It has been a long time since I made a post on my blog. And I still won't be posting very often but I wanted to be sure to get my thoughts on the 2014 down in writing before the season kicks off on Sunday.
A lot has happened since yet another heartbreaking season finale last season. Demarcus Ware is gone. Jason Hatcher is gone. Sean Lee is injured, again. There are a lot of fresh faces on the defense. I'm not sure they are upgrades over Ware and Hatcher but they are upgrades over most of the street free agents that finished the season on the defense last year.
But let's be real about this defense. The Cowboys have a serious lack of premier talent on the defensive side of the ball. They did add Henry Melton who the Cowboys seem to be hoping can be a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line. But he is coming off of a torn ACL and didn't play in the preseason so we really don't know what to expect there. They drafted Demarcus Lawrence but he of course broke his foot during training camp and will miss at least the first half of the season. So we can't expect the defense to be much more than a below average defense at best.
The good news is that the offense appears to be stacked and could potentially be one of the five best offensive units in the league. A few years ago the offensive line was a joke. Now they have the players to be one of the best lines in the league. Does that mean the Cowboys will actually commit to the run? Time will tell. But we know the passing game will be tough to stop. Dez Bryant is clearly a top 3 receiver now and is a player that makes the entire defense pay attention to him. Terrance Williams is a perfect #2 receiver and Jason Witten is still playing at an all-pro level.
One factor that many people are forgetting when evaluating the Cowboys is their outstanding special teams. Dwayne Harris is one of the best returners in the league and Dan Bailey is about as good as it gets at kicker. If Harris can make a big play here and there he can completely change the complexion of a game. The return game is one place where the Cowboys will have an advantage against just about any opponent.
So what does all of this mean for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys? I'm certainly not expecting a Super Bowl run but I also don't expect the Cowboys to be nearly as bad as the "experts" are predicting. As long as Tony Romo can stay healthy I think the Cowboys can stay in the game with any team they play. The win total this year will hinge on whether the defense can at least be a middle of the pack crew. If they are at least a little better then the Cowboys could win as many as 10 games. If they are as bad or worse than last year then we are probably looking at only 6-8 wins. The most likely outcome that the win total will be somewhere in the middle.
I hate to say it because I am so sick of it. But I am predicting another 8-8 season for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.