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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: 20 TDs for Dez Bryant? Cowboys in Playoffs? Hatcher at 1-Tech?

We take a breather from the Dallas-Fort Worth media coverage and take a look at what people outside of Dallas are saying about the Cowboys.

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

NFL analyst: Cowboys' Dez Bryant scoring 20 touchdowns this season is 'possible' - DMN
The DMN transcribed an NFL Live show in which Teddy Bruschi and Ryan Clark discussed what to expect from Dez Bryant

Bruschi: “Well, in the tail end of 2012, he had 10 touchdowns in eight games. That would make 16 games, 20 touchdowns. That’s some crazy production. I don’t expect that out of Dez Bryant this year. Can he still achieve that production? It’s possible. But I remember watching Randy Moss catch 23 touchdowns in one season, and that type of production is rare. Can he be that guy? I wouldn't say it’s going to be the exact same touchdown production but similar.”

Clark: “You don’t look for the exact same numbers and multiply them by two. But he can be that No. 1 guy in Dallas. He can be another guy we compare to the young receivers in the league whether it be A.J. Green or Julio Jones. I think Dez Bryant can produce numbers to get him at the top of that list. But it has to be through Tony Romo. Tony Romo looks to him and understands hey, Dez has the talent to get me there. It can be done.”

Surprise teams for 2013 -
Jason LaConfora looks at the teams he expects to make a surprise push for the playoffs. While he doesn't see the AFC playoff picture changing much, he does see some surprise playoff teams in the wide-open NFC -- one of which is the Cowboys, who LaConfora damns with faint praise:

In general, I'm skeptical of any Cowboys hype. I don't buy the chemistry there, wonder about leadership and a winning culture and don't think they've found the blueprint for long-term success. But teams pop up from time to time and while I can't see Dallas having any deep playoff run -- postseason hoopla will continue to elude them -- they have the talent and the schedule to make a little noise. They're due to be something besides .500, and I say they just might end up topping the NFC East.

If they can take care of business against the AFC West and NFC North -- and by and large I believe they will -- then Dallas will be poised to have their final two games, against Washington and Philadelphia, matter. Tony Romo got paid like a big boy quarterback, and while I am sure there will still be a crippling turnover or two along the way, I'm looking for the re-emergence of Miles Austin to give the attack a jolt and the return of linebacker Sean Lee will be huge, too. So while I'm not projecting huge things for this outfit, I do believe they will be better than many expect.

Ranking the NFL tight end duos - National Football Post
Dan Pompei ranks the tight end duos in the league in what appears to be a ranking based almost entirely on draft pedigree. The Cowboys come in fifth.

Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar. An eight time Pro Bowler, Witten is one of the greats. Witten and almost anyone would be a good combination. In fact, Witten and Martellus Bennett formed a more talented combination than Witten and Escobar. But Escobar was picked in the second round for a reason. He didn’t have a great workout, but he played like a fine athlete. If he develops the way he is capable of developing, Escobar is going to be an excellent second tight end in Dallas.

The Cowboys narrowly edge out that other NFC East powerhouse whose history of producing great tight ends is as barren as its Super Bowl trophy case.

Ranking the best of defensive linemen -
Pat Kirwan details the different positions along the defensive line, and ranks the players at each position, sorted by 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes. DeMarcus Ware ranks as the top RDE in the league, Jason Hatcher ranks as the fifth-best one-technique and Jay Ratliff comes in fifth on the list of players Kirwan expects to rebound in 2013.

DeMarcus Ware: Ware is moving to right defensive end in a 4-3 scheme after spending his career as an OLB in a 3-4. New Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will scheme him the same way he used Simeon Rice in the great Tampa Bay defenses. Ware will still be a leading sacker in the NFL and will quickly adjust to coming out of a three-point stance after years in a two-point stance.

Jason Hatcher: Hatcher moves to a 4-3 nose after years at 3-4 DE. He has stunt skills and should play well in his new scheme but time will tell.

