The Cowboys defense will be key next year.
Surprisingly, the Dallas Cowboys have had a fairly quiet 2013 offseason. The biggest news has been the changing of the guard at offensive coordinator, where Bill Callahan will now control the play-calling.
Other than some position-battle discussions, there hasn’t been too much noise out of Cowboys camp. This should be music to the ears of Dallas fans.
Dez Bryant, among others, has stayed out of trouble. No one has seriously gotten injured, and most of the team has kept out of the media’s eye.
So far, that is.
This is good news for Cowboys fans because perhaps it means times are changing. Maybe this is the year Dallas turns it around and actually contends for a Super Bowl.
With that being said, here are five things everyone should know about the 2013 Dallas Cowboys.
All statistics via Pro Football Reference unless indicated otherwise.
There are expectations for 2013 to finish differently than last season.
It seems like every year the expectations are very high. This year is no different.
Some seasons, this expectation is unwarranted and is strictly based around it being the Dallas Cowboys. In 2013, however, the high anticipation is reasonable based on Dallas’ roster.
Back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs are unacceptable by the standards of Cowboys fans. With the amount of money owner Jerry Jones is shoving out for such highly touted players, everyone has the right to expect more.
Although it’s been written about and discussed before just about every Cowboys training camp, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic in 2013.
Health is a huge part of that.
Some of Dallas’ biggest contributors were sidelined due to season-ending injuries last season. Sean Lee, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin and Barry Church missed significant time. With all of them back on the field, Dallas will improve significantly.
Another reason to be excited is that Dallas has plenty of young playmakers at some of the most important positions. Bryant, Murray, Lee, Carter and Morris Claiborne are all 26 or younger. Each has shown promising talent and will only get better with more experience.
With the pieces in place, there’s no reason to settle for anything short of a division title and deep playoff run.
Murray can be very good if he stays healthy.
Of every player on the Cowboys roster, DeMarco Murray just may be the most important one. His absence last season affected nearly everyone else on the team.
The offensive play-calling was clearly too pass-heavy, and it didn’t benefit Romo one bit. With Murray back in the starting rotation, Dallas will be able to run the ball effectively and have a balanced attack.
Murray only played in 10 games in 2012, but the Dallas offense seemed to flow much better in those games despite its 5-5 record in that span. Felix Jones proved he couldn’t handle the load of a starting running back and truly set the offense back.
Murray hasn’t eclipsed 1,000 yards in his first two shortened years in the NFL; however, he’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He’s also shown to have big-play capability. He reeled off runs of 91 and 48 yards among many other decent scurries.
A useful Murray will take the pressure off Romo and relieve the defense as well. With a better rushing attack, Dallas will be able to control more of the ball, giving its defense time to actually rest between possessions.
If Murray can complete an entire season, the Cowboys will improve on both sides of the field.
The Dallas defense has great potential.
The Cowboys defense was a large part of what held the team back in 2012. Although they played well at times, the unit was too inconsistent for Dallas to be successful.
Even with the abundance of injuries, Rob Ryan lost his job because of the defense's ineffectiveness. Enter Monte Kiffin.
The defense will have a new look and identity next year. With the move back to the 4-3 scheme, some of Dallas’ best players will be able to shine.
DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer can be two of the best bookends in the league in spite of not playing defensive end since college. They each tallied double-digit sacks last season and could produce even more with no coverage responsibilities.
At the linebacker spot, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are two of the top young players around. Lee will appreciate the move to the 4-3 as well. With more of a buffer in front of him, he’ll be able to move freely to make plays all over the field.
If both Carter and Lee stay healthy, Dallas’ linebacking corps will be excellent.
The Cowboys secondary should also be very strong. Claiborne and Brandon Carr are very formidable corners with plenty of upside.
The crew of safeties (Barry Church, Matt Johnson, Will Allen and J.J. Wilcox) will be an upgrade from last year too.
Again, health is key. If the core players are around for a full 16 games, this defense can be special.
Bryant should have another huge season.
Dez Bryant is arguably the best player on the team. He single-handedly changed games last year and is the best receiver to wear the star in a long time.
Bryant compiled 92 grabs for nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
What’s impressive is how his game developed as the year went on. Through the back half of the schedule, he became nearly unstoppable. He caught 10 of his touchdowns in the final eight games.
Bryant also had games where he didn’t show up. He had four games where he only caught three passes or less. In those games, he merely totaled 133 yards.
By avoiding performances like these, his numbers could be incredible.
This summer, Dez discussed how his goal was to reach 2,000 yards receiving. Although that mark might be a little out of reach, he can certainly obtain other records.
Michael Irvin had 111 catches for 1,603 yards in 1995. Terrell Owens caught 15 scores in 2007.
If Bryant is consistent the entire year, all three of those team records can be shattered.
Jones wants another ring now.
Jerry Jones’ patience has been decreasing every year since 1995. Throughout this time, he’s had plenty of good teams and absolutely nothing to show for it.
The Cowboys have only two playoff wins since their last Super Bowl victory, and in Dallas that’s just unacceptable.
Jones has already put head coach Jason Garrett on notice by taking away his play-calling duties. Another season ending without a playoff berth would nearly solidify his departure.
Even with a playoff win, one never knows how Jones is going to react. He wants results now, and if Garrett cannot supply them, he’ll find someone else who can.
Jerry’s impatience just might grow all the way to the quarterback position. Even though he just signed Romo to a monster long-term deal, another disappointing year could make Jones at least consider drafting a quarterback.
Romo is 33 years old and doesn’t seem like he’ll be improving anytime soon. His job, along with just about everyone else’s, will be at stake if the 2013 Cowboys don’t produce.