Back in September, I conducted my first ever poll of the front page writers as I solicited predictions to the Cowboys 2015 season. With many questions entering the season, I wanted to get a feel for where some of my peers were at. The season is completed and it's time to take a look back and just see how horribly wrong we were.
Question 1 - Are you worried about the running game?
After DeMarco Murray signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason, the Cowboys would have to rely on someone else to handle the workload. Some fans were excited about Joseph Randle, some endorsed Darren McFadden, and then there were others who were crying out for the Cowboys to go get Adrian Peterson. The front office trusted their instincts hoping that between the guys they had on the roster, it would be enough to keep the running game going.
And it was. Of course, it didn't come easy as everything didn't work out as planned. Three of the four running backs who were on the opening day roster would not stick around very long. Lance Dunbar only played four games, Christine Michael only played in five games, and Joseph Randle played in six. That left Darren McFadden to shoulder the load.
McFadden played extremely well, finishing 4th in the league in rushing with 1,089 yards. The Cowboys averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which is exactly what they averaged last year with Murray. With an anemic offense, the Cowboys still rushed for a respectable 118 yards per game in 2015 (ranked 8th in the NFL).
Question 2 - Who do you think will lead the Cowboys in sacks?
Props to Dawn for nailing it. DeMarcus Lawrence led the team with eight sacks. Jim wasn't too far off with his prediction as Greg Hardy finished second with six sacks. Tom and I were left out in the cold as neither of our boys recorded a sack. Randy Gregory missed four games with an ankle injury and was eased back into action. After leading the team in sacks last season, Jeremy Mincey vanished. The only good thing about Mincey's disappearance is that he wasn't really missed. It was hard finding snaps for the veteran defensive lineman with Hardy and Lawrence seeing so much action.
As a team, the Cowboys only improved over last year by three sacks. This number could have been higher if they had a little more help from their offense. The Cowboys did not have the lead as much as they did in 2014. Their sack percentage did see an improvement, however, as it went from 4.94% in 2014 to 5.77% this season.
Question 3 - Give me one non-starter that you think will surprise people this year?
Once again I whiff on this prediction. Corey White had six tackles and three pass break-ups in limited action this year. He was cut in November. Another pet cat of many, Davon Coleman was cut loose after the Atlanta game.
Andrew Gachkar was a solid player for the Cowboys, but he rarely saw the field. Dallas was extremely fortunately when it came to the health of the linebackers this season. Sean Lee had one of his healthier years and Rolando McClain kept his head on straight to be an every-week fixture once he joined the team after his four-game suspension at the beginning of the season. Plus, with Dallas playing so many snaps in the nickel, they just didn't have to go very far down the depth chart at the linebacker position.
While it might not have come as a surprise to many, La'el Collins was the most productive player to start the season coming off the bench. Collins would step in for Ron Leary early in the season when Leary was injured, but by week seven - Collins had taken over the starting job at left guard. He would never let it go.
Question 4 - Are you worried about the Philadelphia Eagles?
Chip Kelly had redecorated the Eagles team so much last offseason that he was either going to look like a genius or a goat. Philadelphia paid a lot of money for free agents, DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell, but got very little production from them. As bad as their defense was last year, it got worse this season. But unlike last season, their offense wasn't around to bail them out. Surprisingly, Sam Bradford managed to stay healthy for a great majority of the season, but he just didn't play very well as he threw 14 interceptions this season.
"I think Chip Kelly is putting together an opportunity to self-destruct." - Dawn
Genius or goat? Kelly was fired so I guess the jury has reached their decision.
Question 5 - How will the Cowboys finish this season?
We all had big expectations this year and we all were disappointed. Once Tony Romo went down, everything changed in a big way. Either we all miscalculated how good we thought the Cowboys were or the loss of Romo made that much of a difference. If Romo comes back healthy next season, we will all be around to find out which one it is.
That is how we did. How did you do fair with these questions?