What should be the year-one expectations for the Dallas Cowboys under their new head coach Mike McCarthy?
Mason: I know these expectations are a bit high, but to me anything less than a deep playoff run is a disappointment. There is a window open for this roster with the new coaching changes to make a run but that window is closing fast. Mike McCarthy was brought in because of his coaching record and super bowl experience, he has brought in many new coaches with winning experience themselves. With Jerry Jones being very vocal about doing whatever it takes to win it all along with revamping the entire staff and what he potentially does with this off-season, I think it would be disappointing to both him and the entire fanbase if all these changes end with nothing special.
Juwan: This team has enough core pieces returning to be one of the more competitive teams in the NFL next season. I do expect Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to return on the offensive side of the ball. However, regardless of who’s to share the majority of the blame for finishing 8-8, it still was their reality. And, right now, I can’t expect an 8-8 team go from missing the playoffs to making a meaningful playoff run. Before any moves have been made I would expect a divisional round appearance under Mike McCarthy this year at minimal.
With Leighton Vander Esch sidelined by a neck injury last season, how high of a priority should linebacker be in this year’s draft?
Mason: While I am currently not too concerned with Vander Esch’s neck issue, neck injuries are nothing to play around with. Now, in terms of addressing linebacker behind him, I would wait to decide on anything until we know if Sean Lee will be back. If he leaves, that leaves the linebacking core incredibly thin. In that case I would make a run at someone cheap in free agency. Whether he stays or leaves I don’t think I would take a linebacker in the draft until the third or fourth round. There are bigger needs to address with those first three picks, but it is not a bad idea for the Cowboys to be ready with a linebacker behind LVE just so they’re not caught off guard if he were to re-aggravate his neck injury.
Juwan: Wouldn’t be a high priority for me since Dallas has shown an ability to find linebackers in feee agency and the later rounds of the draft. Former linebackers like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson were fourth-round selections by the team. I would look into bringing back Sean Lee, along with Malcolm Smith as free-agent additions. A neck injury from such a young player at a physical position is enough to trouble anyone though.
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