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Dallas Cowboys season preview: Back to the pack?

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Around The NFL's season preview goes to the NFC East.

Change we can believe in


The Cowboys defense hid its weaknesses well last season. Now, their pass rush could be a strength. The additions of Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory give Dallas a sneaky amount of options in their front seven. Second-year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was reportedly their best defensive player in camp, while versatile lineman Tyrone Crawford is a candidate to break out. Gregory has enjoyed a strong preseason, allaying fears about his pro-readiness. Sean Lee's return from injury adds an All-Pro talent to the linebacker group. When Hardy returns from his four-game suspension, this crew will be something to reckon with.

Biggest concern


Yes, the Cowboys had the best offensive line in the league last year. Their first round picks at the position have paid off handsomely, and they added another first-round talent in La'el Collins, who might take Ronald Leary's job at left guard. But great offensive lines don't always stay great, even when there is continuity. The team's front office could be asking too much of the line considering the dearth of talent at running back.

Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar combine to form one of the worst backfields this side of New England. McFadden has overcome some early training camp injuries, but this is not a reliable group. DeMarco Murray helped make the Cowboys a historically efficient offense last year, and a decline in the running game now looks inevitable. Tony Romo is going to have to throw more.

Training camp surprise


Cornerback Orlando Scandrick was easily the best player in a weak secondary. His season-ending ACL surgery puts added pressure on Brandon Carr, who was one of the most overpaid defenders in the league last year. Undrafted second-year Tyler Patmon is in line to be the team's slot cornerback. First-round pick Byron Jones might end up at safety. Disappointing former top-five pick Morris Claiborne is on his last chance. A schedule full of top quarterbacks is going to attack this group all season.

What we'll be saying in February


The Cowboys couldn't handle success. Again.

Predicted finish: Second place in NFC East, eighth in NFC, No. 16 overall in Around The NFL's Power Poll.

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