Cowboys News NFL: Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain got suspended for the first ten games in 2016.



Dallas Cowboys 2016 Season Preview




Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Posted on 7/8/2016.


What I said about the Dallas Cowboys in 2014: Tony Romo is a disgrace. He posts good numbers in the regular season, but always chokes when it matters. Most quarterbacks relax after the season ends and dedicate themselves in OTAs. Romo decides to go to other sporting events in Dallas. The two photos in my table chart will validate this.


What I am saying about the Dallas Cowboys in 2015: Tony Romo finally got the supporting cast he needed. The only question mark is how do you replace running back DeMarco Murray. It's uncertain whether Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden steps up.


What I am saying about the Dallas Cowboys in 2016: Tony Romo is back from an injury in 2015. Losing DeMarco Murray was huge, but the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott. Greg Hardy is gone and Rolando McClain is suspended for the first ten games of the 2016 season plus DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are suspended for the first four games so the defensive line will be in shambles early in the season.




Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Recap


The Cowboys made one move in Free Agency. That was to bring in running back Alfred Morris.



Dallas Cowboys 2016 NFL Draft Grades




Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Summary: The Cowboys have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Tony Romo when healthy. Romo is usually great in the regular season when healthy and needs to be completely healthy if Dallas hopes to have any remote success in 2016. Kellen Moore remains the teams backup quarterback despite a woeful job starting down the stretch. He had one decent game against the NFL's worst pass defense in Washington in week 17, but third stringer Dak Prescott is more qualified to be Tony Romo's backup. Maybe Dallas doesn't want to rush Prescott's development so that could be another variable that the Cowboys are taking into consideration.


The Cowboys have three coaches who are naturals at developing quarterbacks. Those guys are Jason Garrett at head coach, Scott Linehan at offensive coordinator, and Wade Wilson as their quarterbacks coach. Wilson was the Bears quarterback coach and he came to Dallas right after the Bears lost Super Bowl 41. These three coaches are naturals at developing quarterbacks.


Dallas Cowboys Running Back Summary: Dallas is four deep at running back. Ezekiel Elliott leads the way. You also got Darren McFadden as a backup, Alfred Morris as a third stringer, and Darius Jackson a late round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft as a fourth stringer. Dallas is going to have more success running the ball with this depth after having to rely on Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar who were both terrible last year. Dallas may not have a fullback, but their depth at running back this year makes up for that in a league where the fullback position is becoming a dying breed.


Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan develops running backs just as good as he develops quarterbacks. Gary Brown has been the Cowboys running back coach since 2013, and he's had a huge role in improving the play of the Cowboys running backs.


Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Summary: Dez Bryant needs to stay healthy, but when Bryant is healthy he is a deadly #1 receiver option. Terrence Williams had some success as a rookie, but hasn't done as well the last two years. Despite this he'as an effective #2 receiver when next to Dez Bryant. Cole Beasley showed he could fill in as a #2 receiver during Bryant's injury last season and is pretty much guaranteed the slot receiver job. Devin Street, Vince Mayle, Lucky Whitehead, Brad Butler, and Rodney Smith are other wide receivers that the Cowboys have for depth.


Derek Dooley has been an awesome wide receivers coach for the Cowboys. He was Tennessee's head coach prior to that and when he got fired, he had two receivers in the 2013 NFL Draft in Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. Dooley knows how to develop his receivers and I expect him to continue to do a good job developing both the receivers and tight ends on the Cowboys.


Dallas Cowboys Tight End Summary: Jason Witten is a leader on this offense and the starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Backup Gavin Escobar is still on the PUP list as training camp approaches. That's not good news for Dallas as its forced third stringer Joel Hanna into the backup tight end slot and late round draft pick Rico Gaithers into the third string tight end role. Dallas will be extremely limited on offense if Witten goes down even if their running backs and receivers stay healthy.


Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line Summary: Tyron Smith is one of the leagues best left tackles. Charles Brown his bookend from USC that forced Smith to play right tackle in College is now Smith's backup. I like Brown as a backup left tackle, but not as a starter. At right tackle you got Doug Free as a starter and Chaz Green the Cowboys 2015 third round pick as a backup. The Cowboys have outstanding depth at offensive tackle. The offensive tackle position won't be an issue as long as Tony Romo stays healthy.