Jay Ratliff: Ratliff was a top 3-4 nose tackle now scheduled to play the three-technique in a 4-3 defense. Ratliff did have penetration skills as a nose tackle but at 32 years old he has to prove he can do it over a guard coming off an injury-riddled 2012.

Not a single NFC team among's six best NFL rivalries of 2013 -
Nothing good can come of it when you let a Browns fan write about the greatest rivalries in the NFL, and predictably the list produced by Mark Sessler doesn't contain a single NFC East team. This is particularly noteworthy given that of the top 13 most watched TV shows last year (all of them NFL games) the NFC East was represented in seven games, and the Cowboys in five.

Program Viewers
1. FOX Thanksgiving Game (Redskins-Cowboys), 11/22 28.7 million
2. NBC Sunday Night Football (Steelers-Broncos), 9/9 27.6 million
3. CBS Thanksgiving Game (Texans-Lions), 11/22 27.3 million
4. FOX Sunday National (mostly Giants-Cowboys), 10/28 26.9 million
5. CBS Sunday National (mostly Steelers-Cowboys), 12/16 26.9 million
6. FOX Sunday National (mostly 49ers-Packers), 9/9 26.4 million
7. FOX Sunday National (mostly 49ers-Saints), 11/25 24.9 million
8. CBS Sunday National (mostly Broncos-Patriots), 10/7 24.5 million
9. FOX Sunday National (mostly Saints-Giants), 12/9 24.5 million
10. FOX Sunday National (mostly Cowboys-Eagles), 11/11 24.3 million
11. CBS Sunday National (mostly Steelers-Giants), 11/4 24.2 million
12. CBS Sunday National (mostly Texans-Broncos), 9/23 24.0 million
13. NBC Wed. Night Kickoff Game (Cowboys-Giants), 9/5 23.9 million

Eight in the Box: Key offseasons - ESPN NFC East Blog
Dan Graziano takes a look at a key player from each NFC East team who needs to show something in offseason sessions. For the Cowboys, that would be Jay Ratliff.

He missed 10 games in 2012 due to injury. He cursed out the team's owner after a game. He got busted for driving under the influence mere weeks after friend and defensive linemate Jerry Brown [Note: Brown was a LB] was killed in an accident for which friend and defensive linemate Josh Brent is facing intoxication manslaughter charges. He costs $4.072 million against the salary cap for a team that struggled all offseason to find cap room. It's kind of a miracle Ratliff is still on the roster. One of the reasons the Cowboys decided to switch to a 4-3 defensive alignment was their belief that Ratliff would thrive as one of two defensive tackles in Monte Kiffin's defense, and in order to overcome all of the good reasons they have to get rid of him, Ratliff could stand to look as healthy and dominant as possible this offseason on that defensive line.

Time spent leading, tied, or trailing -
Chase Stuart looks at which teams were playing with a lead, and which teams were playing from behind in 2012. No surprise to see that the Cowboys ranked a lowly 30th in time spent with a lead.

It’s easy to bag on Tony Romo, but Dallas was not a very good team last year. The Cowboys were 30th in time spent with the lead and spent 30% of their games tied, the highest rate in the league. Romo led five fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives last year, and was a couple of inches away from pulling off a sixth. Dallas finished 8-8 last year but ranked 25th in Game Scripts.

If not for some late-game Romo magic, the team could have had much worse year. And it’s not like Romo was the reason the Cowboys were generally trailing. The Cowboys finished in the bottom five in turnovers forced, 31st in rushing yards, 30th in yards per carry, 25th in Net Yards per Attempt allowed, and 27th in rushing yards per carry allowed. The passing offense was the only positive thing in Dallas last year.

More Cowboys coverage:

Jakar Hamilton: Next UDFA To Make The Roster?

News And Notes From Day 2 Of Cowboys' Rookie Minicamp

Garrett Press Conference: Tempo, Talent, Turnovers

Dallas Cowboys Injury Updates And Roster Moves

News And Notes From Day 1 Of Cowboys' Rookie Minicamp