Gil Brandt believes the Dallas Cowboys will take a step back in 2017

Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Gil Brandt at the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Gil Brandt at the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

A former Dallas Cowboys executive believes America’s Team will take a step back in 2017 due to stiffer competition and heavy losses in free agency.

It can easily be forgotten what a magical season the Dallas Cowboys had last year. Especially considering how that dream ended suddenly with a division round loss in their lone playoff appearance.

But the Cowboys finished an amazing 13-3 last season and found themselves two cornerstone players in rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott. With Zeke leading the league in rushing, Dak winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Dallas finishing as the best team in the NFC; 2016 will be near impossible to duplicate for the Cowboys.

Coming off a 4-12 record the previous season, the Cowboys were granted a relatively weaker schedule last year. And their high draft status allowed them to land Elliott fourth overall in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

In last month’s draft, the Cowboys didn’t even pick until the 28th overall selection in the first round due to their successful campaign last year. With that very late pick, Dallas drafted Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton. A player they didn’t even have a first round grade for.

A much tougher schedule combined with a weaker draft class means it will be an uphill battle for Dallas to repeat their success from 2016, which included a first round bye in the playoffs and home field advantage throughout. And former Cowboys vice president of player personnel for 28 years turned NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt agrees.

"“Dallas could finish anywhere from first to fourth in the NFC East, but I ultimately think the Cowboys will take step back,” Brandt wrote recently for “Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will need to duplicate their amazing performances as rookies last year — that’s a tall order…Crucially, the juggernaut of an offensive line lost Doug Free and Ronald Leary, meaning some shuffling of pieces will be necessary. An eight-game stretch in which Dallas faces the Chiefs, Falcons, Raiders and Seahawks will determine whether the Cowboys can repeat.”"

The longtime Cowboys executive also believes the Washington Redskins could be the team to trump Dallas in the NFC East, citing their terrific free agency additions and draft class as proof.

The Redskins added former Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. via free agency. And during the draft they grabbed Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and linebacker Ryan Anderson, UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau and Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine.

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The fact is, the Dallas Cowboys had a magical season in 2016. And any team would have a hard time duplicating that sort of success. So when it comes to this year’s version of America’s Team, it might be best to temper expectations. Especially considering they may just play in the most competitive division in the NFL.