Led by two dynamic rookies, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, America’s team cruised to their 2nd NFC East title in three seasons before losing to Green Bay in the divisional round. Most of their talented roster returns intact; however, with expectations through the roof in the upcoming campaign, merely making the playoffs won’t be good enough.
2016 Record: 13-3
Notable Additions: QB Luke McCown, DE Demontre Moore, DT Stephen Paea, CB Nolan Carroll
Notable Subtractions: CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church, S J.J. Wilcox, RT Doug Free, LG Ronald Leary, WR/KR Lucky Whitehead
Notable Rookies: DE Taco Charlton, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, WR/KR Ryan Switzer
When Dallas lost QB Tony Romo during the preseason, many wrote off their chances in 2016, but thanks to an incredible rookie duo the Cowboys drastically outplayed expectations. Prescott and Elliott will be unable to surprise people in ’17, however, as the cat is out of the bag. All eyes will be on the pair to see if they can duplicate their success, especially Elliott, who will miss the early portion of the season because of a domestic violence suspension. Offensively the Cowboys are stacked on paper, with wide outs Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams joining the future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten to provide plenty of weapons for Prescott, and an offensive line led by three all-pros paving the way for Elliott.
Defense is what will determine just how good this Dallas team can be. While their pass rush has long been a cause for concern, losing three starters in the secondary certainly complicates matters. Linebacker Sean Lee is one of the premier defenders in football and is a tremendous leader, but he’ll need surprise contributions across the defense to prevent the unit from being a liability. All in all, barring serious injuries the Cowboys should again be one of the better teams in the NFC. They’ll be the favorites to hold on to the NFC East title, but the division is much improved, and may actually be the toughest in the league.