The offseason practices are in the rearview mirror as the Cowboys are heading towards training camp, which begins on July 24 in Oxnard, Calif.
That's usually the place where many of the questions regarding this team start to get answered.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2017 season.
Today, we finish the series discussing whether the Super Bowl is a realistic goal for the Cowboys coming off a 13-3 season and an offseason with considerable roster turnover.
*1) 20 Questions: Is Super Bowl A Realistic Expectation For Cowboys in 2017? *
Helman:At this point, does it really matter if it's a realistic expectation? It's the Dallas Cowboys, and they went 13-3 last year. For better or for worse, the expectation is that they break their Super Bowl drought. As for me? I think it's possible, but I wouldn't say it's realistic. There's simply too many unknowns – most of them coming on defense. Even with the additions the Cowboys made in the draft, we can't say for sure that this team is going to create turnovers or sacks. That contributed to their demise in the playoffs last year, and it just wouldn't be true to say they have definitively fixed that problem. Even on offense, you can find trouble spots. We don't know how the offensive line will respond to losing two starters. We can't say for sure how Dak Prescott will respond to being the focus of every opposing game plan. I haven't even mentioned the fact that we have no idea how much this team can rely on Ezekiel Elliott. Throw in a brutal schedule, and it's reasonable to think the Cowboys could be due for a slight step back this year. I still expect them to be playoff contenders, and I think it's fair to say that the pieces are being assembled for a Super Bowl run in the near future. But I'm not convinced those pieces are in place for 2017.
Broaddus: Super Bowl expectations ... why not? That seems to be the battle cry of Cowboys fans around the globe. Coming off a 13-win season and players returning on one of the best offenses in the league, it appears to be the right recipe. The defense has improved every year under Rod Marinelli but that will continue to be the biggest question leading up to the season. With a ton of turnover in personnel, Marinelli will be tested to get his unit ready, especially with the quarterbacks that they will face. With the difficult NFC and AFC West on the schedule, I don't see them sweeping this group like they did last year with the North. My expectations are this team finds a way to win 10 games and the division which puts them in the playoffs. From that spot it's going to take three wins with two of those coming on the road and that might be too much to ask.
Phillips:Yes. If they don't get there, the season will be viewed from the outside as a disappointment. Of course, so much has to go right from a health standpoint, from an on-field standpoint. It's probably the toughest title to win in professional sports given the physical grind and the one-and-done postseason. Bottom line: anytime the Cowboys are coming off a really good year, they're going to be in the Super Bowl conversation, and that's fair for this particular team because they're returning a dynamic offense with ascending young players. The defense again is the X factor. How quickly can the rookies adjust? Can second- and third-year players such as Anthony Brown and Byron Jones take another step? The schedule looks tough, but no one knows really how tough until the games are played. This team is still built to control the pace of games, and if Dak Prescott can continue protecting the ball, they've got a good chance to win double-digit games and get back to the playoffs. At that point, the Super Bowl is the expectation for all 12 teams still standing.
Eatman: Yes, that is absolutely a realistic expectation for the Cowboys this year. I'm not sure why it wouldn't be. This was the best team in the NFC last year in the regular season. Yes, they lost on the final snap to the NFL's best quarterback. But after a 13-3 season that could've been better than that, the expectations are to improve every year. If the Cowboys can stay healthy again and win a lot of those close games like they did last season, they will be in position to advance in the playoffs. Will they be 13-3 again? Probably not, but last year proved you don't have to own the best record to be the hottest team in the league. I think the O-line will be figured out and remain as a dominant force for this offense. The defense should have enough talent to keep the team in games and let the offense win it. I think the Cowboys will be one of the favorites again, but it just has to fall right for them. I said it in the No. 2 question about Dak, if he's better than he was last year, the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl. So with that, it's certainly a realistic expectation.