clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cowboys News: Why The Cowboys Will Walk Away With The NFC East

New, comments

Latest Cowboys news: Cowboys have best shot of going from worst to first; why the Cowboys will recapture the NFC East; the importance of Rod Marinelli.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys have the best shot of going from worst to first in their division - Adam Stites, SBNation.com
Going from last to first isn't uncommon in the NFL and the Cowboys are primed to continue that tradition, Stites explains.

Getting Romo back in 2016 is an obvious boost and the reason why the Cowboys are still a force to be reckoned with, but his health isn't the only thing the team has going for it. Dez Bryant is back from injury too, and the offense will rely less on Romo after Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott to handle the bulk of the rushing duties.

The defense has pass rushing concerns, but it'll be aided by an offense that won't be a consistent disaster like it was in 2015. The Cowboys led the NFL with turnovers on 18 percent of the team's offensive possessions, and the Dallas defense managed to recover three fumbles all season, a weird statistical anomaly that will almost certainly rise in 2016.

None of the other three NFC East teams have a stranglehold on the division, so the door is open for the Cowboys to return to their spot at the top. Dallas is actually the betting favorite to be the division champion on Bovada.

The NFL's 5 Most Improved Offenses Entering 2016 - Austan Kas, Numberfire.com
Numberfire look at which teams will have the most improved offenses heading into 2016, and the Cowboys made the list.

The Cowboys will be one of the league’s most improved offenses based solely on the injured players they’ll get back.

Not only will Dallas welcome Romo and Bryant back to the fold, but the Cowboys also added running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft. McFadden is back for 2016 and will pair with Alfred Morris, a free-agent signing, to form a very capable backup duo behind Elliott.

Barring another injury-pocalypse, Dallas is going to have a much-improved unit in 2016.

Cowboys' chances in 2016 rely on Rod Marinelli - Chris Burke, SI.com
The Cowboys are built to win with offense, but their hopes for the 2016 season still rely heavily on defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, Burke writes.

Not to be overlooked in [the 2014] division-winning effort—and it wasn’t by those paying attention—was the work Marinelli’s defensive unit put in. Without any obvious stars, Dallas’s defense finished in the top half of the league in points allowed, holding every single opponent under 30 points and half of their foes to 20 or less. It was some of Marinelli’s finest work.

He made lemons out of lemonade last season, too, giving the Cowboys a chance to win most weeks despite the utter calamity that occurred when Romo was sidelined.

If the ‘16 season is to be a bounceback year for the ’Boys, Marinelli will have to pull a rabbit from his hat again.

2016 NFL Forecast : NFC East - Baltimore Beatdown
The Baltimore Beatdown writers get together and project the Cowboys to walk away with the NFC East.

I think last year was an aberration and this Cowboys team returns to its 2014 form. The 2014 team was one bad call away from going to the NFC Championship game (Yes, Dez caught the ball.) Tony Romo is banged up, but he returns to a strong offensive line and will get a running game in the form of 1st round pick Ezekiel Elliott. To go along with a healthy Dez Bryant, the offense brings back Terrence Williams and future Hall of Famer, Jason Witten. The defense will have a tough start to the year with the suspensions of Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawerence. When these pass rushers return along with Orlando Scandrick, the defense will help the Cowboys to recapture the NFC East title.

Brandon Carr on suspensions: We have to come together even stronger - Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk
Cornerback Brandon Carr said on Sirius XM Radio that the looming suspensions mean the rest of the team will simply have to step up.

"Well, anytime you get a guy going down in your unit, you have to come together even stronger to make up for that slack," Carr said. "But Rolando is a guy that’s made a lot of plays for us in the past two years, another dominant presence on the field. So we’re definitely going to miss that. But football’s a game of the next man up, it’s a game of inches. So it’s going to take for all of us to come to training camp focused and next man up, get him ready, get prepared to go out there to battle."

Can you trust Ezekiel Elliott to be an RB1 in fantasy football in 2016? - Jim McCormick, ESPN
ESPN takes a look at Elliott's potential impact, and comes away impressed.

The key 2016 rookie asset to evaluate is surely "Zeke," as the Cowboys' top pick is currently going fifth on average at the position and in firmly the first round overall in ESPN drafts so far this summer. Our projection for Elliot this season, powered by the ever-accurate Mike Clay, has him set for the fourth-most carries in the league, with roughly 280.

Elliot is also projected for the 11th-most catches at the position, with 51, netting him the fourth-most projected yards from scrimmage (1,673) among all players at the position. Converting this gaudy expected workload into fantasy numbers, we're projecting Elliot for the fourth-most fantasy points at the position in both standard and PPR formats.

