With OTAs finished this week at Valley Ranch, all that stands between the Cowboys and training camp is next week’s minicamp. All players are required to attend the three-day camp Tuesday-Thursday, and we’ll begin to crystalize our perception of this year’s roster.
Heading into what is essentially a pre-training camp camp, a look at the five biggest issues Dallas faces before heading to Oxnard, California late next month:
5. Backup quarterback – We all know that if Tony Romo misses a big chunk of the season the Cowboys are going nowhere fast. And chances are that he won’t start all 16 games. In the event Dallas needs a stop-gap to win a game or two as Romo’s stand-in, is Kellen Moore really capable?
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4. Takeaway trouble – Barring a miracle recovery by 2nd-round draft pick Jaylon Smith, this year’s defense will be basically the same one that last year created only an NFL-low 11 takeaways. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is back, but pass-rusher Greg Hardy is gone. Players like Brandon Carr, Barry Church and Rolando McClain have to get their hands on the football.
3. RB rotation – We all expect Ezekiel Elliott to be a star behind Dallas’ elite offensive line. 1,500 yards. Offensive Rookie of the Year. But how will the ball be distributed to the rest of a talented running-back stable? Darren McFadden rushed for 1,000 yards last year. Lance Dunbar was on a record pace for receptions by a back when he tore up his knee. And added to the mix this offseason is former Pro Bowl runner Alfred Morris. Strange to say for a team coming off only four wins, but there doesn’t seem to be enough balls to go around.
2. Pass rush – With Greg Hardy gone and DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory facing four-game suspensions, they need someone to step up and put pressure on the quarterback. If not, we’re looking at 35-31 shootouts the first month of the season. It can viewed as temporary, but there’s pressure on the likes of Jack Crawford, Benson Mayowa, Ryan Russell, David Irving and 4th-round draft pick Charles Tapper.
1. Health – The healthy, productive returns of Romo, Dez Bryant and Scandrick can drastically change the makeup of the team and the results on the field. Without Romo, of course, all bets are off and 4-12 is back in play. At this point, all three are on schedule to participate in training camp.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.