Dallas Cowboys Offseason State of the Union
The Dallas Cowboys begin an exciting training camp in about a month that will shape the team before the 2014 season. Thus far in the offseason there are plenty of questions surrounding the team and its future.
Minicamp has been a little disappointing this year with quarterback Tony Romo not participating completely and the injury to Sean Lee. However, there are a few bright spots to be optimistic about going forward.
Dallas has two new play-callers on both sides of the ball with coordinator jobs switching hands. How much will things change?
Let’s take an overall look at the team as a whole in this offseason state of the union.
Will the Defense Be Improved?
The biggest question this summer has to be concerning the defense. No matter whom on that side of the ball you want to blame, defense was the reason Dallas was unsuccessful in 2013.
It would be hard to convince someone that this year is going to be different after seeing who Dallas has acquired and lost. A lot of big name players have departed and so have a decent amount of tackles and sacks.
Although the names might not be as impressive, the defense could really see a vast improvement. It will absolutely need some players at each level of the defense to intensify their level of play, but the roster is full of capable candidates.
The blossoming talent in DeVonte Holloman, Barry Church and rookie Demarcus Lawrence will be relied on for this D to be stronger. The potential is there, but will the execution on the field be as well?
Which Receiver Will Step Up?
Another aspect to keep an eye on throughout camp is the battle happening among the wide receivers. With Dez Bryant being the only established player, everyone else will be fighting it out to prove his worth.
Just because there’s a competition doesn’t mean that the position is weak. In fact, the Cowboys depth in the receiving corps is one of the strongest on the team.
Behind Bryant are Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, rookie Devin Street and a handful of other youngsters. The most notable undrafted free agent might just be the 6’4” L’Damian Washington, who also has lightning speed.
This is a solid group of athletes, and the majority of them are still relatively young. Williams would have to be the favorite, but if two players can breakout, the offense could be lethal.
Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan
Both the offense and defense will have new vibes to them this season because of changes at each of the coordinator spots. Rod Marinelli has been promoted to defensive coordinator, and Scott Linehan will now be calling the plays for the offense.
The moves here are significant because there were issues regarding both of these titles just a season ago. Many believed Monte Kiffin was to blame for the defenses’ inefficiencies while head coach Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan struggled over who actually called the plays.
At least this year the direction of the team is clear, and each coach can worry about his own job.
Marinelli and Linehan will each feel some pressure to perform based on last year’s results. The defense is expected to be better no matter what. Last season’s performance was awful. The offense was great so Linehan will have to be on par to not disappoint.
Will the Running Backs Be More Involved?
Some of coach Linehan’s most important weapons will be running backs DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar. Each is an extraordinary talent who can attack defenses on the ground and through the air.
Murray rushed for more than 1,100 yards and totaled 10 touchdowns. Although Dunbar’s 2013 stats don’t reflect it, he showcased his talents against Oakland in his final game of the year before suffering an injury.
The Cowboys haven’t had a really consistent ground game for some years, and it may just have one of the better backfield combinations in the league now.
The question is how will Linehan utilize these guys to get their maximum potential? His offense in Detroit last year rushed the ball 109 more times than Dallas.
We’ll see if that margin is different with Linehan now calling the shots.
Which Defender Will Step Up?
We’ve already discussed which potential receivers might have a surprising season, but more importantly, which defensive player will do the same?
If you’ve followed the Cowboys for any time recently, then you know their defense was an embarrassment last year, and that the unit’s best player in Lee is gone until 2015. These aren’t good signs for what’s to come.
However, along with changing the leader of the D within the coaching staff, new defensive captains must emerge on the field. We’re just not sure who that may be quite yet.
It’s hard to put the onus on linemen returning from injury like Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer, but in order for Dallas to be anything up front, those two need to be at least average.
At linebacker, Bruce Carter and Holloman should be the ones to watch. Both showed legitimate signs that they could perform at an elite level. Dallas just needs one to do so consistently.
The secondary is always interesting too. If safety J.J. Wilcox and cornerback Morris Claiborne can improve upon their 2013 campaigns and live up to expectations, the defense could actually hold its own.
Strengths and Weaknesses
This might be stating information that’s obvious, but for the Cowboys things are pretty simple: The offense is going to carry this football team in 2014.
Without a doubt, the offense is the biggest strength of the team. What makes the offense so powerful this season is its well roundedness and the fact that there is not a weakness.
The offensive line is so much better than it was in 2012 when it was considered by many to be the downfall of the team. Between Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, this line should be solid for years.
The offense also has an incredible amount of weapons. The receivers, backs and tight ends on this roster are a special group of guys that Romo should be thankful for. If Romo can stay on the field for 16 games, this unit will score with the best of them.
On the other side of the ball, I’d say the majority of the defense falls under the weakness portion.
Excluding the secondary, which could really be a pleasant surprise, the front seven of the defense is a big liability. There are linebackers and players along the line that are quality, but it’s hard to predict how they will bounce back.
Spencer and Melton return from injury, while Carter and Justin Durant return from disappointing years. And George Selvie had a career year in 2013 so will he be able to duplicate that again?
Who’s going to play middle linebacker?
With so many question marks, it’s clear as to why the defense will be this team’s Achilles’ heel once again. The good news is they might just have to be slightly better than the 2013 team in order to win another game or two and make the playoffs.