Pencils Down: Last Chance Predictions

It’s down to the wire before the first game of week 1, but here is my assignment on how the Cowboys will do this season. Overall, I consider myself a "cautious optimist", although to some I might appear like a "realist" at times. I try not to make excuses for last years record. I consider 8-8 to be the starting point for my evaluation of this year’s team. But I do feel like my mind is open to seeing real improvement as well as reasons for doom and gloom. Let’s start with the bad news.

Doom and Gloom

The Health of the Defensive Line
Ratliff on PUP - He’s still recovering from hernia surgery, might have issues with the staff, and the team was completely silent on this the entire preseason? This situation seems unpredictable in the bad way right now.

Spencer with a bone bruise - From what I’ve read it is quite possible that this bone bruise could hamper him all season because there might not have been enough time for him to rest it. I hope he’s just rounding into football shape right now, but I can’t help but wonder if he will be a rotational player at best for the season.

Ware a year older and hitting big dudes more often - Demarcus looked great in limited duty this offseason. I’m not worried about him losing a step. However, he played hurt last year and his duties are going to be even tougher on his body. Given the current injury situation on the D-line, seeing Ware go down would be even more devastating.

Tyrone Crawford in IR - We’ve kind of forgotten about this guy because it happened so early, but he was important depth. So here we are at week 1 and we already have a guy we signed off the street probably starting on our D-line (Selvie). This just reminds me too much of our situation at center last year.

Given all of this, it’s hard for me to predict that our D-line play will be any better than last year.

Special Teams
Our performance in preseason has been absolutely atrocious. Now, there is some reason to hope: things got a little bit cleaned up in the 4th preseason game and Bisaccia got some new weapons from last minute trades. However, at this point in the season, this important part of the game is still a huge question mark to me. I need to see it, before I can believe it.

Yards Allowed in preseason
Preseason stats aren’t reliable, but placing 26th in yards allowed per game is not good. In some ways, this may be a reflection of our depth more than our starters. I think Sean/Lee tightens up some of the underneath stuff that will be available to most teams. While I like the depth overall at LB, I think it becomes a lot easier to consistently move the ball should those guys repeat their injury trends.

Running Game
I do think we will improve from our abysmal performance last year (see below) but I have no reason to believe that this will be an actual strength. This is still a worry.

It’s a wash

Callahan calling plays, Garrett as walkaround
Just don’t see this being that huge. I maybe this gets us an extra 3 points in a game or two, then again maybe not

Romo giving "Manning time"
This has seemed like a garbage story line to me. * yawns *

Sunshine, Kool-Aid, Puppies, and Double Rainbows!!1

Turnover Improvement
Every new coordinator comes in and harps about improving on turnovers, but this year, I think it’s for real. If preseason can be trusted at all, then the combination of scheme and ball awareness seems to have infected the entire defense. I expect the Dallas defense to be in the top half of the league in turnovers.

A solid and deep O-line
I never thought I would type those words this year, but with the Waters signing, the emergence of Leary and the really impressive performance from the rookie, Frederick, I don’t seem to have another choice. These guys are not going to be world beaters, but I think that they will give our skill players a chance to shine more often than not.

RB depth
This group goes four deep. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. I’m not worried nearly as much about Murray going down this year. I don’t think our run blocking is going to be dominating, but I think these guys are going to have some good runs and make the most of what they are getting.

Passing Game
Dez is looking beast. Miles Austin is surprising healthy. The pass blocking has looked waaay better. Romo has looked like Romo. This is going to be our bread and butter.


I think that depth issues will bite us on defense, but they are going to give more turnovers than last year. I expect streaky performances that will follow the somewhat random nature of turnovers. They will at times be dominating and other times put some stress on our offense. Overall though, the bar was pretty low last year, and it should be an area of improvment.

The passing game looks seriously primed. I expect really good things from Romo having more time. We may wind up being a team that passes to open up the run.

Special teams, as I noted, are still a real worry. This could very well wind up costing us some games. I have my fingers crossed, but with the season fast approaching, I gotta acknowledge that I just can’t expect much right now.

Overall, while I have serious concerns, we dealt with a lot of adversity last year and I think our arrow is pointing up. I predict 10-6 which is enough in the mediocre NFC East to earn the title.

What do you folks think?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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