Cowboys Preview Capsule
DALLAS COWBOYS (13-4)
New faces: DE Taco Charlton, CB Nolan Carroll, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, WR/KR Ryan Switzer, QB Cooper Rush.
Key losses: QB Tony Romo, S Barry Church, CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne, DT Terrell McClain.
Strengths: One of best offenses in league with rookie sensations QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott heading into second season behind one of best offensive lines. While Romo is listed as loss, all indications are Cowboys in good hands with Prescott, who looked strong in preseason after taking over for injured Romo and keeping job last year. Prescott may have to carry more load early if Elliott’s six-game NFL suspension over domestic violence incident is upheld. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley are top WRs.
Weaknesses: Pass rush remains top concern for mediocre defense. Charlton didn’t distinguish himself in preseason, and fellow DEs David Irving and Damontre Moore will be suspended to start regular season. Cowboys could use breakout year from DeMarcus Lawrence (second-round pick in 2014). All-Pro Sean Lee is top defensive player, and Cowboys eager to see what fellow LB Jaylon Smith can do after missing rookie season recovering from college knee injury.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Elliott tops list after leading NFL with 1,631 yards rushing. Prescott might be overvalued because Cowboys’ offense might not lead to prolific passing numbers that can rival league leaders. Bryant could be poised for big year after first full offseason since All-Pro year in 2014. K Dan Bailey among most reliable in NFL, including from 50 yards and beyond. Darren McFadden could be good play as long as Elliott is out.
Expectations: Super Bowl hopes are realistic after Prescott and Elliott led Cowboys to top seed in NFC before divisional playoff loss to Green Bay. Prescott is quick to say sensational rookie season means nothing as he seeks to lead franchise’s first long playoff run since last title during 1995 season. Some young players from defense-first draft will need to come through if Cowboys are to have better balance between units.