2014 DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
July 10, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
THE 2014 DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: JASON GARRETT, 29 – 27 AT DALLAS
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: BILL CALLAHAN
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: ROD MARINELLI
PASSING GAME COORDINATOR: SCOTT LINEHAN
POINTS PER GAME: 27.4
TOTAL OFFENSE: 341.1
DEFENSE POINTS PER GAME: 27.0
TOTAL DEFENSE: 415.3
TURNOVER MARGIN: +7
The Dallas Cowboys have been nothing more than a mediocre team since 1996. To prove that point, their record is 136 – 136. That spells average! The 2013 version of the Dallas defense was bad ranking 32nd overall in the NFL, 27th rushing, 30th passing and 26th in points allowed. Making things even worse in the off-season the Cowboys lost two of their best players on defense. Owner Jerry Jones decided he has seen enough and hired another new defensive coordinator, the third in three years.
Dallas' offense starts with quarterback Tony Romo. Romo hasn’t got much help from his running game or the defense. He is coming off back surgery but all indications are he will be ready for training camp. Romo threw for 3828 yards and 31 touchdowns and will be playing for his third offensive coordinator in three seasons. Dallas signed Brandon Weeden in the off-season after spending his first two years in Cleveland. Dallas is running game will belong to DeMarco Murray who rushed for 1121 yards and nine touchdowns. Murray also averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Joining Murray in the Dallas backfield will be Lance Dunbar and rookie Joseph Randle. Dunbar played in only nine games last season because of injuries and Randle saw his development delayed because of surgery on his thumb.
Dallas will continue to count on tight end Jason Witten who continues to be one of the top players at his position. Gavin Escobar was selected by Dallas in the second round in 2013 but has not developed the way the coaching staff had hoped. The Cowboys will also count on James Hanna as a reserve tight end.
Receiver Dez Bryant had a huge year after catching 93 passes for 1233 yards and 13 scores. Bryant may have better numbers this season since he enters a contract year. Dallas selected Terrence Williams in the third round last year and the coaching staff is hoping he will be a nice complement opposite Bryant. Williams had a good season after catching 44 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns enabling the Cowboys to release receiver Miles Austin. Other receivers looking for playing time will be Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and fifth-round pick Devin Street.
Dallas’s line was much better in 2013 led by left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith became the first Pro Bowl lineman for the Cowboys since 2010. Travis Frederick has become one of the best centers in the NFL, left guard Ron Leary had a solid first year as a starter and right tackle Doug Free improved his game immensely over 2012. To build more depth Dallas drafted Zach Martin out of Notre Dame with their first overall selection in this year’s draft. Martin is expected to start his career at right guard but will eventually move to right tackle replacing Doug Free.
With the Cowboys defense as bad as it was last year, they decided to release defensive end DeMarcus Ware, the team’s all-time sack leader. Dallas also lost defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who led the team with 11 sacks, who left for Washington as a free agent. Defensive end Anthony Spencer signed a new deal but he underwent microfracture knee surgery and may struggle to regain his old form. George Selvie returns at left end after having seven sacks in 2013. Demarcus Lawrence and free-agent Jeremy Mincey will compete for the other end spot. Defensive tackle Henry Melton was signed as a free agent from Chicago where he had 15 ½ sacks in four years. Nick Hayden will also start at defensive tackle after having 44 tackles and 16 quarterback pressures last season. Dallas is also expecting defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford to bounce back after tearing his Achilles last season.
Though linebacking corps will be manned by middle linebacker Sean Lee, if he can stay healthy. Lee missed five games last year because of injuries to his neck and hamstring. Kyle Wilber has found a new home at strong side linebacker after starting last year at defensive end. The weak side linebacker position belongs to Bruce Carter but Dallas considered him a disappointment last season. The Cowboys secondary was cut to pieces last year giving up 286.8 yards per game which ranked 30th in the NFL. Dallas will count on cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Sterling Moore, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. Car struggled last year and Claiborne lost his job to Scandrick last season. Claiborne has a hard time staying healthy missing seven games in the last two seasons and hasn’t shown the ability to be a playmaker. The safety positions will belong to JJ Wilcox, Matt Johnson, Barry Church and Jeff Heath.
Dallas believes they have upgraded their defense enough to make them a playoff contender this season, but we don’t see it. The Cowboys finished 8 – 8 last season missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Head coach Jason Garrett has to be feeling the pressure to keep his job if Dallas doesn’t make a strong run this season.
