2015 NFL Preview: Dallas Cowboys

2015 NFL Preview: Dallas Cowboys

How ’bout them Cowboys! For the first time in five years, fans of, ahem, “America’s Team” could shout those infamous words in 2014 without an ounce of irony. The ‘Boys not only posted their best record since 2007, but they also won the NFC East and advanced to the Divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009. As such, expectations for this year’s Cowboys are mega high. Super Bowl predictions and a return to national relevance are common themes being discussed among talking heads and pundits. Jerry Jones handed the super whiny and super talented Dez Bryant a fat contract, and also signed and/or drafted a few of those “low character” guys, which of course means Jerry is serious about getting himself another Lombardi Trophy. Will they live up to the hype, or fall back to 8-8 mediocrity? Here’s a preview of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.

Outlook: Tony Romo delivered arguably his best season in 2014, setting a career high in passing percentage, and tying a career low in interceptions during a full 16-game schedule. He did all of that on a surgically repaired back behind the league’s most dominant offensive line and running back. Bryant was equally lethal, scoring a league best 16 touchdowns. If this duo maintains pace and the running game endures the loss of its leading rusher, the offense should be potent again. The defense overachieved a year ago and early season suspensions to Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy will put a unit light on depth squarely behind the eight ball. They have the roster to repeat as division champs, but a couple of key injuries could derail their hopes.

Later, dude: Jones chose to pay Bryant and allow 2014 Offensive Player of the Year and rushing title winner DeMarco Murray to shuffle off to division rival Philadelphia. Time will tell whether that was a wise decision. Anthony Spencer never equaled his first-round draft status, recording double-digit sacks only once in 8 seasons; he is now a Saint. Justin Durant is a journeyman linebacker who won’t be missed after two injury-plagued years in Big D. Linebacker Bruce Carter parlayed an up-n-down four years into a four-year, $20.5 million deal with Tampa. Defensive tackle Henry Melton was a solid reserve in ’14, notching 5 sacks as a part-time contributor; Melton inked a one-year deal with the Bucs in March. Dwayne Harris is a valuable special teams ace who took his talents to the division rival Giants.

Welcome aboard: Anger management case Greg Hardy caught a break and had his 10-game suspension lowered to four games. Gotta love the NFL’s consistent punishment policy. The front office pegged Darren McFadden to replace Murray in the backfield. The same Darren McFadden who has averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry in three straight years, and has never started 16 games in a season. First-round pick Byron Jones is an athletic freak who will challenge for playing time at cornerback early. Pass rusher Randy Gregory fell to the second round after testing positive for marijuana at the Combine; obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he can get after the quarterback. La’el Collins went undrafted after being questioned in the death of his ex-girlfriend. Collins was cleared and could end up being a major steal as an undrafted free agent.

Over/Under wins – 9.5: McFadden and Joseph Randle will have to carry the running game. Beyond Bryant, the receiving corps is spotty. The defense is banking on a lot of questionable players to come up big. Don’t believe the hype.

Bet the Under