Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (70) lines up before a play against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

NFL.com: 'The Cowboys Have The Look Of A .500 Club'

In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys solidified their offensive line in the first round. This upcoming season, the Cowboys could have a top-five rated offense because of it. And they might just possess the most talented offensive line in the NFL. Unfortunately, they also look to possess a bottom-five defense, to which they appear to have done next to nothing to improve in the draft outside second round defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. This possible misstep by the Cowboys front office led a writer for NFL.com to say:

“To the surprise of no one, the Cowboys have the look of a .500 club.”

That’s the last thing Cowboys fans want to hear after three straight seasons of 8-8 without a postseason appearance. The article, entitled “Projected 2014 starters: Dallas Cowboys” by Chris Wesseling, took a look at all the NFC East teams projected starting lineups for the upcoming 2014 regular season. For Dallas, they look like this:

Dallas Cowboys Projected 2014 Starters
Offense
Defense
QB
DE
RB
DT
WR1
DT
WR2
DE
Demarcus Lawrence / Jeremy Mincey
TE1
MLB
TE2
WLB
LT
CB1
LG
CB2
C
CB3
RG
Zack Martin
SS
RT
FS

 

This lineup looks almost identical to the 2013, with some minor changes. Obviously, Martin has replaced Mackenzy Bernadeau at offensive guard. Second year receiver phenom Williams replaces veteran receiver Miles Austin, who now plays in Cleveland.

On defensive, 2012 hidden free agent gems Selvie and Hayden return to the starting lineup. Free agency acquisition Henry Melton replaces Jason Hatcher at defensive tackle. And Pro Bowl linebacker turned defensive end Anthony Spencer will probably be given the nod at starting right end over rookie Demarcus Lawrence and league veteran Jeremy Mincey.  Also take into account both Spencer and Melton are coming off season-ending injuries.

If some of these youngsters could turn the corner in 2014, it could result in this being a very exciting season for all Cowboys fans.
As for the defensive backfield. it’s all the same players. Although I believe Scandrick will get the start over Claiborne at this point. A large portion of the defensive secondaries’ success hinges on the development of second-year safety J.J. Wilcox. The Cowboys must really like Wilcox since they passed on several talented safeties in the draft. The team will need him to build on his excellent performances in the 2013 preseason.

Okay, this may look like a .500 club right now. But don’t sleep on these Cowboys. They have some surprises under their sleeves for 2014.

The two biggest issues that hurt the Cowboys defense last year were injuries and depth. Despite an excessive number of hamstring injuries last season, Dallas has opted not to change their training staff or methods. Instead, they have laid the blame solely at the feet of the Player’s Association. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones claims the new labor agreement doesn’t allow the Cowboys training staff adequate time to prepare these athletes for the upcoming season properly. So outside of changing the labor agreement, Dallas seems to have washed their hands of it.

The second issue is depth. And it appears Dallas has stacked the deck defensively with a large number of late round draft picks and undrafted free agents head into camps. In fact, all five picks in last weekend’s NFL draft were defensive. Those players include: Stanford lineman Ben Gardner, Texas Tech linebacker Will Smith, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon, Northern Illinois defensive tackle Ken Bishop and Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell.

The Cowboys also brought in Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round as a back-up for the often injured starting middle linebacker, Sean Lee. Although Hitchens could push for a starting role at either of the other linebacker positions as well.

Let’s not forget the talented bunch of young defensive players returning in 2014. Players like defensive end Tyrone Crawford, defensive tackle Ben Bass, and linebacker DeVonte Holloman. And after two whole seasons on injured reserve, we still have very little idea what 2012 fourth round pick safety Matt Johnson can do.

Combine those players with the 25 undrafted free agents the Cowboys signed this week plus the 15 try-out players their bringing in this weekend, and Dallas should be up to their necks in depth come the regular season. Obviously, the process of coaching and eventually elimination now begins. But by the end of August, this process should result in a strong 53-man roster full of young energy, excitement and depth.

It appears the Cowboys plan is to hope all their hardwork and coaching finally starts to pay off within some young players like linebacker Bruce Carter, defensive end Tyrone Crawford and cornerback Morris Claiborne. If some of these youngsters could turn the corner in 2014, it could result in this being a very exciting season for all Cowboys fans. And though this may look like another .500 club right now, the Cowboys are hoping to have these experts singing a more positive tune come season’s end.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Regular Season Dallas Cowboys Projected Starters Roster

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