2006 season recap
Close, but not quite there
The Cowboys appeared on their way after winning five of six games after Tony Romo took over at quarterback, but a late-season swoon left Dallas reeling going into the playoffs. Their playoff game against the Seahawks mirrored their season, with a shaky start and a disappointing finish as the bookends to a strong middle.
Key camp questions
Can the new coaching staff win over the players after the departure of Bill Parcells?
Wade Phillips was tabbed as Parcells' successor despite not having won a playoff game in previous head-coaching stops with the Broncos and Bills. Perhaps an even bigger question mark is new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Even though he has never called the plays at any level of coaching, the Cowboys are counting on him to lead an offense with stars at nearly every skill position.
Is the secondary improved enough to supplement a potentially strong front-seven?
Last season, the Dallas pass defense ranked 24th in the league and was the weakest link in an otherwise strong defensive unit. Terrance Newman provided another stellar season at one corner, but safety Patrick Watkins and corners Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn had major lapses in coverage. New addition Ken Hamlin is expected to improve the defensive secondary, but he is known as more of a run stopper than a pure coverage safety.
Will the signing of Leonard Davis improve an inconsistent offensive line?
Dallas made a major commitment to Davis and is counting on him to be an anchor on the offensive line. The Cowboys are hoping Davis is rejuvenated by a change of scenery after a largely disappointing tenure with the Cardinals. If Davis is unable to hold up his end, the offensive line will have a hard time coming together.
Key position battle
Greg Ellis vs. Anthony Spencer
After trading down in the draft to acquire more picks from the Browns, Dallas then traded back up to nab Spencer with the 26th pick in the first round. Ellis is the veteran whom Spencer will try to unseat at the outside linebacker spot in new coach Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. For the second straight season, Ellis has voiced his displeasure with the team and his contract and even asked for his outright release during the offseason. If Spencer does not demonstrate the ability to start right away, Ellis probably will be given the starting job despite his gripes.
The rookie offensive lineman is being given an opportunity to challenge incumbent Marc Colombo for the starting right tackle position. Dallas' offensive line struggled at times last season, and Marten was one of two linemen (the other being tackle Doug Free) taken in the middle of the draft. With Tony Romo under center for his first full season, Marten could become a vital member of the offense.
Player on the spot
Romo burst onto the scene in Week 6 against the Giants last season, replacing veteran Drew Bledsoe, and never relinquished his starting spot. Following a regular season that saw him complete 65 percent of his passes and throw for 19 touchdowns, Romo melted down in the playoffs. His fumble while holding for the potentially game-winning field-goal attempt cost Dallas a chance to beat Seattle in the playoffs. He has not yet been offered a long-term contract by the Cowboys, and he needs another strong season to prove he's a legitimate top-tier quarterback rather than a flash-in-the-pan.
Barber broke out last season with an NFC-best 14 rushing touchdowns, so his value has never been higher. However, it will be difficult for him to repeat such immense statistical success in consecutive seasons, so Barber shouldn't be considered more than a low-end No. 2 fantasy back.