The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the Dallas Cowboys.
2017 in a nutshell: Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension taints what is supposed to be a strong season, as quarterback Dak Prescott suffers from a sophomore slump without a lot of support. It’s a miracle the Cowboys still win nine games.
What’s different: Elliott has put his suspension behind him, but veterans Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Orlando Scandrick are all gone and star center Travis Frederick is dealing with a serious illness.
Why they could be awesome: Elliott and Prescott could get back on track together, and a young and talented defense could become something special.
Why they could suck: Prescott might struggle again without a lot of talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions and without Frederick, and that inexperienced defense could need more time.
Major additions: Wide receivers Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Michael Gallup and Deonte Thompson, defensive backs coach Kris Richard and second-round rookie guard Connor Williams.
Major losses: Bryant, Witten and Scandrick.
Breakout watch: Second-year cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was simply fantastic when he was healthy as a rookie in 2017, earning record-breaking PFF grades. If he can experience better injury luck as a sophomore, he could become a star.
Position to watch: The wide receiver position is wide open with Bryant gone, but none of the players jockeying for reps at that position feel like No. 1 options. Gallup is intriguing as a rookie third-round pick, but he could need some time. Hurns is a decent No. 2 or No. 3, Austin has been a disappointment, Thompson and Cole Beasley are depth guys and Terrance Williams is another Hurns. It’ll be interesting to see where those six wind up on the totem pole, and who winds up replacing Witten at tight end.
Prediction: The Frederick news is a big blow for a team that already lacks top-of-the-line weapons for its young quarterback. I’m not sure I trust Frederick under these conditions, although I do believe in Elliott and that improving defense. They’ll contend for a playoff spot, but I think they’ll fall short.
8-8, 3rd place in the NFC East