A: Without a doubt, the answer has to be the offensive line. Last year, Dallas had one of the weakest O-lines in the league. After selecting center Travis Frederick with their top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Cowboys have done next to nothing to improve their line via free agency. In fact, they actually re-signed starting right tackle Doug Free at half-price. And Free was the most penalized lineman in the NFL last season! With essentially the same lackluster players from last season, Dallas is hoping another year of coaching under offensive line coach Bill Callahan will help the team improve on their 31st ranked rushing offense from 2012.
A: Safety. The biggest questions surround the safety position. Last year’s starter, Barry Church, is returning from a season-ending Achilles injury he suffered in Week Three. It was the fourth-year veteran’s first season as a starter. Church returns to the team as the expected starter at free safety with an entirely new defensive coordinator in coaching legend Monte Kiffin. And a brand new defensive scheme to learn. The other starting safety from last year, Gerald Sensabaugh, retired in the off-season after being released by the team. Now, three new faces are vying for that other starting role. Free agent signee and nine year veteran Will Allen was acquired during the off-season. Allen has the advantage of having played for Kiffin in Tampa Bay, but is also a career back-up. Second year safety Matt Johnson will see the field for the first time this off-season after struggling with various injuries in his rookie campaign. And third round selection rookie J.J. Wilcox is also throwing his hat in the ring. It is simply the most intriguing battle in camp because no one player has a sure hold of that starting strong safety role yet.
A: Center Travis Frederick should make the biggest impact on the Dallas Cowboys roster in 2013. At one point last season, due to injury, Dallas had a guard start a game at center without ever having played that position in the NFL before. Frederick brings stability and flexibility to our ailing offensive line. Being able to switch between the guard and center positions, his play will be paramount in the Cowboys establishing a successful running game this season.
A: I believe that player has to be linebacker Bruce Carter. It’s difficult to be underrated on a team that gets so much attention. But Carter’s struggle with injury in his first two seasons have stunted his overall growth and exposure. But the Cowboys coaching staff loves this guys’ blazing speed. And this year’s change to the 4-3 defense should highlight that attribute for Carter, who should start at outside linebacker. When you also include the addition of Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense, we could be talking about Carter as being the next Derrick Brooks soon.
A: I’m still not sold on the Cowboys offensive line being all that better this season. And there is always a learning curve when you bring in a new defensive coordinator and scheme. But Dallas is a better overall team over last year. And their schedule is a favorable one. I’d predict the Cowboys go 9-7 this season, and barely make the playoffs.