Left guard La'El Collins is a good starting left guard. Having Ronald Leary as a backup left guard is even better. Travis Frederick is a Pro Bowl starting center when healthy. I think Joe Looney is a decent backup center too.


The only position on the offensive line that the Cowboys lack depth at is right guard. Luckily for the Cowboys they have arguably the leagues best right guard in Zack Martin when healthy. Tony Romo, Zack Martin, and Jason Witten are the three most important players on this offense because they are all Pro Bowl players and those players don't have quality backups behind them if someone gets injured which is a pretty critical focus point.


Frank Pollack has been a horrible replacement for Bill Calahan so far as the Cowboys offensive line coach. His assistant, Marc Colombo a former right tackle with the Dallas Cowboys seems like a better choice to be the Cowboys offensive line coach since he used to play for the team while serving as a good mentor to some of their younger offensive linemen. If Romo gets injured again in 2016, its time to put Pollack on the unemployed list while promoting Colombo from assistant offensive line coach to offensive line coach.


I can live with most of the Cowboys offensive coaches. Even with good coaching, this offense will not execute if Tony Romo, Jason Witten, or Zack Martin goes down. Losing Dez Bryant limited Dallas a lot last year as well so its critical that this offense stays healthy in 2016.


The Cowboys were 31st in points per game, 22nd in total yards, 27th in passing yards, and 9th in rushing yards in 2015. Being ninth in rushing yards is a testament to their offensive line not the mediocre running backs that took Murray's place last season. Dallas lost both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to injuries last season and those are the two biggest reasons why the Cowboys passing game was so stagnant when you look at the statistics of the Cowboys passing game in 2015. Dallas will improve in that area greatly if Romo and Bryant both stay healthy in 2016.



Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Summary: DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory can be effective starters. The problem is they will both miss the first four games with a suspension. Dallas also doesn't have any quality players at defensive tackle.


Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is great at developing defensive linemen. The Cowboys defensive coordinator will really be tested this year with his weakest defensive line unit in quite some time. In fact if Dallas makes it back to the playoffs, I really wouldn't be surprised if a team gave Marinelli a second head coaching chance because to take a defensive line this unstable and guide them to the playoffs definitely warrants head coach consideration.


Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Summary: Dallas has okay outside linebackers in right outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens, and left outside linebacker Sean Lee who had 128 total tackles in 2015 after suffering 2 season ending injuries in 2013 and 2014. There is no depth behind those outside linebackers and that has to concern you to an extent at this point. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain got suspended for the first 10 games and Jaylon Smith the 4-3 middle linebacker Dallas drafted in the second round won't be able to play until next season in 2017. Even if Sean Lee moves back to middle linebacker and dominates, the Cowboys will still be thin at linebacker this season in 2016 which makes you wonder how good the Cowboys linebackers will be this upcoming season.


Matt Eberflus is not just the Cowboys linebackers coach. He's also the passing game coordinator for the Cowboys offense and defense when working with the players during practice meaning he's gonna do a good job preparing the linebackers to drop back into coverage. Eberflus deserves a defensive coordinator opportunity if he can do something with a linebacking core this thin.


Dallas Cowboys Defensive Backs Summary: I'm a bit concerned about the Cowboys cornerback situation. Byron Jones has been so impressive at OTA's that he's jumped from the nickel cornerback to the #1 field cornerback just like Kyle Fuller did when he was on the Chicago Bears from his first to second season after being drafted in 2014. Jones was drafted in 2015.


Right now Orlando Scandrick is the #2 boundary cornerback. Veterans Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have both been so ineffective during OTA's that Orlando Scandrick has jumped them on the depth chart. That means its time for Dallas to find a #2 boundary cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft. Now Carr is the nickel cornerback with Claiborne moving to the dime corner role.


Strong safety has got to be the strongest position on this secondary in terms of depth. Barry Church may be one of the leagues more underrated strong safeties and the Cowboys drafted Kavon Frazier another MAC safety to learn under Church as a backup strong safety.


