Projecting the Dallas Cowboys' Top Offensive Performers in 2014
Another year, another hope-filled season for the Dallas Cowboys. They are desperate to escape the ghost of mediocrity that has been haunting them the past three seasons.
The 2014 NFL season will offer the Cowboys a chance at redemption. They’ve had countless opportunities to make the playoffs over the last few years and have squandered those opportunities by little mistakes.
To win back the NFC East, the Cowboys will rely on their superstars, namely their offensive ones.
Let’s see how each offensive star projects for the 2014 season and see if they can step up to restore this franchise to prominence.
2014 Season Projection: 55 receptions, 885 yards, 8 touchdowns
Terrance Williams was a pleasant surprise as a rookie. His speed and playmaking ability were constantly on display as he put together a 44-reception, 736-yard, five-touchdown season.
A dangerous weapon, Williams will give opposing defensive backs fits. If he can improve his route running and take advantage of mismatches caused by his speed, this could be a big year for Williams.
2014 Season Projection: 200 carries, 1,050 yards, seven touchdowns
This is a contract year for DeMarco Murray, and Stephen Jones, Cowboys chief operating officer, has already indicated that any discussions with the fourth-year back will be held off until after the season.
Translation: Let’s see how Murray does first.
This isn’t a bad approach considering that Murray has never been healthy for a full 16-game season.
When healthy, Murray is impressive. He averages 4.9 yards per carry and seems to have incredible vision. The biggest stat of Murray’s career is 11-0, the Cowboys' record when Murray receives 20 or more carries a game, according to Larry Harstein of CBS Sports.
Projecting Murray was most difficult because of the unpredictable nature of injuries. Murray rushed 217 times over 14 games in 2013, and I would imagine something similar here. With Lance Dunbar back in the mix as a change-of-pace back, I credit Murray with a 200-carry season that should see him surpass 1,000 yards.
2014 Season Projection: 75 receptions, 810 yards, seven touchdowns
Jason Witten is essentially the “old reliable” of the Cowboys offense. He consistently puts up impressive stat lines that leave him among the best at the position.
Yes, Witten is getting older, but he’s still an effective all-around tight end. In 2013, Witten put together a stat line of 73 receptions, 851 yards and nine touchdowns.
Not bad for an old man.
Now, Witten serves as the veteran presence among younger, emerging players. Despite all the talent around him, his connection with Tony Romo makes him an oft-targeted option when plays start breaking down.
Witten isn’t going to break open big plays anymore, but he’ll still consistently get first downs and make tough catches. Expect him to surpass 10,000 career receiving yards and notch another impressive reception total this season.
2014 Season Projection: 96 receptions, 1,344 yards, 15 touchdowns
There’s a lot of talk about if Dez Bryant has reached “elite” status. If he hasn’t, he’s got to be close. In research I conducted for a previous article, I found that Bryant has been more statistically productive than A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas—both of whom I consider young, elite receivers.
Bryant is on the verge of becoming something truly special in Dallas. He appears to have great chemistry with Tony Romo and is coming off a spectacular season where he amassed 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The 2014 season won’t be easy for Bryant as he’s sure to see a lot of double coverage. However, considering the large number of weapons the offense has, Bryant will get plenty of opportunities to exploit defenses. I expect Bryant to set career highs in receptions and touchdowns in this contract year.
2014 Season Projection: 408-of-610, 4,576 yards, 36 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Despite what some of the media might suggest in their roller-coaster coverage of the Cowboys, Tony Romo has had an outstanding career. In fact, Romo has only thrown more than 14 interceptions in a season twice.
It goes without saying that Romo is the key to this team’s success.
This year promises to be one of Romo’s best. Cast aside the concerns of his back injury, and consider the offense built around him. The Cowboys are fielding an elite receiver in Dez Bryant, a Hall of Fame-caliber tight end in Jason Witten and talented role players in Terrance Williams and DeMarco Murray.
Romo holds a career passer rating of 96.7 and a 64.6 percent completion percentage. If he can stay healthy, he’ll see close to a career high in passing attempts. The increase in attempts will be the result of a defense that allows opposing offenses to score quickly—the Cowboys defense ranked last in yards allowed in 2013.
Given the opportunity, I expect Romo to put up a respectable stat line. While I anticipate his average yards per completion to be down from his career average (7.8 yards per completion), he should be among the league leaders in yardage and touchdowns.
*All stats courtesy Pro Football Reference, unless otherwise noted.