Travis Frederick enters 2016 season with high expectations - Chris Bumbaca, Wisconsin State Journal
PFF recently ranked Frederick No. 27 on its list of the league's top 100 players.

The first-round pick (No. 31 overall) is humbled by his success as he enters his fourth year in the NFL. Frederick said he believes his individual ranking is a product of the entire offensive line, not just his personal performance.

"It’s an honor to be recognized that way but it’s kind of hard for me to take a lot of stock in it," Frederick, sporting his signature lumberjack-style beard, said Tuesday at the Legends of Wisconsin golf outing at University Ridge Golf Course.

"There’s no focus on that whatsoever," Frederick said of the unit’s reputation. "What we focus on is getting better individually, getting better collectively — which comes from getting better individually — and then doing what we can and finding out what we can do better to help the team."

Star_medium

How Cowboys' 3 key suspensions impact Giants, Redskins - James Kratch, NJ.com
The Cowboys will be without starting defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence for the first four games of the 2016 season, and likely without Rolando McClain forever. They'll face two division opponents in the first four weeks, and Kratch gives his take on what the suspensions could mean for the Giants and Redskins.

The Giants have to be feeling pretty good about their offensive line for Week 1. A punchless Cowboys pass rush could allow a golden opportunity for left tackle Ereck Flowers, right guard John Jerry and right tackle Marshall Newhouse to all get a strong outing under their belts immediately as the unit jels along with left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg. And Eli Manning has always made plays against the Cowboys - especially when he faces no pressure.

The same logic goes for Kirk Cousins and the Redskins in Week 2.

How To Proceed At LB With R. McClain Facing Suspension? - Staff writers, Dallas Cowboys
The four staff writers each weigh in with their take on how the Cowboys are likely to adjust at linebacker. The consensus seems to be that they'll go with what they've got, and that Anthony Hitchens, Andrew Gachkar, and Mark Nzeocha are all options at MLB. I'm choosing to quote Bryan Broaddus' take here, because, well, read for yourself.

The one positive note about Rolando McClain skipping the OTAs was it gave the coaches the opportunity to use some different combinations at his spot. Andrew Gachkar took the majority of the snaps with the first defense and the nickel but I see him more in that core special teamer role and not as a starter. Anthony Hitchens was used in the rotation. Hitchens was the starter for the first four games last season while McClain was on suspension and did not play poorly. Hitchens averaging a little more than seven tackles per game as the starter. The coaches ideally would like to play him at WILL behind Sean Lee and continue his role on special teams. The wild card here in my opinion is Mark Nzeocha. I like his physical makeup to handle the position but there is a learning curve. I have no problem giving him as many snaps as possible to see if he can do the job going forward.

Anthony Hitchens capable of replacing Rolando McClain - J.J. Taylor, ESPN
Taylor suggests the Cowboys may rotate in guys behind Hitchens.

At 6 feet, 235 pounds, Hitchens doesn't have the size of the 6-4, 255-pound McClain. Nor does he bring the physical presence to the defense that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli often raves about. But he runs well, has good instincts and is a good tackler. He had 75 tackles as a rookie and 67 last season. Hitchens, who can play all three linebacker spots, has started 20 games in his first two seasons.

The Cowboys' biggest concern will be making sure he doesn't get worn down because he's capable of being one of the two linebackers in their nickel defense. Damien Wilson, a fourth-round pick last season, and Mark Nzeocha could get some playing time behind Hitchens in the base defense and the nickel.

Star_medium

NFL reveals YouTube upload game winners - NFL.com
The NFL announced that 96 of the most memorable games in NFL history - as voted by fans - will be uploaded to the NFL's official YouTube channel this August. For the Cowboys, it's three Super Bowls:

Super Bowl XXVII -- Cowboys vs. Bills (42%). Cowboys first Super Bowl win under Jimmy Johnson.

Super Bowl XII -- Cowboys vs. Broncos (19%). Cowboys' 27-10 Super Bowl win.

Super Bowl VI -- Cowboys vs. Dolphins (16%). Cowboys first Super Bowl win, 24-3.

Eagles G.M. says they made mistakes when signing "guys who aren’t our own" - Michael Smith, ProFootballTalk
General Manager Howie Roseman with a blinding flash of the obvious (see also: Learning From Chip Kelly And Other Genius GMs: Free Agency Mistakes The Cowboys Should Avoid), which he weirdly tries to sell as a ground-breaking insight:

"When you look at it, some of the mistakes we’ve made have been going out and spending a lot of money," Roseman said, via USA Today. "A lot of those mistakes were on guys that aren’t our own. They were guys that we’ve brought from another organization, and we thought we knew."

Just don't tell the Giants, okay?