Dallas Cowboys came up short again in 2013 missing the playoffs by just one win. They finished with an 8-8 record, but went 5-1 in the NFC East division. The offense was led by quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Too many times they abandoned the running game and resulted in some tough close losses. DeMarco Murray had a career year rushing for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dallas has upgraded its offensive line, so maybe a more steady dose of Murray could be in the horizon.
The defense was the problem for much of 2013. Monte Kiffin was hired as defensive coordinator in 2013 and is back for 2014. He uses a cover 2 scheme and the combination of not having the correct personnel and injuries to key starters bit them in the back side. It's hard to play zone coverage with guys whose strengths are man coverage (Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne). Kiffin needs to find a way to get the most out of what he has and incorporate each players strength within the scheme. If not, Dallas could have a repeat of last year's defense: unable to defend against the big pass plays. Hopefully several of the players listed below can help the Cowboys defense turn things around.
Zack Martin - offensive tackle/guard
Zack Martin was the most versatile offensive lineman in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is the prototypical plug and play type player that could line up anywhere on the offensive line and be a factor. He plays with an attitude and also through the whistle. Martin has a good combination of power and foot quickness to play well out in space or on the move. He can slide out and cut off edge rushers quickly and can re-direct and slide back inside to contain inside moves. Should be a mainstay for years on Dallas' offensive line and should become a potential All-Pro.
Henry Melton - defensive tackle
Henry Melton comes over from Chicago to be the Cowboys force in the middle of the defensive line. Dallas struggled on defense as a whole in 2013. He will play the 3-technique which is one of the aspects needed to run a Cover 2 defense effectively. (Think Warren Sapp or Gerald McCoy). Another aspect needed is a pass rusher which I will talk more about a few spots below. Melton provides inside pass rush ability while also being able to hold up against the run. He is a former Pro Bowler who is recovering from ACL surgery. If he can regain his high level playing form the Cowboys defense is on its way to improving.
Demarcus Lawrence - defensive end/linebacker
Demarcus Lawrence will get every opportunity to rush the passer. All-Pro Demarcus Ware signed with Denver and left a huge hole at defensive end. Lawrence has the length, quickness, and athleticism to turn the corner on tackles. He needs to add bulk to better withstand runs coming at him. Can drop into coverage with his foot quickness. Lawrence will need time to develop to become a complete player, but can provide pass rush immediately.
Brandon Weeden - quarterback
Brandon Weeding is a former 1st round draftee of the Cleveland Browns. He didn't live up to expectations so the Browns moved in another direction. Weeden is a great young man with a good attitude and the ability to be a good backup for Tony Romo. He really had the opportunity to develop as an NFL quarterback mainly because of his age, he was 29 years old when he was drafted. Also never had the talent around him to be successful and went through several coaching changes. Dallas could very well be a good fit for him. Weeden has the capabilities to come in and direct the offense for a few games if Romo misses time because of injury. Veteran backup Kyle Orton has been contemplating retirement so having Weeden aboard is good insurance.