2014 Record: 12-4, NFC East Champions, 4-1 in last five
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1st: 4th in DVOA* overall offense (4th pass, 3rd rush) | 22nd in DVOA* overall defense (22nd pass, 22nd run)
2nd: Third-worst team in the NFL at stopping WR2s (5.9 pass attempts per game, 60.2 receiving yards per game), but shut down TEs (3rd-best, 7 pass attempts, 47 yards), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.
3rd: Key loss: RB DeMarco Murray | Key addition: RB Darren McFadden
4th: I’ve written this thing twice now and both times it evolved into 150 words about Darren McFadden. So I changed key addition to Darren McFadden from Greg Hardy. Here’s the bottom line: We can consider him injury prone, whether you consider that term a myth or not. He also is only 27, played his first full 16-game season last year. Because his body has been on the sidelines instead of getting beat up in games he may be able to extend the window for his peak/above-average years. I’m not all-in on McFadden, but I won’t avoid him if I think he presents value in the draft. The Cowboys will likely start with Joseph Randle as the starter. He ran for 6.7 yards per carry last season, that will certainly fall off if he gets more attempts, but it’s proof the Cowboys line does work for the RBs. Dez Bryant re-signed with the Cowboys, which should mean more of the same from him and QB Tony Romo. Maybe more if the team struggles to replace DeMarco Murray’s contributions. Jason Witten appears to be ageless. I was looking for an end-of-season dropoff, but all I found was that he had 18 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in his last three games. On the defensive side, Hardy will be suspended four games for assaulting a woman, a serious problem in the NFL. A defense that finished 22nd across the board according to DVOA needs playmakers and Hardy definitely fits the bill. He has a 15-sack season, an 11-sack season and seven career forced fumbles. He only played in one game last season, but had three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Hardy signed a one-year contract that could grow to $13 million if incentives are reached.
*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.