With training camp formally over and the first cuts coming up after the weekend, it seems like a good time to take stock of where the Cowboys are as they enter the season.
There are plenty of way to do that, but the best way is to look at each position on the team and determine whether or not they've improved from last season. The team obviously needs to be better to make it back to the postseason and they are obviously better in some areas, but are there enough of them to say that the whole team will be better?
Let's find out...
Quarterback: Tony Romo's still the starter and, volumes of conjecture on both sides to the contrary, it's hard to imagine he'll be much different than in past season. That said, it is hard to say that the overall state of the position isn't better thanks to the addition of Kyle Orton. No one's hoping for Romo to get hurt, but it certainly feels like less of a season-killing proposition than it did in the last few seasons. BETTER
Running Back: DeMarco Murray is better than Felix Jones ever was. He'll need to be since the only other experienced option is Jones, who looks a lot closer to the glue factory than you'd like to see from a player his age. A full year of Murray makes the team better than they were last season, but an injury is going to hurt the team badly. SLIGHTLY BETTER
Wide Receiver/Tight End: Until a third receiver announces himself, the team's clearly worse off than they were with Laurent Robinson last season. And while Martellus Bennett's Cowboys career will always be defined by what he wasn't instead of what he was, the team will, at the very least, miss his blocking ability this season. WORSE
Offensive Line: It looks pretty much the same, even after moving Tyron Smith to left tackle and signing a couple of veteran interior linemen. The group may even be worse because Doug Free's inability to play right tackle after doing well there in the past leaves the team without even the hope of moving Smith to a more important position. SLIGHTLY WORSE
Defensive Line: Jay Ratliff is still at nose tackle, the ends are still solid if unspectacular and it seems the Cowboys' defensive improvement will have to come from other spots. UNCHANGED
Linebacker: Three starters return with Bruce Carter and Dan Connor fighting for the starting spot alongside Sean Lee. That alone makes it an improvement since Bradie James and Keith Brooking seemed to be trying to do anything possible to avoid winning the job while this year's contenders are actually making cases to start. BETTER
Cornerback: The biggest improvement anywhere on the field thanks to the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. If Mike Jenkins ever actually sees the field, the Cowboys will have four corners to throw out against big passing offenses without reaching deep enough into the barrel to feel like they are giving away a mismatch anywhere on the field. That's a big difference from last year and it should result in a more aggressive defense. BETTER
Safety: Right now, we're going with unchanged. Should Barry Church prove to be a player now that he's seeing extended time, though, it's hard to believe this group will be any worse than the one last season. Even an incremental improvement will pay big dividends thanks to the upgrade at corner. UNCHANGED
Special Teams: Dan Bailey remains an excellent placekicker and Chris Jones should be at least as good a punter as Mat McBriar was last season, if not as good as McBriar was at his best. The big upgrade could be on the return teams. If Jones recaptures his old form on kickoffs and Dez Bryant remains the main man on punts, the Cowboys will have a chance to shift momentum their way in the kicking game all season. BETTER