20 Questions Revisited: Grading Predictions From The Offseason

IRVING, Texas – Four months ago, before the Cowboys even left for training camp, the staff of DallasCowboys.com set out to ask – and then answer – some of the biggest questions facing this year's team.

From late June until the start of training camp in mid-July, the staff gave their thoughts on some of 2014's biggest issues. Some of them were big-picture problems, while others had a smaller scope. They were all important to the Cowboys' fortunes this season.

With the team on its bye week, it's time to take a look back at those predictions. What did we get right, what did we get wrong and what did we not see coming?

The first part of this series will run Thursday, while Parts 2 and 3 will run Friday and Monday, before the Cowboys begin preparations for their Week 12 game against the Giants.

Let's take a look back:

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Bryan Broaddus:As much as I believed that signing Brandon Weeden was a big picture move by the front office, I also said that Kyle Orton still gives you a better chance to win games right now if something were to happen to Tony Romo. There was no question in my mind that the loss of Orton would be a big deal. There was a reason that Jerry Jones spent the money on Orton to back up Romo --because he knew the exact same thing. When Weeden made that start against the Cardinals I did feel like he had a chance to play well due to the talent around him but that just wasn't the case at all.

[embeddedad0]David Helman:I said at the time that I'd feel much better with Kyle Orton as the backup over Brandon Weeden, and that game we saw Nov. 2 against Arizona proved my point. Orton might not have won in Week 17 against Philadelphia last season – in fact he threw the game-sealing pick. But his high level of play put Dallas in position to win. Two weeks ago we saw the dropoff in talent at backup quarterback. Luckily, Tony Romo's injury isn't serious. If it was, this would be a hopeless team heading into the home stretch.

Nick Eatman:This is a hard question to answer then and now. Because it has nothing to do with how Orton is playing now in Buffalo and what Weeden did when he got the start. The fact is Orton didn't want to be here and wasn't going to be here. He was willing to retire than come back to back up Romo. So when a guy doesn't want to be here, yes you can always afford to lose him. Weeden struggled in his only start. I think it was a tough draw considering two starting linemen were out and the Cardinals are one of the best defenses around.

IRVING, Texas – Four months ago, before the Cowboys even left for training camp, the staff of DallasCowboys.com set out to ask – and then answer – some of the biggest questions facing this year's team.

From late June until the start of training camp in mid-July, the staff gave their thoughts on some of 2014's biggest issues. Some of them were big-picture problems, while others had a smaller scope. They were all important to the Cowboys' fortunes this season.

With the team on its bye week, it's time to take a look back at those predictions. What did we get right, what did we get wrong and what did we not see coming?

The first part of this series will run Thursday, while Parts 2 and 3 will run Friday and Monday, before the Cowboys begin preparations for their Week 12 game against the Giants.

Let's take a look back:

ap375780983122.jpg

Bryan Broaddus:As much as I believed that signing Brandon Weeden was a big picture move by the front office, I also said that Kyle Orton still gives you a better chance to win games right now if something were to happen to Tony Romo. There was no question in my mind that the loss of Orton would be a big deal. There was a reason that Jerry Jones spent the money on Orton to back up Romo --because he knew the exact same thing. When Weeden made that start against the Cardinals I did feel like he had a chance to play well due to the talent around him but that just wasn't the case at all.

[embeddedad0]David Helman:I said at the time that I'd feel much better with Kyle Orton as the backup over Brandon Weeden, and that game we saw Nov. 2 against Arizona proved my point. Orton might not have won in Week 17 against Philadelphia last season – in fact he threw the game-sealing pick. But his high level of play put Dallas in position to win. Two weeks ago we saw the dropoff in talent at backup quarterback. Luckily, Tony Romo's injury isn't serious. If it was, this would be a hopeless team heading into the home stretch.

Nick Eatman:This is a hard question to answer then and now. Because it has nothing to do with how Orton is playing now in Buffalo and what Weeden did when he got the start. The fact is Orton didn't want to be here and wasn't going to be here. He was willing to retire than come back to back up Romo. So when a guy doesn't want to be here, yes you can always afford to lose him. Weeden struggled in his only start. I think it was a tough draw considering two starting linemen were out and the Cardinals are one of the best defenses around.

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Bryan Broaddus:DeMarco Murray has been nothing short of spectacular during this 2014 season, but my thought of him getting a new contract at the end of the season has not changed one bit. This is a new NFL and the fact that teams now draft running backs later in the draft use them for five years then move on. This front office would rather spend their resources on other positions than on running back. They did it with Marion Barber and it blew up in their faces, so they will not allow this to happen again.  The better than Murray plays the more his price goes out of the Cowboys' range.

