Progress Report: Defense, Running Game, Among Staff Writers' Concerns

IRVING, Texas –Workouts, OTAs and minicamp are history. After two months of offseason work, the players and coaches get a few weeks of rest and relaxation before the team boards the plane to Oxnard, Calif., in late July for training camp.

The pads won't come on until then, but in non-contact drills we've gotten a glimpse of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.

So, as Valley Ranch slows down for the start of summer, the DallasCowboys.com staff will give our impressions of the offseason and a look ahead to camp over the next few days.

Today's the writers focus on their biggest concerns.

Rob Phillips:I'm going with an intangible here since the on-field concerns are pretty well documented and the most popular one, running back, isn't as bothersome to me. I believe in the Cowboys' overall running game – the offensive line, the blocking scheme, and the threat of Tony Romo in the passing game. What about the elevated expectations for a 12-4 team? Can they truly put 2014 aside? This is a pretty young team who, to their credit, is echoing their head coach's "forget last year" mantra. It's one thing to say it, though, and another thing to ignore all the nice stuff the media's saying about them. In 2008 and 2010, the Cowboys were preseason title contenders, and they didn't get it done for a variety of reasons. Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Orlando Scandrick, Doug Free and L.P. have felt the weight of those expectations, but that's about it. Granted, I spent the last three years away from Valley Ranch, so maybe I'm focusing too much on the past. Maybe this group is different. But they won't sneak up on anybody this year.[embeddedad0]

David Helman:I've been saying it since draft weekend, so I might as well keep at it. I'm sorry, but I'm just not sold on this group of running backs. I think they've got a lot of potential, but there's just not enough in the way of proven ability for me to buy in completely. I worry about Darren McFadden's ability to stay healthy, I worry about Joseph Randle's ability to stay out of trouble – and I worry about the fact that he's carried the ball just 105 times in his entire career. With the offensive line the Cowboys have in in place, there's a decent chance I'm completely wrong and this group can get the job done. But we know that Jason Garrett wants a physical, ground-and-pound identity on offense, and we also know that none of these guys have proven they can do that at this level. Maybe it'll work out, but I still chalk it up as a concern.

Bryan Broaddus: I had a much better feeling about the backup quarterback this time last season than I do right now. I felt that Brandon Weeden was going to be able to handle the job and get them through a game or two but I am not so sure of that now. He gave me a little hope in the way that he played coming off the bench against the Redskins but that's Cardinals game was a whole another story. What was even more concerning is that Wedden received plenty of work each week with Romo taking Wednesday's off for his back. He should have been prepared and he played liked he wasn't. My hope was that with better talent around him that he would have functioned better but there were the same mistakes and same issues that were in Cleveland were in that game and that was surprising.

Nick Eatman:The fact that this question took me a while to answer is a good thing. There aren't a lot of glaring concerns. Running back could be up there, but I think this offensive line will open up enough holes to help any back that lines up there. But I think the biggest concern for this team is just the overall defense. Yes, it was improved last year but it has to take the next step for this team to move forward. The secondary has its share of question marks. While the personnel hasn't changed, other than the addition of Byron Jones, will that group be good enough in the clutch is the biggest concern for me. I think Scandrick is one of the best slot guys in the business and the safeties are solid. Brandon Carr is a good player and played well down the stretch. But can they be trusted when the games and season is on the line is always a question for me. And that somewhat stems from the lack of pass rush, too. So the Cowboys have made an effort to improve the pass rush and secondary. Only time will tell if those units are improved.

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