2013 Record: 8-8
Record in Games Decided by Seven Points or Fewer: 5-5 (0.500)
2013 Strength of Schedule: 0.486 (13th-easiest schedule in NFL)
Estimated 2014 Strength of Schedule: 14th-hardest
Turnover Margin: plus-8 (ninth-best)
2014 Out-of-Division Schedule: AFC South, NFC West, vs. Saints, at Bears
By Brian Wilson
DeMarcus Ware (missing Shady McCoy last season in photo above) and Jason Hatcher left in free agency for Denver and Washington, respectively. They had 17 of Dallas’s 34 sacks. That was with Sean Lee, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. That was with Orlando Scandrick, who is suspended for the first four games. And their top defensive draft pick, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, is on the IR-return list and won’t be around until Week 9 at the earliest. This, impossibly, is who the Cowboys are likely to start in their base defense against the 49ers in Week 1:
DE George Selvie
DT Nick Hayden
DT Henry Melton
DE Jeremy Mincey
LB Bruce Carter
LB Rolando McClain
LB Justin Durant
CB Brandon Carr
CB Morris Claiborne
S Barry Church
S J.J. Wilcox
That’s not just the worst starting defense in football. It’s miles away from anybody else’s D for the worst in football. Dallas almost definitely has the worst set of defensive linemen and the worst linebackers, along with one of the five worst secondaries. In an attempt to emulate the wild success enjoyed by the Cowboys offense, Dallas has created a leadership mire by demoting former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, replacing him with former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. As a CFL player from the late ’60s, Kiffin might actually be better served starting on Dallas’s defensive line.
We always talk about whether a quarterback is good enough to take his team to the Super Bowl. This is the opposite. I can’t think of a quarterback good enough to take this defense to the Super Bowl. The various players the Cowboys have assembled here have a chance to be the worst defense of this generation. Defensive performance is far more random from year to year than offense is, so you could maybe piece together some random year when Marinelli revitalizes the defensive line and the Cowboys create some fluky amount of turnovers, but they recovered a league-high 67.6 percent of fumbles last year and still finished 30th in defensive DVOA. And that was with Ware, and Hatcher, and Lee …
Best-Case Scenario: Did you see that defensive depth chart?
Worst-Case Scenario: Jerry Jones blames a disastrous season on the Cowboys not drafting Johnny Manziel and trades a top-five pick to Cleveland to acquire him.