The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2014 season with abolishing mediocrity on their minds. Another 8-8 season won’t cut it. No less than a division crown is what is hoped for. The schedule is among the toughest in the NFL but here are 4 reasons to have a positive outlook on 2014.
1. Monte Kiffin is out as defensive coordinator
While the blame for last year’s historically porous defense cannot TOTALLY be placed on Mr. Kiffin, there is no question that his once-renowned Tampa-2 was not the right fit for the existing personnel in Dallas last season. Exit stage right Mr. Kiffin, you have been demoted.
Enter Rod Marinelli. Marinelli’s last job as defensive coordinator was in 2012 with the Chicago Bears. That Chicago team finished 1st in the NFL in interceptions and takeaways, 8th in sacks, and 3rd in points allowed. It was also steady in 3rd down efficiency with a 35.5 % rate. Coincidentally, one of Dallas’ huge defensive issues last year was getting off the field on 3rd down! Can Rod Marinelli work his schematic magic or are the players to blame? Stay tuned!
2. The offensive line will be among the league’s best
I feel very strongly about this one. I already wrote an article about it. The premium draft picks spent on the O-line and shrewd signings since 2011 will pay huge dividends this season. Barring injury, Dallas will finally be able to run the ball at will and close out games by chewing clock when necessary unlike last year (see, Packers game 2013). The Cowboys should also be able to keep Tony Romo and his surgically repaired back healthy, standing, and chucking. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Doug Free, and some combination of Mackenzy Bernadeau, rookie Zack Martin, and Ronald Leary will make up an offensive line that WILL be among the best in the NFL.
3. Dez Bryant is playing for a contract
The 2013 pro bowler is heading into the last year of his rookie contract. He will assuredly be more motivated than ever to prove he is among the best and get PAID. Dez amassed 93 catches for over 1200 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Those numbers should only go up with the improved running game and offensive line ready to go in 2014. Bryant should also be on his best behavior this season so his questionable outbursts don’t affect his checkbook come negotiation time. Look for big, big things from our favorite receiver.
4. The secondary can’t get any worse
Blaming pass defense woes on the lack of a pass rush only goes so far. The 2013 performance from the Cowboy secondary was an aberration. Dallas allowed nearly 4600 yards in the air last year and teams completed passes at about a 65% clip. Inexcusable. Want more? The Cowboys allowed 33 touchdowns in the air last year, second only to the bottom feeding Oakland Raiders and tied with the equally bad Minnesota Vikings.
Pass rush improvement or not, the secondary will be better this season. It has to be or there will be more changes in 2015. First step to success, sort through J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson, Jeff Heath, and rookie Ahmad Dixon to find a safety partner for the steady Barry Church. Second step to success, somebody other than Orlando Scandrick must make a play. The Dallas secondary can only get better this year.