Predicting the Dallas Cowboys’ 2014 Starters

Predicting the Dallas Cowboys' Starters of 2014

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After saving money in the offseason and filling needs in the draft, the Dallas Cowboys may finally be healthy in 2014 and that's definitely a good thing. The Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL last season. With Rod Marinelli taking over for Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator, the defense will be much improved. Let's take a look at who Dallas' starters will be this season.

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QB: Tony Romo

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QB: Tony Romo

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The Cowboys made it clear that Tony Romo is their guy by not drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round. Although he is maligned by many, Romo gives this team the best chance to win and he is the best overall player on this team. With an improved offensive line in front of him, Romo could have a career season. His backups will likely be Brandon Weeden and Kyle Orton, but the latter may retire before the season starts.

RB: DeMarco Murray

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RB: DeMarco Murray

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DeMarco Murray will be playing in his contract season in 2014 and this will likely be his last opportunity to prove his worth to Dallas. I'm not a fan of re-signing running backs because they are so expendable, but Murray is a three-down player who can make plays in the running game and catch the ball out of the backfield. Lance Dunbar will be a nice backup to Murray, but I don't like Joseph Randle at all. Ben Malena is a UDFA to look out for.

WR: Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams

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WR: Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams

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After releasing Miles Austin in the offseason, the Cowboys' starters in 2014 will be Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Bryant was definitely a given here. Williams' play in his rookie season was excellent and that gave him the opportunity to see a bigger role in the playbook going forward. Devin Street, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris will duel it out for the next three spots. Remember the name L'Damian Washington too.

TE: Jason Witten

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TE: Jason Witten

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Jason Witten is declining year by year, but he is still the best option Dallas has for a tight end. Witten is also Romo's best friend, so the two will likely be here together for the remainders of their careers. Witten's backups are Gavin Escobar, a second-round pick in 2013, and James Hanna. Escobar has a ton of potential, but he is still raw. Hanna, on the other hand, showed a ton of ability to be a nice extra blocker in the running game.

OT: Tyron Smith and Doug Free

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OT: (LT) Tyron Smith and (RT) Doug Free

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Tyron Smith made the Pro Bowl last year and he is only 23 years old. Smith will likely be a mainstay in Dallas for the rest of his career. Many thought Zack Martin would replace Doug Free at right tackle, but I believe the Cowboys will move Martin inside to play guard. Free is in a contract season and if he wants to play football for a few more years, he will need to produce in 2014.

OG: (LG) Ronald Leary and (RG) Zack Martin

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Ronald Leary was impressive next to Smith on the left side of the offensive line last year. The problem with him, however, is that he has a degenerative knee issue that could burst at any time. Martin will likely play next to Free on the outside and he will be an instant-impact player in the running game. Martin is definitely an upgrade over Mackenzy Bernadeau on the right side.

OG: (LG) Ronald Leary and (RG) Zack Martin

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Ronald Leary was impressive next to Smith on the left side of the offensive line last year. The problem with him, however, is that he has a degenerative knee issue that could burst at any time. Martin will likely play next to Free on the outside and he will be an instant-impact player in the running game. Martin is definitely an upgrade over Mackenzy Bernadeau on the right side.

C: Travis Frederick

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C: Travis Frederick

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Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Seen by many as a reach in 2013, Travis Frederick started every game last season and he finished on the All-Rookie team. Frederick is one of the smartest offensive linemen in the league, even though he is one of the youngest. Frederick, like Smith, will be a mainstay on the offensive line for years to come.

DE: (LDE) Anthony Spencer and (RDE) Demarcus Lawrence

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DE: (LDE) Anthony Spencer and (RDE) Demarcus Lawrence

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It will be interesting to see what Anthony Spencer can do as the primary pass rusher in the 4-3 scheme, but Spencer played this position at Purdue. The Cowboys had a first-round grade on Demarcus Lawrence and they truly believe he will be a nice player for them. George Selvie will also see plenty of time as a rotational player. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see all three of these guys get the same amount of playing time.

DT: (1-Tech) Tyrone Crawford and (3-Tech) Henry Melton

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DT: (1-Tech) Tyrone Crawford and (3-Tech) Henry Melton

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Tyrone Crawford is a name many Cowboy fans aren't aware of. Crawford was raw coming out of Boise State in 2012. He didn't make a big impact in his rookie season, but he was supposed to break out in 2013. Unfortunately, Crawford tore his achilles on the first day of training camp. He will most likely start at the one-technique position. Henry Melton was Dallas' biggest free agent and he will fill right in at the three-technique position.

OLB: (Will) Bruce Carter and (Sam) Anthony Hitchens

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OLB: (Will) Bruce Carter and (Sam) Anthony Hitchens

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Bruce Carter looked confused throughout the 2013 season as the weakside linebacker, but the Cowboys need to give him another shot at the position. Carter is one of the most athletically-gifted linebackers in the league and he has the potential to succeed at the position. The Cowboys drafted Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round, and he simply has a nose for the ball. Hitchens is a player the Cowboys really love.

MLB: Sean Lee

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MLB: Sean Lee

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When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the best middle linebackers in the game. Lee is the complete package. He finds holes easily, gets guys in place and is a playmaker with the ball in his hands after interceptions. Remember, he was an all-state running back in high school too. When Lee is healthy, this defense is 10 times better. And that's not an exaggeration. Lee's backup will most likely be Will Smith or even UDFA Keith Smith.

CB: Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick

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CB: Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick

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Brandon Carr played pretty well in his first season in Dallas, but his second season was a mess. Carr was consistently beat by his opponents and his play will need to improve going forward. Morris Claiborne lost his job to Orlando Scandrick last season and Scandrick ran away with it. Claiborne will need to stay healthy to show his full potential in 2014. But right now, Carr and Scandrick will be the every-down starters.

FS: J.J. Wilcox

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FS: J.J. Wilcox

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After his concussion injury in the beginning of the season, J.J. Wilcox looked lost at times and that led to Jeff Heath replacing him in the starting lineup. Wilcox's competition will be Matt Johnson and seventh-round pick Ahmad Dixon. Something to remember is that Wilcox is still relatively new to the position, as he has only been playing it for their three years.

SS: Barry Church

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SS: Barry Church

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Barry Church was the most underrated player on this defense in 2013. Church finished the season with 135 tackles and three forced fumbles. The best thing about Church is that he is only 26 years old and he is still a cheap player. It wouldn't surprise me to see Church play free safety in 2014, as he has that ball-hawking mentality.

Special Teams

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Special Teams

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Dan Bailey is the best kicker in Dallas' history and the Cowboys made it clear that he is their guy, as they extended him to be one of the wealthiest kickers in the NFL. Bailey's holder will be Chris Jones and his long-snapper will be L.P. Ladoceur. The Cowboys could have a variety of people returning kicks next season. If it were up to me, I would have Dwayne Harris returning kicks, but the Cowboys could also use Lance Dunbar too.


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