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2014 NFL Season Preview- Dallas Cowboys
For the past three years, its like the Dallas Cowboys are in their own version of the movie Groundhog Day. The team finished with an 8-8 record for the third straight year and lost the NFC East title in the final game of the year for the third straight year as well.
In 2013 the defense changed their style from a 3-4 technique to the Tampa 2 with the hiring of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The defensive line saw a rotation of 19 different players due to various injuries. Linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Morris Claiborne were each out for large portions of the season. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware had his worst season as a pro producing only six sacks on the season. Safety Barry Church led the team in tackles which is never a good sign for the defense. The defense in 2013 gave up more total yards, passing yards, and first downs than any team in franchise history and finished dead last in total defense in the league.
Quarterback Tony Romo had his most efficient season to date. He missed the final game of the year because of a back injury he suffered the previous week which ultimately affected the teams chance against the Eagles in the finale. Running back Demarco Murray rushed for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in his most productive season. Wide receiver Dez Bryant proved he was one of the leagues top receivers and tight end Jason Witten continued his consistent and productive march to the Hall of Fame.
Cowboys 2013 Rankings
Opponent Passing yds
Opponent Rushing yds
NFL Rank- 14th
NFL Rank- 24th
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 27th
NFL Rank- 16th
NFL Rank- Last
After the season, many people expected head coach Jason Garrett to be fired. However, team owner Jerry Jones remained committed to Garrett allowed him stay despite a 29-27 in three and half seasons as coach and the team has an even record of 236-236 since their last notable dynasty in 1997.
The team hired Scott Lineman to replace Bill Callahan as the team's offensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli was brought in to be the team's new defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin will remain on staff as the team's assistant head coach and defense consultant.
Notable additions- RB Ryan Williams, DT Henry Melton, DT Amobi Okoye, LB Rolando McClain
Notable departures- QB Kyle Orton, WR Miles Austin, DE DeMarcus Ware, DT Jay Ratliff, DT Jason Hatcher,
Cowboys 2013 Highlights
2014 NFL Draft
Dallas held the 16th overall pick going into the draft. Many people expected them to draft for their needs on defense. Primarily at safety and the defensive line.
The free safety position has been a major concern since Garrett took over as head coach. For the past four years, the team has lacked a playmaker their and has been the target of offenses week in and week out. The top safeties in the draft included Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Alabama's Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. Pryor was seen as the best tackling safety in the draft but was considered too physical and was seen as a penalty drawer because of his aggressive play. Clinton-Dix was considered to have the best ball skills of any safety coming out of college but was criticized for his poor tackling when coming to the line.
With the exception of Jason Hatcher, the defensive line struggled all year. Defensive end Anthony Spencer missed the entire season with an injury and DeMarcus Ware was released after the worst season of his career. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff was released during the season and Jason Hatcher left the team during free agency.
When it came time to pick, the Cowboys surprised a lot of people and selected Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin with the 16th pick. Martin was seen as the best pass blocking offensive lineman coming in but will likely have to move to guard due to his less than ideal height and arm length.
The team also drafted Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence in the second round. Lawrence was praised for his various pass rushing techniques but has to learn to break free from blockers once they lock on.
Demarcus Lawrence Highlights
What to Expect
With the addition of Zack Martin to the offense, the team should now have a very stable line. Demarco Murray should continue his accelerated play and other running backs like Ryan Williams, Lance Dunbar, and Joseph Randle should be able to contribute to a running game that finished 24th in the league last season. The line will also prevent Tony Romo from being sacked as much and that will keep him on the field and healthy. The receivers are a tight group and Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will continue to rack up yards.
The defense is where the problem lies. Demarcus Lawrence, George Selvie, Henry Melton, and Amobi Okoye will have to generate a lot of pass rush if the defense is even going to stand a chance every week. With Sean Lee out for the year, someone in that linebacker corps will have to step up and be the leader of the team. In the secondary, cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have to start living up to potential and expectations if the team wants to be successful.
The bottom line is not to expect much change. The front office did next to nothing to address their problems in the offseason. They drafted a bunch of defensive players in later rounds of the draft, but it will be hard to see if any of those guys will even make the team. When you lose your star middle linebacker for the year and you have to resort to relying on Rolando McClain to help your team you know you're in trouble. For every touchdown the offense scores, the defense will give another one up. Tony Romo will be asked to play keep up in a lot of games and that is not want Jason Garrett wants.
Best record they can hope for- 8-8