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Will Tony Romo finally get some help? Protection would be nice.
Dallas has gone down to Week 17 in each of the past two seasons with an opportunity to earn the NFC East title. It has failed miserably both times.
This only laid the foundation for more skeptics to question Tony Romo's ability to come through in the clutch and Jason Garrett's viability as a head coach.
While both of those divisive figures are not without question marks, they are talented in what they can do and could be two reasons why Dallas clears that final hurdle and wins the division in 2013.
Before we look further into what Dallas might bring to the table in 2013, let's take a gander at the division for a second. The simple fact that Dallas has been able to be contend for the division into late December seems to indicate the division itself isn't too great.
We are not looking at the NFC West or AFC North here. All four teams in this division stand a shot at winning the title. Heck, all four teams could finish in the cellar. To say that it's wide open would be an understatement.
This puts Dallas in a situation to contend for a playoff spot without being relegated to a wild-card berth.
Now on to the Cowboys for a second.
Say what you want about Romo, but he was the Cowboys' best player the past two seasons. While Romo did tie Drew Brees for the league lead in interceptions with 19, he also threw for more than 4,900 yards and 28 touchdowns behind a miserable offensive line.
Romo was sacked the sixth-most times of any quarterback in the league, but that doesn't tell the entire story. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Cowboys offensive line ranked 25th in the NFL in pass protection.
Using the same grading metric, Tyron Smith (55th) and Doug Free (59th) were among the two worst pass-blocking starting tackles in the league. That's simply not going to get it done.
The Cowboys' issues with pass protection could have been in large part due to an inability to find balance on offense. They ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing yards with less than 80 per game and averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per rush. Those numbers need to increase if the Cowboys are going to take the next step.
The good news is that DeMarco Murray should be healthy to start training camp, and Dallas added under-the-radar running back Joseph Randle in April's draft.
Give Romo balance on offense and he'll be able to find up-and-coming young wide receiver Dez Bryant on the outside on a more consistent basis.
The former first-round pick had a breakout campaign in 2012. He recorded more than 90 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the latter part of the year, however, Bryant finally started living up to expectations. He put up 47 receptions for 792 yards and nine touchdowns in his final seven games (via Pro Football Reference).
Dallas is also in the midst of making changes on the defensive side of the ball. The team is switching from a base 3-4 that we saw under former coordinator Rob Ryan to a Tampa 2 defense with Monte Kiffin at the helm.
This means DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will be playing with their hands down at the line instead of at outside linebacker. Both should be able to take advantage of their speed off the edge and create more pressure on the quarterback.
This new scheme also plays to the Cowboys' strengths at linebacker. Sean Lee will be able to pair up with the talented Bruce Carter as a solid duo in the 4-3. It's all about getting the best personnel on the field at all times. Switching to this scheme seems to do that for Dallas.
With a season under his belt, second-year cornerback Morris Claiborne is primed for a breakout campaign and will again be joined by Brandon Carr on the outside. If those two can mask what promises to be coverage issues at safety, the Cowboys defense should be in good shape.
Some might ask what the formula here is. Protect Romo, get a consistent running game and make a seamless transition to a new defense. If Dallas is able to do this, it could very well win the division.