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Sean Lee was the Dallas Cowboys best player on defense heading into the 2014 season. He tore his ACL and is out for the season. Gone is future Hall-of-Famer DeMarcus Ware, who was cut in the offseason because of cap space concerns, as well as defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. For the 2014 season, the Cowboys will be without three of their top defenders from a year ago. To make matters worse, Dallas gave up the third-most yards in a season in NFL history. If the Cowboys are going to rebound and get back to the playoffs in 2014, they will have to ride Tony Romo and their offense. If the offense struggles, it could be a long season in Jerry World.
The Cowboys defense is not good. They were one of the worst defenses in league history last year and did nothing in the offseason to improve that. They could conceivably be even worse than a year ago and challenge the 2012 New Orleans Saints defense for most yards given up in a single season. Henry Melton was signed to boost the defensive line and Anthony Spencer is back from injury, but both have had major knee surgeries in their careers and that doesn’t bode well. The linebacking corps is a mess and may have to sign players off the street to fill the roster. In the secondary, the Cowboys should be at their best. However, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne haven’t panned out. Dallas has invested a lot of money into these two players and they have failed to live up to expectations.
While the Cowboys defense is dreadfully bad, it seems their offense and quarterback are always the ones with the target on their back and take the blame in the end. Romo is a good quarterback. He threw for 31 touchdowns last season and only 10 interceptions, but was always the goat among fans. Without Romo, the Cowboys would have maybe won 3 games during the season. He has a creative ability behind center and while he has been known to throw late-game interceptions the constant flak he gets is unwarranted. The major question mark is he is returning from back surgery and that is a serious injury. If he isn’t 100 percent the Cowboys will be in trouble.
While it may take Romo a little while to get back to normal, he has plenty of weapons around him. First, his protection ranks among the best in the league. With Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and first-round draft pick Zach Martin, Romo will be well protected behind center. He also has an All-Pro wide receiver on his side of the ball. Dez Bryant is a star already in this league and may be the most talented pass catcher in the league. He ranks up there with Calvin Johnson in pure talent. Last season, he caught 93 balls for over 1200 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has some of the best hands in the league and can make acrobatic catches. Jason Witten returns as one of the most reliable tight end options in the league and speedster Terrance Williams is back for a second season. DeMarco Murray heads the backfield and was one of the top backs in the league last season, rushing for over 1000 yards.
The Cowboys have been playing for the division title on the last week of the regular season three years in a row. They’ve come up short in all three. Unless the offense performs at a historic level or the defense improves, they will probably be out of the playoff picture in week 17.