Jason Witten has been one of the league's best for years.
This year, the organization hopes to turn things around and deliver a deep playoff run. In order to do so, Dallas will rely heavily on its quality depth at key positions.
Here are the Cowboys’ top five positional strengths heading into the 2013 season.
All statistics via Pro Football Reference, unless indicated otherwise.
The Cowboys need a healthy Ware in 2013.
The defensive end position is now much more important for the Cowboys than it’s been in years past. With the move back to the 4-3 scheme under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Dallas is relying on its ends to create more of an impact in the passing game.
Although DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer haven’t played the position since college, Dallas has two of the best ends in the league.
Ware and Spencer combined for more than 22 sacks last season.
Together they’ll need to put up similar numbers for the defense to be more successful than it was last year. Even though there’s a slight learning curve to the new position, a healthy Ware will be more productive in both the run and pass defense.
Behind the starters are two promising up-and-comers. Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber are second-year players that will earn a decent amount of playing time.
As a whole, this unit is one of the Cowboys strong points and has the potential to be one of the league’s best.
Expectations are high for Claiborne.
Prior to last year, the cornerback spot had always been a significant issue for the Cowboys. However, Dallas made two significant moves in the 2012 offseason to bolster its defense at this position.
By acquiring Brandon Carr in free agency and Morris Claiborne in the first round, the Cowboys immediately upgraded their secondary. Although neither player really had a breakout season, it was evident the position had improved.
With both players being under the age of 28 (Carr is 27 and Claiborne 23), there are high expectations in Dallas for this duo to get even better. They only combined for four interceptions last year, so look for that number to skyrocket in the near future.
Dallas has decent depth at the position too. Orlando Scandrick has shown to be a formidable corner off the bench when he’s not asked to cover a team’s best receiver. The team also has Sterling Moore and drafted B.W. Webb in the fourth round of the draft.
With a good mix of experience and youth, the Cowboys cornerbacks will be a solid bunch for years to come.
Bryant will be a monster for a long time.
The Cowboys wide receiving corps is one of the best in all of football. They are an explosive young group that has produced in the past and is looking to do more.
They’re led by superstar Dez Bryant.
Through his first three seasons, his numbers have improved in every significant category, and it appears his ceiling has no cap. Bryant ranked sixth in yards and third in touchdowns in 2012.
What makes this unit so good is the fact that defenses can’t simply try to lock down No. 88. There is too much talent around him.
Miles Austin has had his share of injury problems, but when healthy, he’s one of the best No. 2 wide receivers out there. Dwayne Harris is a quality third option because of his playmaking ability and speed that can stretch any defense.
Dallas added depth here in the draft by selecting Baylor’s Terrance Williams in the third round. Williams will immediately compete for the slot position, and eventually take over as starter when Austin’s game starts to diminish.
With so many weapons to choose from, Tony Romo will have a very easy time getting rid of the football.
Witten is Dallas' leader.
The only reason wide receiver isn’t the Cowboys top-offensive strength is because of their tight ends. The position is led by future Hall of Famer, Jason Witten.
Witten is the most consistent Cowboy on the roster and has been doing it for numerous years. Last year, he compiled one of his best seasons—accumulating 110 catches for more than 1,000 yards and three scores.
Witten is a class act, and one of the most important leaders on the team.
Behind Witten are two promising youngsters. James Hanna was the third tight end in 2012, but showed plenty of upside. Although he only caught eight passes all year, seven of them occurred during the final month of the season. Hanna will see a much larger workload next year and become an intricate part of the passing attack.
Another player that will join him is second-round draft pick, Gavin Escobar. He has the size (6’6”, 251 lbs.) and hands to be a monster in the NFL, and Romo’s new go-to guy in the red zone.
Dallas also picked up veteran Dante Rosario from San Diego this summer. He provides solid depth to the position, and someone who can be used for blocking purposes.
All in all, this group will cause plenty of headaches for defensive coordinators around the league.
Lee will soon be one of the best.
Dallas’ top positional strength heading into the 2013 season is its linebackers.
Despite losing the likes of Ware and Spencer from their linebacking corps, Dallas will have its best unit since the days of Dexter Coakley and Dat Nguyen.
The main reason they’re so strong at this position is because both Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are studs.
Even though both missed significant periods of the 2012 season, the time they spent on the field was more than enough to showcase their skill. There is no doubt that Lee and Carter will each be regarded at the elite level of their position after this year.
Beyond the soon-to-be stars, the Cowboys have plenty of depth at linebacker. Currently, free-agent signee Justin Durant is slated to start on the strong side. He’s a solid veteran that can play the position well.
Behind him are two youngsters. Third-year player Alex Albright and rookie DeVonte Holloman will compete to get snaps.
Dallas also re-signed Ernie Sims after having a productive season. The former Florida State Seminole filled in beautifully at linebacker after a number of people were injured.
The Cowboys linebackers are a special crew, and one that should turn heads for years to come.