What is the ceiling for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys?
We all know what an uphill climb this team has. Three consecutive 8-8 seasons. The losses of key players such as Demarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Sean Lee. The struggles with the salary cap. The health issues this team has dealt with the last few seasons, the brutal schedule, coaching……. Im not gonna talk about any of that today. Not in a negative way at least
I want to focus on how good this team potentially can be. The stars have done anything but line up for this team in quite some time. What if they catch that break here and there? What if the players that lead this team all play up to their potential? What if a few of the young players step up and make their mark? Just how far can this team go?
I would have to say the biggest obstacle to me seems like the brutal schedule they have. They play the best division in football this year in the NFC west. They play on the road at the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. They play opening day against the 49ers, who have gone to the last 3 NFC title games. The Arizona Cardinals went 10-6 last year and didn’t even make the playoffs and the St Louis Rams have done a good job building up their roster. That division is no joke. They play a colts team that has been to the playoffs the last 2 years, a Texans team I highly doubt will be drafting 1st again, the Titans on the road, and the Jaguars in London. They also have rematches with 2 teams that crushed them last year in the Saints and Bears. There is some good news here. The best way to get into the playoffs is to win the division. No one in their division causes me to lose sleep at night. They are all beatable. Plus Philly, The skins, and the giants have to play the NFC west and AFC south as well. The Cowboys are not alone. Beat those 3 teams and they have a realistic shot at getting in the dance. As of right now, I don’t think any team in the east has made any leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last year.
Health has been a nagging issue to say the least the last few seasons. So far so good. they have a couple padded practices under their belt and no significant injuries to speak of. Knock on wood. And this year they have plenty of time to figure out what they are going to do without Demarcus Ware and Sean Lee instead of scrambling and trying to figure out what they will do half way through the season.They have done a decent job covering their basses at those two key positions. They spent draft picks, and brought in free agents to try and build depth and give themselves some options there.
How about player improvement? I believe its feasible that Bruce Carter improves from last year. This is a guy we are all waiting on to break out. No way to know if he will have a break out season, but an improvement seems likely given this will be his 2nd season in this 4-3 defense. How about JJ Wilcox? As a rookie, this guy flashed some nice potential. He showed nice range and ball skills early in the season, especially on the road in Philly. I look to see more of the same on a consistent basis this year. I don’t think Demarcus Lawrence is the 2nd coming of D Ware, but I do think he will provide more stability at defensive end than what an injured D Ware did last year. The most intriguing player to me is Rolando Mcclain. No doubt this team will miss Sean Lee’s play making ability. Mcclain can fill in and be a beast in the middle of that defense if his head is right. This guy is big, nasty, and plays with a mean streak.
He potentially could add a dimension this defense hasn’t had in quite some time. Then there is Henry Melton. He is widely considered a prototype 3 tech. If this guy comes back from the injury that sidelined him in 2013 that will make this defense tick as much as anything. If these 5 guys come in and have decent seasons, which is very possible, I’ll go out on a limb and say no way this defense finishes dead last this year. I would look for the defense to take a considerable jump.
Then there is the usual. You know if healthy Romo will throw for at least 4000 yards. Dez will be among the league leaders in all the key receiving categories, and Witten will just keep on keep’n on.
I think everyone is thrilled about this Oline. This has gone from a glaring weakness 3 years ago to potentially the greatest strength of the team. They flat out have the talent to pave the way for anything this offense wants to do. They should give Romo the time he needs, and open up the running lanes Murray needs. If used correctly it can really be a thing of beauty to watch this line spearheaded by 3 first round picks dominate the line of scrimmage.
The group they have at receiver and the special teams unit is solid. Terrence Williams had a good rookie year, Beasley creates tough mismatches in the slot, and Street has the potential to come in as a nice 4th or 5th wide out. Dan Bailey has been nothing but money in the kicking game, and Dwayne Harris is one of the best in the league as a return man.
So add this all up. What is the ceiling for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys? Ill just say this… If these guys step up and play together as a team, if they make it through that gauntlet of a schedule, if they happen to win their division and get into the playoffs, I don’t think anyone would be thrilled about playing such a young and hungry team