J.J. Wilcox has been a serviceable free safety. He only had 52 total tackles. Wilcox played so poorly at times that the team benched him for rookie Byron Jones at times rotating Wilcox in and out of the games. There is no depth behind Wilcox at free safety so upgrading free safety may be another area Dallas needs to look into.


I don't trust Joe Baker their secondary coach. Dallas has a secondary coach and a safeties coach rather than one defensive backs coach that the team can turn to and that concerns me.


The Cowboys defense was a mess in 2015. Dallas was 26th in sacks, 16th in points allowed, 17th in total yards allowed, 5th in pass defense, and 23th in run defense. Dallas also finished dead last in turnover ratio with a lot of offensive turnovers and not enough defensive turnovers. Dallas will be much better on offense this season. The coaches will have a challenge getting this front 7 to play effectively and I expect the secondary to decline quite a bit. If Dallas can have a top 5 pass defense for the second straight season, the Cowboys may just end up winning the NFC East in 2016.



Dallas Cowboys Special Teams Summary: Dan Bailey is one of the NFL's best kickers. Bailey went 30/32 on field goals with a career high 54 yard field goal while nailing every single extra point attempt last season. Bailey was huge for the Cowboys when you consider how stagnant their offense was last season. Chris Jones while inexperienced was effective averaging 45 yards per punt while punting a football 61 yards. Jones may become a solid starting punter if he can build on that success in 2016. Lucky Whitehead isn't a very good return specialist, but he's the on the Cowboys are stuck with. I'm gonna tell the Cowboys what I told Cleveland and San Diego. Go out and sign Josh Cribbs he's still a Free Agent.


Rich Bisaccia isn't just the special teams coordinator for Dallas. He's also the assistant head coach meaning if Garrett gets fired for an 0-10 start Bisaccia is the guy that becomes interim head coach. Bisaccia was an awesome special teams coordinator in Tampa Bay and didn't do as well in San Diego, but has been huge for the Cowboys special teams and deserves a ton of credit for reviving Dan Bailey's career as one of the leagues best kickers.




Dallas Cowboys 2016 NFL Schedule


Week
Date
Opponent
Time
Cable Network
Result
Week 1
September 11
VS
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 2
September 18
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 3
September 25
VS
8:30 PM EST
NBC
W
Week 4
October 2
AT
4:25 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 5
October 9
VS
4:25 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 6
October 16
AT
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 7
Bye Week
Week 8
October 30
VS
8:30 PM EST
NBC
W
Week 9
November 6
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 10
November 13
AT
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 11
November 20
VS
4:25 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 12
November 24
VS
4:30 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 13
December 1
AT
8:25 PM EST
NBC
L
Week 14
December 11
AT
8:30 PM EST
NBC
L
Week 15
December 18
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 16
December 26
VS
8:30 PM EST
ESPN
W
Week 17
January 1
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L


Dallas Cowboys 2016 Projected Record (7-9): Dallas has a pretty easy schedule. That easy schedule gives this team a great chance to rebound in 2016. They face 6 NFL teams with new coaches.


The downside is they don't have DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregor for the first four games and no Rolando McClain for the first ten games. Dallas has all of its toughest games at the end of the year which is why the Cowboys offense must click from the very get go and maintain momentum throughout the season if Dallas has any hopes of obtaining a winning record in 2016.


I have the Giants sweeping Dallas and the Eagles defeating Dallas in week 17 with Carson Wentz finally taking over for Sam Bradford down the stretch. If Dallas can win those three divisional games this is probably a 10-6 team that has a very strong chance of reclaiming the NFC East from the Washington Redskins. The schedule is just that bearable for Dallas. Even if the Cowboys return to the playoffs they will likely lose a wild card game to Seattle or Arizona at home. If they faced the Vikings in a wild card game they may have a chance to win that game before suffering another defeat in the NFC Divisional Round.


That's a best case scenario for Dallas if everything goes their way since they got such an easy schedule. Right now I have the Cowboys going 7-9 in 2016 thanks to the McClain suspension. If McClain didn't get suspended this would be a 10-6 team and probably my pick to win the NFC East due to their easy schedule.









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