NFL Predictions for 2010 Season: Dallas Cowboys Preview

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NFL Predictions for 2010 Season: Dallas Cowboys Preview
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Last Years Record            11-5

Wins: Bucs, Panthers, Chiefs, Falcons, Seahawks, Eagles (x2), Redskins (x2), Raiders, Saints

Losses: Giants (x2), Broncos, Packers, Chargers

Biggest Playmaker            DeMarcus Ware

OLB, Troy, Drafted #11, 6th Year

DeMarcus Ware is considered one of the best 3-4 OLB’s in the business and rightfully so.  He has never missed a game in his five years, and has recorded more than 11 sacks the last four years (20 in 2008).  Tag along five forced fumbles in 2009 and expect DeMarcus to make his fifth straight Pro Bowl this season.

Impact Player            Miles Austin

WR, Monmouth, Undrafted, 5th Year

Miles Austin had a breakout year, becoming a starter in week five and dominating from then on.  He had 81 catches on the year (he had 18 the previous three years) and 11 touchdowns.  However, Austin will have to prove critics that he is not a one-hit wonder, but will certainly benefit from the addition of rookie WR Dez Bryant.

Biggest Offseason Addition            Alex Barron

OT, Florida State, Drafted #19, 6th Year

Pretty much the only offseason addition for the Cowboys, Alex Barron has been an average starter for the Rams the last five years.  Look for Barron to serve as the backup to both tackles, and the Cowboys can consider themselves lucky to have a backup with as much experience as he does (74 starts in five years).  However, he was still traded from the 1-15 Rams and struggled in the Hall of Fame game.

Biggest Offseason Loss            Flozell Adams

OT, Michigan State, Drafted #38, 13th Year 

Replacing a franchise left tackle is never easy, especially when he has been your starter for 12 years.  Sure, Adams is getting old (35), but is only two years removed from a Pro Bowl.  Now, the Cowboys are looking at Doug Free to likely start at LT, a guy who appeared in only one game in his first two seasons in the NFL.  

Biggest Draft Steal            Dez Bryant

WR, Oklahoma State, Drafted #24, Rookie

This spot very easily could have gone to ILB Sean Lee from Penn State, considered by many to be a mid-first round talent taken at #55 overall, but Dez Bryant is going to have a big impact and soon.  Watching Bryant play is really something special as he makes countless spectacular catches.  I think he will take over Roy Williams starting spot sooner rather than later.  (Roy Williams – signed a six-year, $54 million contract in 08 – caught 38, yes, 38 balls last year and led the team with eight drops.)

Biggest Draft Mistake            OT/Safety?

The Cowboys had a very solid draft overall as they definitely employed the “best player available” approach.  Any team that picked up Dez Bryant at #24 and Sean Lee at #55 is looking at a very solid draft.  However, the Cowboys two most pressing needs are at offensive tackle and safety.  The Cowboys 2009 starters at LT and FS (Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin) are both gone and Jerry Jones and co. have yet to address these positions.   They are looking to Doug Free to fill in at tackle and Alan Ball at safety.                 

Offseason Grade            B

Coming off an 11-5 regular season the Cowboys did not need to make a ton of moves.  Looking up and down their roster, there are playmakers at almost every position.  The Cowboys added some real talent in the draft, but have yet to address their two biggest needs.  There is some very solid free agent talent still on the market at these positions.  If the Cowboys could make a move on one of these players their offseason grade could skyrocket

X-Factor            Miles Austin

WR, Monmouth, Undrafted, 5th Year

Miles Austin suddenly has a huge role in the Cowboys’ offense, and time will tell whether he is a consistent pro bowl player or whether Dallas will need another WR to step up and be the go-to guy.

Name You Should Know            Jay Ratliff

NT, Auburn, Drafted #224, 6th Year

Coming off two straight pro bowl seasons Jay Ratliff is the anchor of the Cowboys 3-4 defense, as any dominant NT can be.   The Cowboys were the 4th best run defense a year ago (in terms of total yards), and a lot of that credit goes to Jay Ratliff stuffing the middle.  When you watch a Cowboys game next, look for the big man to be taking up two blockers and opening holes for the inside backers.

Rising Star            Felix Jones

RB, Arkansas, Drafted #22, 3rd Year

Felix Jones very likely will be the starting running back for the Cowboys at some point this season.  Filling in for Marion Barber in Jones’ rookie year he averaged 8.9 yards per carry on 30 carries.  8.9.  Wow.  Jones injured his hamstring and missed most of his that year, but returned in 2009 to rush for 685 yards on 116 attempts in 14 games, a measly 5.9 yards per carry (ha!).  Jones has big play potential both as a running back and returner, and look for a breakout year from him if he can stay healthy.

Offensive Outlook            A-

Tony Romo.  Marion Barber.  Felix Jones.  Jason Witten.  Miles Austin.  Dez Bryant.  Just a few weapons the Cowboys have to work with this year…most of them in their prime.  Not to mention the two pro bowl interior offensive linemen returning (RG Leonard Davis and C Andre Gurode).  If Miles Austin can repeat a pro bowl caliber season and the Cowboys can play as well late in the season as at the beginning, look for them to challenge for a Super Bowl title in 2010.

Defensive Outlook            B+

The Cowboys had the second best scoring defense in the NFL last year, allowing just 250 points.  The Boys’ question mark is at FS where they released starter Ken Hamlin, but Alan Ball played well in his four starts last year and the coaches have confidence in him.  If the Cowboys could sign a FS like OJ Atogwe this grade could very easily be in the “A” range.  The Cowboys are looking for CB Mike Jenkins to continue to grow and continue to expect consistent performances from the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Jay Ratliff.

Special Teams Outlook            C+

The Cowboys have a very untested special teams unit beginning with kicker David Buehler.  Handling only kickoff duties last year (6th longest average kickoff length), he will likely be handling the field goals last year.  Punter Mat McBriar was average a year ago, and the Cowboys have a lot of potential in the return game with Felix Jones, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

Projected 2010 Record            11-5

The Cowboys have incredibly high expectations this year and rightfully so.  They have a star-studded lineup and lost only two starters (who they chose to release), I believe.  The Cowboys believe Doug Free can take over at LT and succeed, as well as Alan Ball at safety.   Look for Felix Jones to have a breakout year and start for the Cowboys at some point (while still sharing carries with Barber and Tashard Choice), and for the already strong passing game to be bolstered by the addition of rookie Dez Bryant.  Hopefully for the Cowboys the whole “I won’t carry other players’ pads” saga blows by quickly!

 

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