The 2015 season is about to begin. And with it, all the uncertainty of the offseason will slowly start to disappear. But before these uncertainties become more concrete, a few of us on the front page wanted to write our name in the wet cement before it dries. Here are five questions for the upcoming season:
Question 1 - Are you worried about the running game?
Tom: I'm not worried, although the situation is not assured yet. We just never saw the actual starting team running the ball very much in preseason. The ground game usually takes a bit of rhythm, and they never established anything resembling that while Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden were in. There is likely to be some time to get everything working correctly in the first game, but it should settle down in the second half. This season, I think Randle gets about 1,000, McFadden is in the 600-700 range, and Christine Michael may just get 200 or so as the third guy (Lance Dunbar will most likely be used mostly as a receiver). I don't anticipate Michael having a large role unless one of the backs ahead of him has some kind of problem.
Jim: Not really. More worried about blitz pick up issues. I think Randle will end up with the most yards rushing.
Dawn: The running back situation is not overly troubling for me. I think Randle is going to be the closest thing to a bell cow back on the roster, but Garrett and Linehan are not concerned with individual stats and I don't think he will break the thousand yard barrier. The offensive brain trust is going to go with whatever is working on a weekly basis. Someone will get the yards. This week it may be Randle and next it may be McFadden. Michael will get his share of carries too.
Danny: Not in the slightest. The calmness of the coaching staff is to blame for my overconfidence. They are not worried, so neither am I. My only concern is the lack of faith in the resiliency of McFadden. He's going to get hurt at some point, I just know it. But the addition of Michael gives the team a little insurance. To have him in the team's back pocket as a "worst case scenario" isn't all that bad. He's a good back. He still needs more developing, but he doesn't need to be taught how to hit the holes hard. I've already seen him do that. I'm going with Randle getting 1170 yards with McFadden adding 380 yards before he gets hurt. Then, Michael will get more touches and he'll end up with 690 yards of his own. Ultimately, it will leave us about 100 yards short of last year's 2,354 mark, but close enough will get the job done. Other teams better hope the Cowboys running attack slips this season because if they flirt with last year's production combined with the improved defense - it's going to be bad news for the rest of the league.
Question 2 - Who do you think will lead the Cowboys in sacks this season?
Tom: I realize rookies are not supposed to get a lot of sacks, but I am going to go out on a limb and say Randy Gregory will break the trend. He is going to come in mostly on passing downs, especially after Greg Hardy is available, and will be fresh, and will benefit from the attention being drawn by the rest of the Rushmen. Face it, if you have DeMarcus Lawrence, Hardy, Tyrone Crawford, and Gregory lined up rushing your quarterback, who do you worry about the most? I'm betting Gregory gets more chances to go against a single blocker just because he is a rookie, and the double teams will be elsewhere.
Jim: I'm going to go with DeMarcus Lawrence and Greg Hardy tying at eight sacks. That may not seem like a huge total, but I think lots will be spread among the team. I expect Gregory and Crawford to pitch in about six apiece as well.
Dawn: I will buck the trend set by Tom here. D-Law is going to take the NFL by storm this season. It took most of last year for him to get to where he wanted to be, but now that he is going I see him as being the guy whom QBs are going to hate seeing on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Danny: First off, I have a new-found love for Randy Gregory. My initial low-ball expectation of a typical rookie defensive end is going to be wrong. He could very well surprise everyone and take down the title for the reason you mentioned - one on one matchups. I'm going to take a different route though. Instead of one of the younglings, I'm going with the senior pass rusher, Mr. Jeremy Mincey. I predicted him to do well prior to camp and I'm sticking with it. I just think he's the most talented edge rusher (not named Hardy) at this very moment and like other pass rushers, he too will only have to deal with one blocker. With a four game head start on Hardy, I think he gets to 11 sacks and that will lead the pack.
Question 3 - Give me one non-starter that you think will surprise people this season.
Tom: My non-starter that is going to surprise people is a bit hard, because almost everyone on the 53 man roster comes with some high expectations. I am going to choose Andrew Gachkar, just because his reputation was as a special team's ace. I think he will see a lot of snaps relieving the starting linebackers, and he is going to show people that he can play.