2014 DRAFT REVIEW:
This guy will step right in and start at one of the guard spots this year, presumably the right side for Mackenzy Bernadeau, who probably handles the backup roles at both guard and center. There has been talk of Martin returning to his collegiate position of tackle at some point, maybe in Year 2 when he gets stronger and more established in the league. But, he currently has the size and makeup of a guard and that’s probably where he’ll end up for most of his career.
Unlike most draft classes, there could be more eyes on the second-round pick than the first. What the Cowboys had to give up (a third-round pick) to move up 13 spots in the second and take Lawrence will put some added pressure on him. The fact that he’s replacing DeMarcus Ware’s position and has the same name won’t help matters either. But the Cowboys don’t have a lot of options for a right end and while he might start out on the second team behind the likes of Anthony Spencer or Jeremy Mincey, if Lawrence meets expectations, he’ll take over sooner rather than later.
Right away, the Cowboys have a plan to play Hitchens as the backup to Sean Lee at middle linebacker. For that specific spot, it could be a big role for Hitchens, considering Lee’s injury history and the fact he’s coming off a neck injury that sidelined him for the last three games in 2013. Considered more a “thumper” linebacker who likes to mix it up and hit, Hitchens could get some work at outside linebacker, but don’t be surprised if he steps right into a MLB role.
The Cowboys were pretty excited to land Street, a player with a third-round grade that they liked enough to move up in the fifth. What the club likes the most about Street is his knowledge of a pro-style offense. He already knows all of the positions, which will give him a big advantage in adjusting to the NFL. He could use a little upper-body strength and that might plague him all year. But his build is similar to Terrance Williams’ last year and they share similar on-field traits in their size and ability to get behind defenders. Street might start out as the fifth receiver, but an injury to Williams or Dez Bryant probably moves him into the No. 2 role.
A pectoral injury cut his senior season short and consequently hurt his draft stock. Gardner was a tenacious college player who has a high motor. If that translates well to the NFL, he could garner some playing snaps even as a rookie. The Cowboys have quite a few defensive linemen, so the players who stay healthy and take advantage of limited reps will get the biggest boost. Gardner must shine in fourth quarters of preseason games to stick around.
The Cowboys’ 2014 season will kick off with a bang on Sunday, Sept. 7, as they are set to play host to the San Francisco 49ers from AT&T Stadium.
The NFL released its full, 17-week schedule for the entire league on Wednesday evening, highlighted by a renewal of the classic Dallas-San Francisco rivalry during the 3:25 p.m. slot in Week 1. That matchup pits two of the league’s most storied franchises against each other, as the two have combined for 10 Lombardi Trophies.
The 49ers have been one of the NFL’s best teams in recent years, as they have reached the NFC Championship Game in each of the past three seasons and the Super Bowl in 2012.
Despite their rich history, which includes seven playoff meetings, the Cowboys have never opened a season against the 49ers. The all-time series is split evenly at 16-16-1, with the Cowboys taking the past three games.
That’s just the beginning for the Cowboys, as this year’s schedule calls for five different primetime games – not to mention the Week 10 game against Jacksonville in London and the traditional Thanksgiving home game.
In an unusual twist, 2014 will actually see Dallas play two Thursday games. The Thanksgiving opponent will be Philadelphia – just the second time the Cowboys and Eagles have played on the holiday. One week later, on Dec. 4, the Cowboys will travel to Chicago to play the Bears on Thursday Night Football.
In addition, the Cowboys will play on Sunday Night Football three times – Sept. 28 vs. New Orleans, Nov. 23 at New York and Dec. 14 at Philadelphia. They also host Washington for Monday Night Football on Oct. 27.
The first half of the season will see the Cowboys spend plenty of time at AT&T Stadium. Six of their first nine games come at home, interrupted by trips to Tennessee in Week 2, St. Louis in Week 3 and Seattle in Week 6.
Conversely, that means a heavy slate of road trips after the team returns from London in Week 10. After the bye week in Week 11, the Cowboys play four of their final six games on the road – including all three division road games. After playing road night games against New York and Philadelphia, the season finale comes Dec. 28 at Washington.
In keeping with league trends, this is the eighth-straight year the Cowboys have finished the season against a division foe. Dallas is 2-5 in its previous seven season finales, including the last three in a row.
This season also marks the first time the Cowboys will host Arizona at AT&T Stadium. The Cardinals travel to face the Cowboys in a noon game on Nov. 2 – one week before the trip to London to face Jacksonville.
Other schedule highlights: