Preseason Power Rankings No. 24: Dallas Cowboys

AP

The Cowboys have followed a similar track through the last few seasons.

Impressive wins are mixed with gut-wrenching defeats while key players go down with injuries over the course of a season that ends with a loss to the eventual NFC East champion on Sunday night in Week 17. Last year’s edition made it to that final game despite a defense that existed in name only, but went down to the Eagles with quarterback Tony Romo watching from the sideline because of a back injury.

Things don’t look all that different this season. The offense still looks capable of posting big numbers while the defense looks incapable of preventing them, which makes it easy to feel like we’re about to see more of the same from Dallas.

Strengths.

Romo will always have his detractors thanks to his long history of saving his worst throw of the day for the biggest moment in the game, but it’s hard to see how the Cowboys win games, let alone remain alive in the playoff race into the final game of the regular season, if not for his abilities.

His back surgery is a concern, although the fact that he was able to take part in some of the offseason program is a good sign for the year to come. With Dez Bryant and Jason Witten back to catch passes and DeMarco Murray running the ball, Romo’s got the supporting cast he needs to thrive as well.

He also has a pretty good offensive line in front of him. They picked Zach Martin in the first round and he’ll join left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick, two other recent first-rounders, as the anchors of one of the better blocking units in the league.

Weaknesses.

You can pretty much pick any spot on the Cowboys defense as a starting point for a discussion of the team’s weaknesses. We’ll break ground on a defensive line that will need Anthony Spencer and Henry Melton to make complete comebacks from serious leg injuries if they are going to stand a chance of stopping the opposition. Without them, it will be up to George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, rookie DeMarcus Lawrence and the power of prayer.

Linebacker doesn’t look much better in the wake of another injury for the talented but all too injury prone Sean Lee. Lee did a little bit of everything for the Cowboys, who will now have to rely on the likes of Justin Durant, Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber for playmaking.

The secondary picture isn’t quite as bleak thanks to the presence of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick. The Cowboys are putting a lot of faith in J.J. Wilcox breaking through at one safety spot, but Barry Church doesn’t offer much at the other spot. Things would look better if cornerback Morris Claiborne lived up to his status as a first-round pick, but he hasn’t shown much signs of that through his first two seasons.

Overall, it looks a lot like last year’s defense minus the top three players from last year. That isn’t good.

Changes.

Defensive end DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher joined Lee as the best players on last year’s defense, but the Cowboys cut Ware and let Hatcher walk to Washington because they didn’t have their cap in good enough order to keep them. Both are closer to the end of the road than the beginning, but the loss of talent will be noticeable.

Wide receiver Miles Austin was ditched as part of the effort to get that cap in order. It’s been a while since Austin was healthy and productive, making it an easy choice for Dallas with Terrance Williams heading into his second season.

The Cowboys also made their annual tweaks to the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was bumped to a different role and Rod Marinelli will take over as coordinator while Scott Linehan takes the offensive play calling reins from Bill Callahan. It’s more business as usual for the Cowboys under head coach Jason Garrett, whose repeated playoff near-misses have not blown back on him to this point.

It remains unclear whether or not the Cowboys will be making a change at backup quarterback. Kyle Orton has not reported for any work this offseason, leaving Brandon Weeden as the No. 2 unless he changes his mind about retiring. With a serious hit to his wallet looming if he does retire, it’s best not to close the book on Orton just yet.

The Cowboys traded for troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, but no one has been able to rely on him for anything other than the occasional mug shot during his NFL career.

Camp Battles.

Spencer, Mincey, Lawrence and Selvie will be battling for snaps at defensive end with the final results likely coming down to how well Spencer is feeling and how quickly Lawrence can pick up the NFL game.

The Cowboys have talked about using Cole Beasley as an outside receiver more often, which should give him a leg up on Dwayne Harris and rookie Devin Street in packages with multiple wideouts.

Running back Ryan Williams signed with Dallas after rarely playing in Arizona because of injuries, but the No. 2 running back job is more likely to go to Lance Dunbar or Joseph Randle.

Prospects.

Given the state of the defense, it is hard to feel confident about the Cowboys’ chances of making the playoffs. You could have said the exact same thing last year, though, and the Cowboys were alive until Orton threw an interception with 1:49 to play in Week 17.

If defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can get something out of the defense, the offense should be good enough to compete with anyone and the NFC East has lacked a breakout team for the last few years. The Eagles look like the best shot to be that team this year, but it’s hard to count anyone out after watching so many battles of attrition in the regular season.

Games against the 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals and Saints won’t offer a chance to fatten the record outside of the division, so the Cowboys’ chances will likely hinge on how they handle things in their own yard. Their shortcomings will make that difficult, but history tells us that it isn’t impossible.

85 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 24: Dallas Cowboys

  1. The Cowboys are worse than the Browns?

    Better bring another server online to handle all the comments on this one, folks.

  2. too high. This team is going no where. 8-8. It takes a strong head coach and a general manager who see eye to eye and work together. Sorry Dallas fans, you deserve better.

  3. Remember how many people said Morris Claiborne’s bottomed out wonderlick score didn’t matter? He had such awesome physical ability. Well imagine that you need a IQ to succeed.

  4. It’s actually harder for me to believe the Redskins are better than the Cowboys, than that the Browns are.

  5. please. Cowboys finished last year right in the middle of the pack 16 of 32 teams. the defense is going to be a lot better this year with another year under their belts. the defense approach was a huge change from how we were doing things, and now with Rod running the show they will be a little more aggressive. Melton is a huge upgrade from Hatcher. The rest of the D-line has incredible depth now and is going to be really good. LB is an issue but we will be fine.

  6. I’ve been a Raider fan for a long time….

    I’ve seen some really really bad D’s come thru Oakland….

    I’d take most if not all of those over what the Cowboys are about to roll out on Defense.

    Seriously, go check out that roster. It’s bad. The D-ends are a group of nobodies and injuries….DT is worse.

    They’ll score but they’ll give up so many points it’s hard to see better 5-6 wins.

  7. Glass Joe – I mean Sean Lee – is very replaceable. He’s overrated because he plays for Dallas.

  8. Dallas is a running joke in New England… Jones, Garrett, and Romo, may as well be the 3 stooges….

    But Jerry realized that he makes stupid money with or without winning…. I doubt he even cares now.. Were laughing at him, and he’s laughing all the way to the bank!

  9. ragnarthegreat says:
    Jul 11, 2014 9:09 AM
    too high. This team is going no where. 8-8. It takes a strong head coach and a general manager who see eye to eye and work together. Sorry Dallas fans, you deserve better.

    —————–

    hey genius. you say too high and that we will be 8-8. you do realize we were 8-8 last year and finished with the 16th best record out of 32. now they are saying we are 24th. so by your logic of us being 8-8 we are actually ranked TOO LOW.

    sorry if I used words that were too big for you.

  10. These rankings have lost all credibility. No way the Browns are better than the Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins, Bucs or even Raiders. They might be a tad better than the Jags and Vikings, but that’s it. The Browns have a decent defense, no better than the Bills, but the Browns have zero offense. They have no WR that would start on any team in the NFL (minus Gordon, he is suspensed). They have no RB and a QB that is unproven but who has potential (Hoyer, not Manziel). The Browns might have the worst offense that has been in the NFL for years. These rankings are a joke. No way the Browns should be ranked any higher than 30th.

  11. Everyone thinks the Browns are “doing nice things” and “their defense is gonna be a force” … those things might be true, but tell me – who’s their QB? A guy who played 2 games last year, or an undersized trainwreck diva? Who’s in their running game? Who’s their WR threat while Gordon is out all season? Who’s their O-line protection after Joe Thomas? The Browns have had success parlaying their draft picks in the past, and they appear to be continuing to do so for the future, which could make them formidable one day.. but I agree with the previous comments, they’re not doing anything this year… and they’re not even close to being as good as Dallas.

  12. The Cowboys may be bad but they are not Vikings-bad (bottom of the league bad)

    They are not likely to finish above .500 this year but still, #24 is really seeing the glass as half empty.

    What the Cowboys need isn’t so much a positional player as they need a real GM

  13. “Browns at #1” lives to fight another day. If it happens the comments might break 1000, let’s do this thing.

  14. As an Eagle’s fan, I LOVE this: constant turmoil in Dallas. Jones has set back this franchise at an exorbitant level. Only other team on the upswing in the NFC East is the ‘Skins but I see the Giants as our main threat in the div.

  15. 5-1 in the division and we suck? Hate it or love it, for the last 3 years, this division has been a 2 horse race with the Cowboys being the leader going into the final stretch. So bring the hate all you want but 6 (LBJ listen up) sound so swwwwweeeeeeeetttt!!!

  16. Romo,

    top 5 fantasy QB.
    dallas will be passing all season to stay in games.
    That defense could be terrible to record setting proportions.

  17. I said it yesterday, the Browns are going to be in the 13-16 range. That could easily be a 500 comment article, which is the point of course.

  18. they will go 8-8 meaning this ranking is stupid.. put them in the 14-18 category for ranking (middle of the pack and tied with the other 8-8 teams)

  19. You all know I’m a big Giants fan but even I can’t agree with putting the Cowboys behind my Giants. The Cowboys haven’t thrown in the towel on 2014 but the Giants already did and ended offseason practice early to get ready for 2015.

  20. Lol i love how all you cowboys haters get so.excited over this ranking deal like it is actually true or ever comes out the way these cowboy hating writers predict worst d ever last year and back up quarterback and we still almost won the division

  21. 6-10…7-9 tops. They were 8-8 last year (and two prior) and have only gotten worse. #24 is right about where they belong.

    Ok…maybe #23 and Browns should be #24 but whats the big deal? I’d rather be a Browns fans than a Cowboys fan right now..

  22. I get all the Browns bashing but the rankings are not as far off as you guys are complaining about. This isn’t last years rankings, this is PFT rankings for the upcoming year. Look at how many pro bowlers the Browns had last year. Think abut what the Chiefs did when they upgraded the QB and coach last year when they had all those pro bowlers. The Browns have possibly a quality QB in Hoyer (or JM, who I’m not sold on) and a much better coach even though this is his first year. Not saying we’re going to have the same outcome as the Chiefs, but the potential is certainly there.

    Go Browns!

  23. I love seeing all these “fans” from other teams judging a team they dont follow except for NFL network (bwahahahaa) and ESPN. I’m glad people look at the roster and see no names on D but have no idea of the scheme adjustments and player performance in camp so far. At the end of the year when Dallas is sitting its starters and getting ready for the playoffs in the last 2 games I’ll be back here looking at all the uneducated and laughing at them.

  24. allas Cowboys will break the forever 8-8 curse

    Only to finish 6-10. I can see the record of worst NFL defense of all time in yardage (Saints 2012) being shattered.

  25. @mpalmer96 Because beating 2013 Elint and RG3, an injured Foles and Kirk Cousins (and only because Romo found Murray on a 4th and goal) is something to brag about. Not to mention the great football played by NFC Least teams in 2013.

    Cowboys played 5 QBs who were backups before the season started at their final games and managed to finish 2-3

  26. Once upon a time, the Cowboys were mentioned in the same breath as Green Bay, Pittsburgh, San Francisco. As dynasties. Now? Oakland, Jacksonville and Cleveland. They may be rated too low, but not by a lot. Times have changed when your ceiling is 8-8.

  27. There is nothing better on TV then when Jerry Jones is shown on camera with his smug plastic smile when all of a sudden the Cowboys find a way to grab defeat out of the jaws of victory at the last minute.

    The second best thing is when Tony Romo cries like a baby after blowing a lead.

  28. Click bait logic. Even with a defense that completely collapsed in 3 games last year (due in large part to weak corners and 20 different starting D-linemen), this team still took Denver to the wire–lost to the Chiefs,Lions, Packers by only 1 point. If Romo stays healthy and these coaches can “coach-up” a healthy defense, this team will compete and finish way better than 24th. Hatcher was playing for his contract. Ware? I love the player, I love the person–but he scared no one. His big plays always came when it did not count as much (1st quarter, team leading or in control). I will take a Charles Haley over him any day. Never put up the numbers, but when you were down by 10 and desperately needed a stop, Charles would strip sack the QB or smack the QB on release and cause a pick. My hope is that Melton stands up, and McClain rejuvenates what was a promising career. That said, this team cannot compete with New Orleans, SF, or Seattle, so maybe they get lucky and go 9-7 and get in the dance–it will be over fast. 24th? Must be a good day to be a hater of this team and think that’s really true.

  29. Another GM? A plan for the future. Another coach? New staff and a little better this year. No Romo? 8-8 will be just a fond memory … as the good old days.

  30. rodeoclownclint24 says:
    Jul 11, 2014 10:07 AM
    Lol i love how all you cowboys haters get so.excited over this ranking deal like it is actually true or ever comes out the way these cowboy hating writers predict worst d ever last year and back up quarterback and we still almost won the division
    —————————————
    Key word being ALMOST. You guys are never getting over that hump with Jerrah and Garret at the reins…

  31. It takes courage to write truthfully about Dallas when no one on the NFL Channel or ESPN would dare say it.

  32. jetsmmt says: Jul 11, 2014 10:02 AM

    There’s no way the Redskins are better than Cowboys. Sorry.

    _________________________________
    Don’t be a homer. On paper, the Redskins are better than the Cowboys. Of course, just because something looks better on paper doesn’t mean it translates on the field. There are many reasons why a lot feel the Redskins will be better this season. They added a lot of pieces this offseason and Robert Griffin is finally healthy and participating in the offseason program, something he didn’t do last season. The word out of OTAs is that Robert is looking closer to 2012 form and his mechanics are back in line.

  33. Dallas, on paper, has one of the worst defenses in the league. 24 is the very best I could possibly imagine, objectively, without Sean Lee.

    The offensive line has a tremendous amount of potential, but if something doesn’t change soon in the way Dallas is run as a team, that potential is going to be wasted.

  34. As a cowboys fan, the analysis seems reasonable. But I see us being around 7-9, which I think would make us a little higher than 24th. Maybe like 19th-20th?

  35. The Cowboys had the worst defense in football last year and they were 8-8. The can’t be any worse than they were, I think they’ll win anywhere from 7 to 9 games. NFC East still one of the weaker divisions, I think they deserve a better ranking.

  36. Just go ahead and rank us 32th. That way when Them Boys shock the world, it’ll be that much sweater. Look we know they can score with anybody. Its just a matter of time before the Defence gets it together. And you will definitely see more man coverage this year. I don’t know where the D will be ranked this year, but it damn sure want be last.

  37. @politicallyincorrect – The last time the Cowboys were last in the division was 2002. They we 5-1 in the division last year. How are they clearly the worst team in the NFC East?

  38. All these Cowboys fans thinking that Henry Melton is going to fix that DL all by himself are in for some disappointment. A 285-lb DT one season removed from a serious leg injury is not a player you want to stake a turnaround on, no matter how good he may have been before he got hurt. Just sayin.

  39. Which of the following myths has the biggest chance to be proven true:

    1. Jerry Jones is a genius.

    2. Tax cuts to the already rich are good for the economy.

    3. Bigfoot is alive and well.

    I’m going with #3

  40. Ha, Ha, Ha. The Cowbabies are bad enough to be ranked here but worse than Cleveland? Ha, Ha.

  41. Cowboys are perhaps the least relevant team in the NFL

    but, again, they are popular

    personally my favorite team is the Redskins and next would be “whoever is playing Dallas”

    and, yes, Cowboys should be worst team in NFC East… and they are clearly the one you don’t ever take seriously….. never one to worry about in the end… while usually average.. Perpetual Mediocrity… also never a team to think about as a contender… ever

  42. LOL at you Cowboy fans. PAPA WASHINGTON will win the division. Don’t get mad at us that our QB and owner are vastly Superior. WE HAVE A GENERAL MANAGER!!!! #HTTR

  43. winstonjed44 says:
    Jul 11, 2014 11:45 AM
    The Cowboys had the worst defense in football last year and they were 8-8. The can’t be any worse than they were, I think they’ll win anywhere from 7 to 9 games. NFC East still one of the weaker divisions, I think they deserve a better ranking.
    ———————————————
    What have they really done to improve that defense? Of course they can be worse this year…

  44. I think you have them mistaken, I really do. They should be 32. And I’m a hardcore fan.

  45. Politically incorrect and logical voice must be brothers to spew the delusional stuff they do. And really the redskins have been the joke of the NFC east for decades and will remain that way again this year and next year and the year after that and the year after that. Get my drift. Last place again.

  46. No way Dallas is that low. They were very close to making the playoffs. They have a top 3 WR, a top 5 RB, a top 5 TE, a top 10 QB and possibly a top 5 OLine. No way are they this bad and I’m a die hard Eagles fan.

  47. “No way are they this bad and I’m a die hard Eagles fan.”

    i’m a die hard Eagles fan too….and trust me, they are this bad. They just lost their best 3 players from a historically bad defense. Romo is in his mid 30s and has had 2 back surgeries in a row. And, they have possibly the worst owner in sports….maybe Dan Snyder is worse but at least he’s not the GM.

  48. The defense may be opposite of what everyone thinks they will be. I think these pre-season polls or predictions don’t take into account new talent except for drafted talent and we know the Cowboys didn’t draft any defense for the last years with high picks. I am looking for an offense that can control that ball more and for a young batch of kids to mature as the season WARE’s on!

  49. logicalvoicesays says: Jul 11, 2014 3:28 PM

    LOL at you Cowboy fans. PAPA WASHINGTON will win the division. Don’t get mad at us that our QB and owner are vastly Superior. WE HAVE A GENERAL MANAGER!!!! #HTTR

    ————————————————————-

    Tell me again the scores from last season Cowboys vs Washington pro team????? SHHHHHHHH

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