There was much gnashing of teeth and fits of despair today as fans chewed on the 2014 schedule. You can't blame Cowboys fans who've been subjected to years of frustration and disappointment to tend to be a little pessimistic about the team's outlook. I feel and share in your pain. But here is a little something to take the edge off.
The Dallas offense ranked 5th in Offensive Touchdowns per Game in 2013, proving that our offense can compete with any team in the league. It doesn't take a Princeton education to recognize our defense is a liability, and the best chance for improving as a team will be to score even more points per game in 2014 than 2013. So here is how the offense gets even better in 2014, and how the Cowboys breakthrough to the playoffs.
Dez Bryant is evolving into one the league’s most dominant receivers. Look for Bryant to become Linehan’s Megatron 2.0. I expect Linehan to work tirelessly to create favorable matchups for Dez and leverage his unique skill set and take the Cowboys offense to an even higher level in 2014.
Terrance Williams will take the top off of defenses and open up the field for the offense. Wide receivers typically make huge strides in their sophomore season. William's elite size and speed helped him roll up 1,832 receiving yards in 2012 and 27 touchdown catches in his three seasons at Baylor. That production immediately translated at the next level with a 736 yard 5 touchdown rookie campaign when he showed a knack for getting open deep. Look for even more big play production in 2014.
The team will get Escobar more involved in 2014 and his production will be a big reason why the Dallas offense will be even more explosive in 2014. The Cowboys invested a 2nd round pick on Escobar with visions of the 6’ 6" beast becoming our version of Jimmy Graham. Look for that investment to begin paying dividends this season as Escobar has a full off season under his belt. Expect Escobar to begin training camp faster, stronger and better prepared to take advantage of his dangerous size and pass catching skills.
Another factor in a more explosive Cowboys offense in 2014 is Lance Dunbar. Look for Linehan to use Dunbar much like Sean Payton used Darren Sproles in New Orleans. Dunbar and Sproles are very similar players and Dunbar showed last season just how explosive he can be when used wisely. Dunbar is deadly in shotgun formations on draw plays and catching the ball on circle routes or short out patterns where he can make plays in space.
Lastly, look for Demarco Murray to continue his ascension to elite status among NFL running backs. The offensive line finished the 2013 season as the 6th ranked run blocking unit according to PFF. Look for Linehan to push the ball downfield to open up the running game and let Murray do damage when teams have to commit safety help to slow down Bryant and Williams. Murray’s 5.2 yards per carry was the best among backs with 200 or more carries. Yes, that’s right. Murray bested LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles on yards per attempt. Yet, for reasons we can leave for another discussion, Murray had only 217 carries to McCoy’s 312 and Charles’ 259 carries. Look for Murray’s role in the offense to increase in 2014 and the offensive production to provide even better returns than the 5th ranked points per game posted in 2013.
Quit freaking out about this schedule. Instead, pour a beer tonight and relax. The Cowboys offense is poised for big things in 2014.