Are the Cowboys Still Contenders?


Free agency and injuries have significantly changed the appearance of the Cowboys this season. Are they still contenders?

The Cowboys Kool-Aid sure does taste good, doesn’t it? We’re all guilty of drinking it this season. We deserve it, after enduring nothing but low-expectation seasons the past half-decade.

Few will argue that last season was wildly successful for the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys won the NFC East, and even came within one controversial call from advancing to the NFC championship game. Their commitment to the run, the newly realized dominance of the offensive line, and the elevation of the best young receiver in the NFL, all gave new life to a struggling franchise stuck in an 8-8 spiral.

But much has changed since last season…

What if someone told you, shortly after that fateful game in Green Bay, the now-current state of the Dallas Cowboys, all at once?

What if someone told you that DeMarco Murray will soon be playing for the Eagles, only to be replaced by his 2014 backups? What if someone told you the best defender on the team, Orlando Scandrick, would be lost for the season?

What if someone told you that Dez Bryant would likely miss over half of the season? What if they told you the Cowboys would start the 2015 season with familiar faces, Jeremy Mincey and DeMarcus Lawrence, as the primary edge rushers?

What if someone told you Rolando McClain would be re-signed, but start the season suspended, as would the Cowboys’ top offseason acquisition (Greg Hardy)? What if they told you the Cowboys’ top-preforming rookie (Randy Gregory) would miss, at the least, four weeks of the season? What if someone told you all of these things, all at once?

It surely wouldn’t paint a very pretty picture of the Cowboys’ 2015 season, would it?

The fact that all of these issues happened slowly over the course of the offseason, preseason, and in week 1, helped soften the blows. But add everything up, and the blows the Cowboys have taken the past few months have been very significant, even bordering on crippling.

That’s not to say, all hope is lost and the Cowboys can’t repeat last season’s success. It just is intended to put things in perspective. The Cowboys added some very strong pieces to the team this season too.

When Hardy and Gregory get back, the pass-rush could be top 10. When Dez Bryant gets back (whenever that is), the offense should return to its former explosiveness. The combination of Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar really could pick up where Murray left off, if the outside receivers pick up their games.

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The offensive line is young and still developing, so they should improve organically and even Sean Lee is back. Good things have come along with all of the bad things, but we need to accept how significant those “bad things” really are.

Are the Cowboys contenders?

Sure. As long as the Cowboys have Tony Romo, and 4/5ths of their offensive line, they have to be considered contenders. But one could easily argue they start this season worse than they ended last season. How long Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory are out, will go a long ways in saying how good the Cowboys can be in 2015.

No Dez Bryant fundamentally changes the way this offense is run. Things just got a while lot harder for everyone else, now that Bryant isn’t demanding 2 or 3 defenders each play. At least last season the Cowboys could lean on DeMarco Murray to pick up the slack, should Dez go down. Randle and McFadden don’t exactly instill that same confidence.

With an improved pass-rush, the secondary should be able to withstand the loss of Scandrick. But without Hardy and Gregory, how improved will the pass-rush be? These are all valid questions we should be asking as we ponder the question, “are the Cowboys still contenders?”

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