David Helman:In June, I said two things needed to happen: Murray needed to stay healthy, and he needed to recognize the status of the running back position in 2014. He's obviously been healthy, and he's very clearly been fantastic. He's past the 1,000-yard mark with six games to play, and he hasn't shown any signs of wearing down. All of that said, I don't think the Cowboys are going to offer him a huge deal. If he's willing to play for a more modest price, or if he is franchised, he might be here in 2015. If he wants a long term, lucrative contract, I still think the Cowboys let him look around.

Nick Eatman:I do have a slightly different answer now. Before I thought it was more about staying healthy and that's true. But the line has been so good that there is now a perception that Randle and/or Dunbar and a draft pick can carry the load and let Murray walk. So the answer to the question seems to be about 2,000 rushing yards, which isn't out of the question with six games to go and Murray sitting at 1,233 yards. Then again, if he gets close to 2,000 or surpasses it, Murray could become too rich for the Cowboys, whose top contract priority remains Dez Bryant. Personally, I still think he's coming back next year.

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Bryan Broaddus:I was interested in seeing how Travis Frederick would come back after an outstanding rookie season.  He has been rock solid in the middle of this offensive line. Each week you can see that he takes more and more responsibility with the line calls and relaying them down the line to his teammates. Where Frederick has also been outstanding is in this running game and his ability to get to the second level and secure these blocks. There have been several snaps this season where he has cut the defense in half with blocks that he has made on linebackers which has allowed these running backs to get into the open field.

David Helman:After seeing his promise during OTAs, I went out on a limb and said it'd be Gavin Escobar. The youngster has definitely shown us glimpses of what he can do – especially with that two-touchdown game against New York. Through 10 weeks, though, he has a mere eight catches for 99 yards. His potential is certainly intriguing, but he hasn't developed into a reliable threat. Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free or Terrance Williams would have been a better guess.

Nick Eatman:This whole time I thought I had picked Beasley, but I guess common sense told me the real answer is Frederick. I'm not sure he's been better than Martin, but he's been really good in his own right. Terrance Williams and Doug Free have been good, but Frederick anchors that line, keeps them organized and keeps the pocket somewhat clean.

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Bryan Broaddus:I didn't feel like the addition of Zack Martin would make this offensive line dominating, but what I did feel that by plugging him in at right guard it would help the overall situation. I will say this about Martin is that line might not be dominating, but he is a dominating player at his position. I will also go on the record that through 10 games of this season that he is the best offensive linemen on this team. He has made Travis Frederick and Doug Free better players around him, which should not go unnoticed.

David Helman:Sometimes you truly do eat your words, and mine are right there to read from last July – "I'm not optimistic enough to think this line is going to pave the way for the league's best rushing offense." If you're watching this season, you know that's exactly what it's doing. Martin has been fantastic, and even as a rookie he's one of the line's most reliable players. This group still gives up more sacks than you'd like, and it draws an unhealthy amount of flags, but Martin has been every bit as advertised and the line has flourished.

Nick Eatman:This is one I feel pretty good about from the start because I've thought all along that a good offensive line – even a great line – would help the defense. And it has done that. And with one more talented guy like Martin in there, this line could be really special, and it's been that. So I thought this could happen – maybe not to this extent – but it's not a big surprise that Martin is so NFL-ready and he's helped this line become dominant.

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Bryan Broaddus:Staying on our offensive line theme, there was no doubt that Doug Free could fall back to the types of seasons that we observed in 2011 and 2012. Free has made some quality starts this season, and maybe his best one was this past weekend against the Jaguars in London. After missing the Giants, Redskins and Cardinals games with a foot injury he was on point with his technique -- both in the running and passing games. He is continuing to play at a high level much like he did last season, and along with Zack Martin has done some outstanding work off that right side.

David Helman:I said Terrance Williams, and I feel both right and wrong about that prediction. On one hand, Williams has developed into one of Tony Romo's favorite safety valves. He has six touchdowns in 10 games – which is more than his total of five from 2013 – and he's also averaging 16 yards per catch. He has several amazing, highlight reel plays, from his touchdown against Houston to his amazing sideline catch in Seattle. That said, he still isn't consistent. He's got just 27 catches on the year, an average of fewer than three receptions per game. He logged zero catches in London last week. He needs to work on being more reliable, but you certainly can't knock his big play ability.

Nick Eatman:I must say that I won't change this answer either. I just didn't think George Selvie could do the things he did last year and without DeMarcus Ware on the other side, maybe it was impossible. He's been banged up some early in the year but overall, his impact has been minimal at best. There's really not another candidate in my mind that compares, other than maybe Dwayne Harris.

ap623906582949.jpg

Bryan Broaddus:DeMarco Murray has been nothing short of spectacular during this 2014 season, but my thought of him getting a new contract at the end of the season has not changed one bit. This is a new NFL and the fact that teams now draft running backs later in the draft use them for five years then move on. This front office would rather spend their resources on other positions than on running back. They did it with Marion Barber and it blew up in their faces, so they will not allow this to happen again.  The better than Murray plays the more his price goes out of the Cowboys' range.