Jim: My non-starter that will surprise people is Davon Coleman. I think he has the potential to be a hugely disruptive player as part of this rotation.
Dawn: The "impact" non-starter is tough. I too will go with Gachkar simple because he will have the most opportunities to make plays. The Cowboys depth chart has come a long way during the Garrett era and now it is becoming more of a challenge for the down roster guys to get sustained shots at playing time. Gachkar will have his chances on special teams, and like Tom stated, he will see plenty of defensive snaps as well. If he wants to keep those opportunities he will have to step up. I think he will do so.
Danny: I really like what I am seeing from Corey White so far. He came to Dallas just fighting for a place on this roster and I think he finishes with a career season. With the Cowboys getting more pressure on the quarterback, the corners are going to have some chances to take advantage of errant passes and make some big plays. White is one of those corners who attacks and will jump routes. I predicted he'd have a pick-six in the week three preseason game and he let me down, but he made up for it the very next week by taking one to the house. Last year, Tyler Patmon had a preseason pick-six as well as one in the regular season. I think White does the same this year.
Question 4 - Are you worried about the?
Tom: I always worry about the Eagles, but I worry about everyone. Almost all NFL games are much closer than many think. Additionally, division rivalry games seem more prone to surprises. But I don't think the Eagles are going to do as well as many predictions say. They have a lot of players with a history of fragility, and the league has had a couple of years to start figuring Chip Kelly out. I think they will finish with 9 or 10 wins, but come in second in the division. They have a shot at a wild card, but it is only about 50/50 in my opinion.
Jim: I am not worried about the Eagles but I do believe they are the only true threat to take this division from us. I do genuinely believe we are better than them at every position group but running back, which is a change from last year, when I would've added "the front 7 of the defense".
Dawn: I am taking a "wait and see" attitude on Philly. I think that Chip Kelly is putting together an opportunity to self-destruct. Will that happen? I don't know, but when you bet your success on a QB and RB that both have a history of injuries it is likely to happen. Throw in an OL that is at best a work in progress and the odds become longer.
Danny: A little. I expect the Eagles to come out of the gate firing. Brace yourself Cowboys nation - by week five, the media will rave about how Philadelphia is the best team in the NFL. But then, the five
hour week energy smoothie will start to wear off. The fast paced offense is great when everything is clicking, but there are some drawbacks. The offense is very dependent on beating you in open space and they rely on the speed of several players to be able to win their matchups. But defenses adjust and after a while, they aren't always escaping the defenders. Then what do you do? The Eagles can't overpower you. They must out finesse you. And when the offense starts stalling, that's when they'll be in real trouble. Similar to what we all saw in the Cowboys week 15 matchup in Philadephia, the defense can get tuckered out in a hurry. The Eagles defense has improved, but they are still riverboat gamblers. It's all about the pass rush and they will leave themselves vulnerable to the big play. The Eagles will go 10-6 and make the playoffs, but they'll have a tough time in their Wild Card game at Lambeau.
Question 5 - How will the Cowboys finish in 2015?
Tom: My prediction for the Cowboys is that they go 11-5 in the regular season and wind up in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50. It will take good health, especially that of Tony Romo. If they can avoid too many injuries, they can take on any team in the league.
Jim: I believe the team will repeat its 12-4 performance from last year, but that it results in home field advantage this time. I think they take the Lombardi this year.
Dawn: I am driving the Super Bowl train baby, but I sip on the blue tinted Kool Aid quite a bit. The Boys win the NFC East and if Romo is healthy this will be the season where he gets his shot at a ring.
Danny: I got the Cowboys 12-4. I don't think there is a single week this year where I won't expect them to win, but I think they'll have a little trouble with their AFC East opponents. They'll win the division, get a bye and have to travel to Seattle for the NFC Championship. If they are still relatively healthy at that point, they have a real good shot and going after title number six.
Okay, those are our answers. What answers do you have?