Today we take a look at the Dallas Cowboys as we continue our 32 Team preview. Jason Garrett is walking a very thin line in Dallas. If he can’t get “America’s Team” back on track in 2013, it might be his final year as the Cowboys Head Coach. In 2o12, Garrett coached his team to 6th in Total Offense but his Defense only ranked 19th in the NFL. Stats can be deceiving though, as Cowboy Fans aren’t too happy with how the Offense ran in key moments of games. There is a lot of blame on players for this, but I personally think that it starts with the play-caller himself, Garrett.
Offense: Tony Romo is one of the better Quarterbacks the NFL showcases, and is arguably the best passer the Cowboys have had in the history of their franchise. As I am sure that last statement probably ruffled a few feathers with some readers, his stats do not lie. Romo threw for 4,903 yards, with a 65.5% completion percentage, 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. One of his favorite targets is Wide Receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant had a stellar season last year for any NFL Wide Receiver. He had 1,382 yards receiving, on 92 catches, with 12 touchdowns. If Dez can play all 4 quarters (which is a knock on him), it’ll be scary to think the type of numbers he can put up. He is joined by long time WR in Dallas, Miles Austin, as well as Cole Beasley, Danny Coale, and rookie Terrance Williams. Williams should have a good impact on the field for the Cowboys. He was always a key part of Baylor’s Offense in college and caught 97 passes, for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior year. Dallas needs to improve upon their 31st ranked Rush Offense from 2012. DeMarco Murray is the starting Running Back for the Cowboys, and always shows great promise when he’s on the field, but hasn’t been able to keep away from the injury bug in his past 2 seasons. Trying to have a solid backup plan in case Murray goes down again in 2013, the Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle out of Oklahoma State with the 151st pick in the past Draft. Randle was a vital part of the Offense in college, scoring 40 touchdowns the past 2 years combined. He’s a versatile Running Back who can catch the ball out of the backfield extremely well. The Offensive Line is maybe the most questionable part of the entire offense. The only sure lock might be Tyron Smith starting at Left Tackle. Rookie 1st Round pick, Travis Frederick, has a great chance of starting at Center and will need to create a good rapport with Tony Romo during Training Camp. Doug Free has been a bit of a let down since receiving his big contract in 2o11 and will be competing with Jermey Parnell in camp. The Guard positions will be fought for as well. Nate Livings, Ronald Leary, and Mackenzy Bernadeau will be trying to earn the one of the two spots. I believe Center, Phil Costa, might be a good person to move to Guard, and let him compete for one of the spots. One player who’s not going to have to compete for his job is Romo’s other favorite target, Tight End, Jason Witten. The future NFL Hall of Famer has caught over 800 passes in his 10-year career, and is 52 yards shy of having 9,000 yards receiving. Witten has always been a safety blanket for his Quarterbacks, which is what Gavin Escobar (47th overall pick in the 2013 Draft) hopes to be able to mold himself into. Escobar is a liability in some aspects, such as blocking, but is a big body that will be easy for Romo to find, especially in the Red Zone. Gavin has the potential to be a Gronkowski type of talent for the Cowboys, but has a lot of work to do to get there. If the Dallas Offense is going to succeed in 2013, their Line is going to have to give Romo at least 3 seconds to throw the ball in the pocket, and the play calling is going to have to be better than it has been the few past seasons.
Defense: Dallas had a rough time Defensively last season. They ranked 22nd stopping the Run and 19th against the Pass. Dallas will be switching to a 4/3 styled Defense next season, which means they’ll be moving Star Player, DeMarcus Ware, to Defensive End. It’ll be interesting to see how effective Ware will be throughout the 2013 campaign with his hand in the dirt. The other starting Defensive End will be Anthony Spencer who, in 2012, led the team in tackles and registered 11 sacks. Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher will start at Defensive Tackle, rounding out the Line. Ratliff has always been a nuisance for Offensive Linemen and was hampered by an ankle injury in 2012. The Linebackers begin with Sean Lee. He is the best coverage LB on the team, and one of the best in the NFL, with 7 interceptions in 35 games. Dallas is banking on Lee to give them the same type of performance in 2013 and will be looking to Bruce Carter to have stellar production as well. Carter is going into his 3rd NFL season and is one of the faster Linebackers in the league. Carter can lay some big hits but will have to stay away from the injury bug. Bruce came into the NFL with injury concerns and finished the 2012 season on the disabled list with a season-ending elbow injury. Justin Durant, Outside Linebacker, will be joining them. He never has flashy sack or interception numbers, but Durant has always been a pretty solid tackler in the game and will make an impact on the field immediately for the Cowboys. Dallas’s Secondary is the weakest part of their team and has been questionable for some time now. 10-year Pro Will Allen was brought in via Free Agency to play the Safety position. Allen will be competing against the 80th overall selection in the Draft, J.J. Wilcox, for the starting Free Safety job. Barry Church will be the Cowboys starting Strong Safety if Allen wins the job. If he does not, Allen could take over Church’s spot. All this will hinge on how quick and effective Wilcox can pick up the scheme of the Defense during Training Camp. The Cornerbacks for Dallas are filled with good talent. Brandon Carr was brought in last season with a 5-year $50 million contract. He played fairly well in 2012 tallying 3 interceptions. The other starting Corner for the Cowboys is Morris Claiborne. He had a bit of a difficult rookie season in 2012, but seemed to be getting more accustomed to the NFL by season’s end. If Claiborne can take a step forward in his game for 2013, that tandem will be tough for Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers. They’ll be joined by a rookie from William & Mary, B.W. Webb, who has excellent speed and ball skills. Webb will most likely have the responsibility of accounting for the Slot Receivers and should have a very strong rookie campaign. Dallas has set themselves up to be better on Defense in 2013 and will be led by Monte Kiffin, ex-Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator. Kiffin has always been regarded as one of the best D-Coordinators in the history of the NFL. If anyone can have Offensive Coordinators worrying and give them late nights game planning during the week, it’s him.
End Result: Dallas plays in arguably the hardest division in the NFL. I predict that they’ll finish 7-9 in 2013.