Dallas Cowboys

Five off-season concerns for Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone in Week 2, and the Cowboys never recovered.
Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone in Week 2, and the Cowboys never recovered. Star-Telegram

1 Backup QB

The Cowboys’ No. 1 priority this off-season centers on finding a capable backup behind Tony Romo. They whiffed on doing so this season, as Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore combined to go 1-11 in place of Romo. The Cowboys could explore several options to fill the void, including Moore (who got a vote of confidence from Jerry Jones following the season finale). But they could also draft a quarterback, as they have the fourth overall pick in the first round and subsequent rounds. Or they could try to acquire a reclamation project such as Johnny Manziel or Robert Griffin III, among others.

2 Stars’ health

Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone twice this season, limiting him to only two full games. He said he would have been available had the Cowboys made the playoffs. Wide receiver Dez Bryant also had an injury-plagued year, playing in only nine games after fracturing his right foot in the season opener and dealing with knee/ankle issues upon returning. Both Romo and Bryant are expected to be ready for the off-season programs, and their health ranks as a top concern going into next season. The Cowboys saw just how difficult it is to win without them.

3 Draft talk

This is the Cowboys’ highest draft position since 1991, and they can’t afford to miss on any of their early-round picks. The hope, after all, is they’re not in this situation again. But the Cowboys face interesting decisions in the draft. Do they try to add a “win-now” piece with the Tony Romo/Jason Witten window closing? Or do they look at possibly taking a developmental piece such as a quarterback? The Cowboys will have several intriguing options at fourth overall, ranging from an impact defensive back to a play-making linebacker to a versatile wide receiver to, of course, a quarterback of the future.

4 Ground game

Darren McFadden, despite seeing limited action in the first five games, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career and finished fourth in the league in rushing. That speaks volumes to the Cowboys’ stout offensive line, as well as McFadden’s ability to resurrect his career. But it’s hard to see the Cowboys solely counting on McFadden to duplicate that next season. He’s a year older and still has a lengthy injury history. Expect the Cowboys to be in the market for a running back a second consecutive off-season, whether via free agency or the draft.

5 Defensive makeover

Statistically, the defense played all right. But it wasn’t a difference-making unit. The pass rush had only three more sacks than in 2014, and the Cowboys regressed to the league’s worst takeaway team. They will be looking for upgrades across the unit, particularly interior linemen and cornerbacks. Dallas ranked 22nd against the run, and it had only two interceptions from corners (Deji Olatoye and Terrance Mitchell). Plus, they have several free agents, including Morris Claiborne, Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram