This year's Dallas Cowboys will need to be better. After a debacle-like season in 2015, one that saw injuries to three key players, the Cowboys are healthy and improved from where they were a year ago. Knocking on wood in hopes that an injury won't happen, the Cowboys have more talent than any other roster in the NFC East and they may just be one of the top-three teams in all of the NFC. It all starts with Tony Romo. Sure getting back players like Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick will be huge. But the Cowboys will go as far as Romo takes them, with the help of a talented offense.
It's easy to discredit Romo at this stage in his career. Despite having so many productive seasons and having the best statistics of any quarterback in the history of the franchise, Romo has all of two playoff wins. And while football is a team game, people seem to point to the fact that Romo has never really done much, even though he's been the reason for the Cowboys not turning into the laughingstock of the NFL over the past decade.
Throughout Romo's tenure, he's never really had that much help. Dating back to his first season as a starter from the get-go, not counting the 2006 season where he became the starter halfway through the year, the running game next to Romo has finished in the top ten just three times. Interestingly enough, two of those three times (2009, 2014) came when the Cowboys made the playoffs. The other was 2015, which isn't surprising considering the Cowboys had three All-Pros on the offensive line. The Cowboys have had a top-ten total defense just three times in that span, those years being 2007, 2008, and 2009.
But you can spin it any way you want, vouching for Romo is something that is in our blood as Cowboys fans. Without a supporting cast that can take the heat off of him, Romo has had to carry the team and not always successfully. That could very well change in 2016 as the Cowboys' offense projects as one of the best in football.
Dallas has enjoyed a nice roster overhaul in the past few years. Gone are the days where the Cowboys gave out big contracts and gave playing time to aging, over-the-hill players. The Cowboys are committed to giving playing time to younger players who are full of potential.
A combination of Romo and Ezekiel Elliott in itself makes up one of the best 1-2 punches in football. I know Elliott hasn't taken an NFL carry yet in his career, but he's the type of player that makes literally everyone on the roster better. The Cowboys handed the football off 392 times to DeMarco Murray in 2014. I don't expect Elliott's usage to be that high, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he touched the football at least 250 times.
A player like that just does so many things for an offense. Elliott paired with the Cowboys' offensive line is going to get the Cowboys back to winning the time of possession battle. His presence is going to force defenses to key in on the running game, leaving time in the pocket for Romo and more opportunity to receivers to get open for completed passes.
It's not just Elliott either. Dallas' running back group as a whole is ridiculously talented. Not counting Lance Dunbar as he is likely to start the year on the PUP list, the Cowboys could very well turn to Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, or Darius Jackson for an extended spell role if needed. However, it is likely that one of them won't end up having a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Looking over at receiver, it's hard to imagine what Dez Bryant must be feeling in preparation for the season. Bryant was arguably the best wideout in football just two years ago. But after his injury-riddled 2015 season, Bryant seems to have lost that label. Nevertheless, a healthy Romo means a successful Dez and a healthy Dez means a successful Romo. The quarterback-wide receiver duo is arguably one of the bests in football and if both can stay healthy this year, another season of at least 15 touchdowns wouldn't surprise me.
The rest of the wide receiver group consists of guys that all play their roles. Terrance Williams is a good option as a No. 2 receiver across from Bryant. The fact that he's in a contract year will also only help his performance in 2016. Brice Butler has all of the tools to be successful in a deep-ball mold with Romo playing quarterback.
On the inside are Cole Beasley and Lucky Whitehead, two players that will be able to give opposing defenses nightmares if they are used correctly in the right subpackages. I'm not to certain what will come about with Devin Street, but there is a decent probability that he makes the roster given his time at outside receiver dating back to college.
Tight end is Mr. Consistency. Jason Witten seems ageless at this point and it's basically a guarantee that he'll put in another productive year. I don't expect him to finish with career highs, but a year similar to 2014 is a decent estimate for him. It's going to be interesting to see what the Cowboys will do with James Hanna and Gavin Escobar. I, for one, think Hanna has surpassed Escobar on the depth chart, but I also believe that it's still unfair to label Escobar as a bust.
Oh yeah, and how could I forget about that offensive line? Three All-Pros, all only 25 years of age. And there's also La'el Collins, a player where it should only be a matter of time until he's in the Pro Bowl.
The offense is one word, well maybe two: Real good. If all goes according to plan, the Cowboys have the offensive firepower to make some noise out of the NFC East. Dallas' team is too talented to fall on its face in 2016. With an offense as talented as this one, commandeered by a quarterback who knows that his window to reach a Super Bowl is running out, the Cowboys are going to be a problem for any team that has to face them on Sundays in the fall.