The Detroit Lions will wrap up the first half of the 2013 season with a home game against the Dallas Cowboys.
To get a feel for how preparations for the season are going from a Cowboys perspective, I got together with Steven Mullenax of The Landry Hat for a little Q&A:
1. How would you assess the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do through the draft and free agency?
The Dallas Cowboys offseason has been very frustrating for fans. Did the team improve their overall talent level? Yes. But there have been many questionable decisions made along the way that have fans scratching their heads. For example: The Cowboys had obvious needs on the offensive line that should have been addressed during free agency and/or via the draft. The team opted to “reach” for center Travis Frederick in the first round of the draft and did nothing else. They seem to prefer improving the offensive line from within using the players they currently have on the roster and simply coaching them up. Unfortunately, you can’t coach talent.
Another frustrating decision by the Cowboys franchise has been this offseason’s focus on the tight end position. Despite having future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten on the roster already, and a promising young talent in James Hanna, Dallas elected to draft tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round of this year’s draft. On top of that, they also signed free agent and former San Diego Chargers tight end Dante Rosario. In fact, the team now has six tight ends on their roster. Although the move to a “12 personnel package” is not a new one in Big D, it is surprising they’ve address it over some of the more obvious pressing needs.
2. Which Rookie are you most excited to see play in 2013 and why?
Although center Travis Frederick addresses the Cowboys biggest need, the play of fifth round selection and former Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle is paramount. Dallas’ offensive back-field has been riddled with injuries the past two season. At the forefront has been promising young half back DeMarco Murray. Unfortunately, his history of injury problems has followed him into the NFL. With Murray going into his third year without every playing a full season, the onus is on Randle to pick up his slack. With a slightly improved offensive line, the Cowboys hope their struggling running game will take off this season. And Randle will be key in that effort.
3. What is the biggest question that still needs to be answered heading into training camp?
The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during the offseason and brought in legend Monte Kiffin to helm the defense. Now, not only do the Dallas players have to learn a new scheme, but also switch styles to the 4-3. So the big questions going into training camp are how will this new defense look and do they have the proper personnel to pull it off?
4. What are your expectations for the team in 2013?
The expectations are exactly same as they were last year; the playoffs. If the Cowboys can make the playoffs this season, and break that mental wall they’ve pounded their collective heads against the last few years, then it would be considered a success by many. Because of the great and storied history of the franchise, many fans will always believe “Super Bowl or bust”. But I think breaking that playoff barrier this year will go a long way in giving this young team the confidence to move ahead.
5. Right here, right now, are you marking down the game against the Lions as a win, loss or toss-up?
The Detroit Lions took a major step back last season going 4-12, losing their last eight games straight. A year removed from a 10-6 record, I really don’t believe the Lions are as bad as their 2012 record indicates. But Detroit has seemingly done little in the off-season to improve their team outside of signing running back Reggie Bush and drafting defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. I expect the Lions to be slightly better than last year, but nothing the Cowboys can’t handle. Dallas goes into Detroit and win big.
For more on the Dallas Cowboys, head to The Landry Hat.