David Helman:In June, I said two things needed to happen: Murray needed to stay healthy, and he needed to recognize the status of the running back position in 2014. He's obviously been healthy, and he's very clearly been fantastic. He's past the 1,000-yard mark with six games to play, and he hasn't shown any signs of wearing down. All of that said, I don't think the Cowboys are going to offer him a huge deal. If he's willing to play for a more modest price, or if he is franchised, he might be here in 2015. If he wants a long term, lucrative contract, I still think the Cowboys let him look around.

Nick Eatman:I do have a slightly different answer now. Before I thought it was more about staying healthy and that's true. But the line has been so good that there is now a perception that Randle and/or Dunbar and a draft pick can carry the load and let Murray walk. So the answer to the question seems to be about 2,000 rushing yards, which isn't out of the question with six games to go and Murray sitting at 1,233 yards. Then again, if he gets close to 2,000 or surpasses it, Murray could become too rich for the Cowboys, whose top contract priority remains Dez Bryant. Personally, I still think he's coming back next year.

ap374711049550.jpg

Bryan Broaddus:I was interested in seeing how Travis Frederick would come back after an outstanding rookie season.  He has been rock solid in the middle of this offensive line. Each week you can see that he takes more and more responsibility with the line calls and relaying them down the line to his teammates. Where Frederick has also been outstanding is in this running game and his ability to get to the second level and secure these blocks. There have been several snaps this season where he has cut the defense in half with blocks that he has made on linebackers which has allowed these running backs to get into the open field.

David Helman:After seeing his promise during OTAs, I went out on a limb and said it'd be Gavin Escobar. The youngster has definitely shown us glimpses of what he can do – especially with that two-touchdown game against New York. Through 10 weeks, though, he has a mere eight catches for 99 yards. His potential is certainly intriguing, but he hasn't developed into a reliable threat. Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free or Terrance Williams would have been a better guess.

Nick Eatman:This whole time I thought I had picked Beasley, but I guess common sense told me the real answer is Frederick. I'm not sure he's been better than Martin, but he's been really good in his own right. Terrance Williams and Doug Free have been good, but Frederick anchors that line, keeps them organized and keeps the pocket somewhat clean.

ap582031019549.jpg

Bryan Broaddus:I didn't feel like the addition of Zack Martin would make this offensive line dominating, but what I did feel that by plugging him in at right guard it would help the overall situation. I will say this about Martin is that line might not be dominating, but he is a dominating player at his position. I will also go on the record that through 10 games of this season that he is the best offensive linemen on this team. He has made Travis Frederick and Doug Free better players around him, which should not go unnoticed.

David Helman:Sometimes you truly do eat your words, and mine are right there to read from last July – "I'm not optimistic enough to think this line is going to pave the way for the league's best rushing offense." If you're watching this season, you know that's exactly what it's doing. Martin has been fantastic, and even as a rookie he's one of the line's most reliable players. This group still gives up more sacks than you'd like, and it draws an unhealthy amount of flags, but Martin has been every bit as advertised and the line has flourished.

Nick Eatman:This is one I feel pretty good about from the start because I've thought all along that a good offensive line – even a great line – would help the defense. And it has done that. And with one more talented guy like Martin in there, this line could be really special, and it's been that. So I thought this could happen – maybe not to this extent – but it's not a big surprise that Martin is so NFL-ready and he's helped this line become dominant.

ap6385353438891.jpg

Bryan Broaddus:Staying on our offensive line theme, there was no doubt that Doug Free could fall back to the types of seasons that we observed in 2011 and 2012. Free has made some quality starts this season, and maybe his best one was this past weekend against the Jaguars in London. After missing the Giants, Redskins and Cardinals games with a foot injury he was on point with his technique -- both in the running and passing games. He is continuing to play at a high level much like he did last season, and along with Zack Martin has done some outstanding work off that right side.

David Helman:I said Terrance Williams, and I feel both right and wrong about that prediction. On one hand, Williams has developed into one of Tony Romo's favorite safety valves. He has six touchdowns in 10 games – which is more than his total of five from 2013 – and he's also averaging 16 yards per catch. He has several amazing, highlight reel plays, from his touchdown against Houston to his amazing sideline catch in Seattle. That said, he still isn't consistent. He's got just 27 catches on the year, an average of fewer than three receptions per game. He logged zero catches in London last week. He needs to work on being more reliable, but you certainly can't knock his big play ability.

Nick Eatman:I must say that I won't change this answer either. I just didn't think George Selvie could do the things he did last year and without DeMarcus Ware on the other side, maybe it was impossible. He's been banged up some early in the year but overall, his impact has been minimal at best. There's really not another candidate in my mind that compares, other than maybe Dwayne Harris.

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