A new defensive scheme and rebuilt offensive line herald a new age for the Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys Preview: Overview
After a few years of mediocrity, the NFC East is back atop the NFL as the league's best. The young Washington Redskins may have made headlines with Robert Griffin III and a great season, but the Dallas Cowboys were only a few breaks for taking the division themselves. Despite having the most talent out of any team in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys finished 8-8, with plenty of impressive wins and a few mind-boggling losses. With Tony Romo under center, a new genius defensive coordinator, and Dez Bryant emerging as a superstar, the Dallas Cowboys have all the tools to make a deep playoff run.
Dallas Cowboys Preview: Offseason
Seeing their defensive secondary as the weakest part of the team, the Dallas Cowboys traded up in the 2012 NFL Draft to get CB Morris Claiborne, in addition to spending a ton of money to bring in CB Brandon Carr. With that addressed, the Dallas Cowboys used the 2012 NFL Draft to fix their weaknesses on the offensive line. Tony Romo ran for his life behind the porous line in 2012, especially due to pressure from interior rushers. The Dallas Cowboys fixed the hole by drafting C Travis Fredrick, a day-one starter. Adding WR Terrance Williams and TE Gavin Escobar in the second round, the Dallas Cowboys have given Tony Romo protection and weapons to throw to.
The biggest acquisition in the 2013 NFL offseason was the arrival of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The innovator of the Tampa-2 defensive scheme, Monte Kiffin will switch the Dallas Cowboys to the 4-3 alignment. Pro-Bowl OLBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will move to defensive end, where they should get even more chances to destroy quarterbacks. The Dallas Cowboys also improved by keeping their own free agents, notably MLB Sean Lee. S Will Allen and OLB Justin Durant signed as free agents and will start.
Dallas Cowboys Preview: Offense
Gunslinger QB Tony Romo has carried the Dallas Cowboys on his back for years, using guile and improvisation to compensate for a poor offensive line. Now with rookie C Travis Fredrick holding down the middle, Tony Romo will be poised to dissect the weak secondaries of the NFC East. WR Dez Bryant delivered on his physical promise in 2012, showing why he even surpasses Calvin Johnson when it comes to upside. While the young Dez Bryant commands double teams, veteran WR Miles Austin will gouge defenses deep. TE Jason Witten is still around as well, serving as a safety valve for his best friend Tony Romo. WR Terrance Williams is a raw prospect, with potential matching that of Dez Bryant.
With a new offensive line and a new offensive coordinators comes a new running scheme. Healthy again, RB DeMarco Murray is back on track to become an elite running back. Speedy and unreliable Felix Jones is gone, replaced by the hungry Lance Dunbar, a bruising back with toughness. DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar should find plenty of running lanes to exploit, as the Dallas Cowboys spread out opposing defenses with their arsenal of receiving threats.
Dallas Cowboys Preview: Defense
The departure of blitz-happy defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the arrival of the calculated Monte Kiffin not only means a change in scheme, but a change in attitude. Rather than punishing opponents with power and tricking them with disguise, the 2013 Dallas Cowboys will finesse turnovers and swarm with speed. The Tampa-2 defense relies on a pair of bookend defensive ends to harass quarterbacks all game, and the Dallas Cowboys have two of the best in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. The Dallas Cowboys front seven boasts plenty of talent at the linebacker level as well, with Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, and Justin Durant.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive secondary will be asked to maintain discipline in the Tampa-2, putting themselves in position to capitalize on any interception that the pass rush forces their way. The duo of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr is the best young cornerback team in football, with the second-year Claiborne looking like a perennial all-pro. S Will Allen is an excellent ballhawk, and has excelled in the system before. The Dallas Cowboys defense as a whole will be much faster in 2013, and will keep leads from slipping away as it did so many times in the 2012 NFL season.
Dallas Cowboys Preview: Special Teams
After years of trying to replace the legendary Chris Boniol, the Dallas Cowboys finally found their kicker in Dan Bailey. Incredibly clutch, and with a leg that an angry mule would envy, Dan Bailey will win a few games for the Dallas Cowboys when everything is on the line. P Chris Jones has been impressive so far, and must make measured and tactical kicks to play the filed position that the Tampa-2 defense requires. WR Dwayne Harris is set to be the key return man, with Lance Dunbar chipping in as well. Dez Bryant will also come off the bench to return a punt or two if the game is on the line.
Dallas Cowboys Preview: Outlook
The Dallas Cowboys have the talent to win the Super Bowl, the problem has been putting it all together. With a few new coaches in place, the NFL Playoffs are a real possibility in 2013. The NFC East will prove to be a tough road to hoe, with the red-hot Washington Redskins, up-and-down New York Giants, and the new-look Philadelphia Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys will also schedule games against the NFC North, and also have a game against their semi-rivals the New Orleans Saints. But, if the Dallas Cowboys can survive their schedule, then they will be in prime shape to make a deep run in the 2013 NFL Playoffs.