It’s here. Football is about to happen. But before a single snap is played, it’s time to throw out some Dallas Cowboys predictions for the upcoming season.
The "I told ya so" prediction
If you haven’t gotten in on the office pool for how many rushing yards Ezekiel Elliott will have, there’s still time. Just enter it in the comment section. The winning bid with be forever appreciated for such clairvoyance and highly respected by their BTB peers. Here are a few milestones that could fall this season:
That is the Cowboys rookie rushing record from Tony Dorsett in 1977. Say goodbye to it. Even the eventual great, Emmitt Smith only got 937 yards his rookie season in 1990. While those are impressive ways to start your NFL career, anything less than 1,000 yards for Zeke is going to be a major disappointment. The Cowboys have had a 1,000 yard rusher in each of the last three seasons dating back to 2013 when DeMarco Murray gained 1,121 yards on 217 carries. Prior to that season, the Cowboys hadn’t had a 1,000 yard running back since 2006 when Julius Jones rushed for 1,087 yards on 267 carries. While 1,000 yard rushers don’t grow on trees, Cowboys fans are spoiled as they know they have an offensive line that can make any decent running back a good one. Just ask Darren McFadden.
That is Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record that he had in 1983. That year, he carried the ball 390 times. The Los Angeles Rams relied heavily on Dickerson that season. The Cowboys will be doing the same this season as they try to alleviate the pressure off of rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott.
If you think the Cowboys wouldn’t consider putting such a heavy workload on a running back, then you are probably forgetting that they did just that with DeMarco Murray in 2014. Murray would set a franchise record after carrying the ball 392 times. Now, maybe there’s a difference in overworking a soon-to-be free agent that may never help you again versus a rookie who’s going to be around a while. But if Zeke gets a good dose of carries, look out.
As great as Dickerson was his rookie season, he was even better the following year. The Rams star running back ran for over 2,100 yards in 1984. And he would do so with less carries. Dickerson averaged an impressive 5.6 yards per carry which was a full yard greater than what he did the previous year. If Zeke is even going to flirt with something of this stature, he’s going to have to not only get the ball a lot, but break off several big runs.
My prediction: 1,568 yards
While it is not unheard of that Zeke could break any of these records, it would take the perfect scenario to reach the big ones. And one of those factors would have to include not having another running back on the team to help shoulder the workload. And that is just not the case in Dallas. Alfred Morris will be around and should also do well in this offense. Look for the Cowboys to keep Zeke fresh with some series where the veteran gets some touches. In the end, the team will want the ball in the hands of their biggest playmaker and that player is Elliott.
Expect a big year for the Cowboys new star running back.
The "hold your breath" prediction
The Cowboys defense is going to be Jekyll and Hyde this season. Sometimes they’ll look fantastic and other times it will be flat out scary. With an offensive attack that will put points on the board, opposing teams will have to be more aggressive on offense. Expect the defense to be challenged, particularly the secondary. With a pass rush that is a work in progress, this is going to expose the secondary at times.
But it won’t all be bad. When the pass rush is able to get after the quarterback, the Cowboys have some cornerbacks that can make plays. Morris Claiborne is one of those players. Fans will proclaim that they’ll believe it when they see it, but this is the year that they see it. Morris Claiborne delivers this season. Just in time to get paid when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
My prediction: Claiborne leads the team with four interceptions, including one of them to the house. Pick six finally gets a pick-six.
The "who leads the team in sacks" prediction
The Cowboys had 31 sacks last year, but that includes the all the great help provided by Greg Hardy. He had six sacks. The Cowboys will again be on the north side of 30 sacks, but they are going to get there as a collective group. Five different players will reach five sacks, including DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Jack Crawford, David Irving, and Benson Mayowa. Several others will get into the sack column as well.
But who comes out on top? The teams top pass rusher is Lawrence, but he’s suspended for the first four games.
My prediction: Despite the head start others will get, look for Tank to once again lead the team with eight sacks.
The "how many wins will the Cowboys have" prediction
While many people base their decision on when Tony Romo returns, this Cowboys team is built to win games with Dak Prescott. He has traits that will work nicely in this offense. He’s a rookie so mistakes are coming, but he’s also shown that he can make the throws he needs to make to put the offense in the end zone. When you combine his skill set with the pieces this offense has, it’s going mean a lot of touchdowns.
But the defense is a different story. Everyone is worried and for good reason. The real wild card is how many games Sean Lee will play. The linebacker group is a big concern and it reaches intense proportions if something should happen to Lee. Outside of that, the Cowboys defense should surprise people. They’ll keep teams out of the end zone and take the ball away and that will be enough to help the team win games.
My prediction: 11-5, win the division, make it to the NFC Championship
What are your predictions for the 2016 season?