The Dallas Cowboys actually won a playoff game last season and now expectations are inexplicably sky high after a divisional round ousting. While they managed to win 12 games in a weak NFC East, they still have a myriad of holes to fill. As of now, they are heading in to the 2015 season with no running back, a disgruntled star wideout and a 35-year-old quarterback with a bad back. Now let’s get to their weaknesses…
Offensive Needs: RB, TE
The Cowboys’ tremendous offensive line is able to mask many of the team’s deficiencies. Tony Romo clearly still has enough in the tank to lead this team after enjoying the best season of his career and Dez Bryant is an elite superstar. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that by this time next year Bryant will be being compared to either Terrell Owens or Ray Rice. Owens is the better scenario. The Cowboys’ offense doesn’t have a ton of holes to fill, but there are a few.
It looks like the NFL’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray will be leaving town, which is great news for Cowboys’ fans whether they know it or not. Somebody is going to give him way too much money this offseason. The team that signs him will feel like a child that got a broken Xbox for Christmas. Murray endured 449 touches last season in his first full 16-game season. With that offensive line Dallas could go with a committee approach or a cheaper option. Most RBs could be successful in that situation. However, that’s not Jerry Jones’ style. I fully expect them to either bring in a big named veteran or draft a high-profile RB early in the NFL Draft. I currently have them projected to draft Todd Gurley in the first round of this year’s draft. Of course that may all change if Adrian Peterson gets his wish.
Jason Witten will be 33 years old next season and he has already begun to show signs of decline. He’s coming off his worst season since his rookie year in 2003 (although you can make a case that 2006 was slightly worse). I’m not so sure they are ready to go all-in on third-year TE Gavin Escobar, who has a whopping 18 career receptions. If the Cowboys do sign a RB prior to the draft and address the defense in the first round, they could grab a guy like Clive Walford in the second round of the draft.
Defensive Needs: DT, DE, LB, CB
While the Cowboys pretty much need assistance everywhere on defense, we’ll start with the defensive line. They need help at both tackle and end. In 2014, 27 teams had more sacks than Dallas. You can’t win a Super Bowl without a pass rush. Although if you talk to Cowboys’ fans you may be led to believe they were Super Bowl champs in 2014, that was not the case. They need a ton of help up front. I like Tyrone Crawford at tackle, aside from that they need to get better. I currently have the Cowboys projected to draft LSU DE Danielle Hunter in the second round of this year’s draft. If they do decide to address this issue in the first round, there should be plenty of strong options available.
The Cowboys are weak at both inside and outside linebacker. Justin Durant, Rolando McClain and Bruce Carter are all free agents and it’s likely at least two of them will not be back next season. They will once again make the unfortunate decision of relying on Sean Lee. He is about as sturdy as a wet paper bag. They just signed Keith Rivers but still need two starting caliber LBs. It’s unlikely they will continue to get lucky discovering diamonds in the rough like Durant and McClain, who both had major potentials, nevertheless, they had underachieved for a number of reasons. If they do make LB a priority in the draft, I believe Denzel Perryman, Bendardrick McKinney and Eric Kendricks will all be available at ILB in the first round. Shaq Thompson may also be available outside. If they wait, Ramik Wilson could be an option in the second round, however, there will be a major drop off by the time they pick.
Dallas has serious issues at corner. In 2014, QBs completed 66.5 percent of their passes against the Cowboys’ defense. They also allowed 252 yards per game through the air. Neither are stats to be proud of. To make matters worse, Brandon Carr will have to take a pay cut to remain on the roster and Morris Claiborne has no timetable for a return after tearing his patellar tendon in 2014. This is an issue that badly needs to be addressed either in free agency or the draft. Free agency may be the better route to go. If they do target a CB in the first round, P.J. Williams and Quinten Rollins are both possible options. Or they could hope that Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Alex Carter or DJoun Smith slip to them in the second. I don’t see that happening though. This position depends a lot on Carr’s contract situation and Claiborne’s health. We should know a lot more by draft day.