spot. He’s clearly capable of doing big things—we’ll see if his body permits him.
DeVonte Holloman Starts 16 Games
South Carolina’s DeVonte Holloman was an exciting surprise for the Cowboys defense late in the 2013 season. Because of several injuries, the rookie was forced to start a couple of games and didn’t perform poorly.
In the nine games he played in, Holloman had 26 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. This year, his role will be significantly increased.
Although the Cowboys would prefer he play on the outside, the injury to Lee could force him back to the middle where he saw some time last year.
No matter where he ends up playing, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of Holloman on the field. The depth the Cowboys have at linebacker is now thinner than ever and the team will need players to step up in expanded roles. I really only see Bruce Carter being ahead of him on the depth chart, so Holloman will be starting an awful lot next season.
DeMarco Murray Wins Rushing Title
DeMarco Murray had his best professional season last year and one of the best for a Dallas running back in several years. The third-year back gained 1,121 yards on only 217 carries. He also added 10 total touchdowns.
This may be the boldest prediction I have, based on how often the Cowboys run the ball. Too often the team was losing early or in tight situations where they were forced to pass the majority of the time. Perhaps this year offensive play-caller Linehan will be more committed to the run.
If Murray gets the touches, there’s no reason he can’t compete for the rushing title. Last year, Murray finished 10th in rushing in spite of having far fewer attempts than anyone else ranked that high. In fact, his 5.2 yards per rush was best among the top rushers, even higher than LeSean McCoy who led the league with more than 1,600 yards.
Murray is a complete back who just needs an opportunity to truly shine. If he gets anywhere close to 300 carries, watch out.
Morris Claiborne Records 5 Interceptions
One of the biggest disappointments Dallas has drafted in recent years is cornerback Morris Claiborne. Not only did the Cowboys take him with the No. 6 pick in 2012, but they also traded a lot to get him.
Thus far, the former LSU Tiger has yet to live up to the hype.
Through his first two seasons, Claiborne has intercepted only two passes. Shutdown cornerbacks have to be able to cover teams’ best receivers and change games by forcing turnovers. Claiborne hasn’t done either.
2014 will be a huge year for the youngster to really prove that he isn’t a bust. If he can create more takeaways, the Dallas defense will be vastly improved from a year ago.
Dallas Wins 10 Games and Division
My final prediction is based around the entire team and how the 2014 season will go. Regardless of the number of critics saying the Cowboys are overrated and will only be a mediocre team, there’s no reason they can’t win a division title.
The season-ending injury to Lee absolutely stings, but in a way it could be beneficial that the team can prepare this summer knowing their defensive captain won’t be along for the ride.
Even with stars like Hatcher and Ware leaving for big contracts, I think the defense will be improved. Let’s face it, they couldn’t be much worse. Marinelli has a decent squad to work with as long as key components like Spencer and Melton remain healthy.
The offense has nothing to worry about and could be better than it was a year ago when it finished fifth in total scoring. With Linehan making the calls, the offense should have a more focused direction and hopefully a more balanced attack.
The NFC East is always difficult to predict because of how often the division winner changes. If the Cowboys can avoid any more major injuries to key components of the roster, they should be in line to compete for the division.