The Dallas Cowboys open training camp for the 2015 season Wednesday in Oxnard, California, as they hope for another trip to the playoffs following last year’s 13-5 effort. Here is a capsule glance at the outlook:
LAST YEAR: Ended three-year rut of 8-8 finishes with NFC East title and beat Detroit for first playoff win since 2009. Lost to Green Bay in divisional round. Tony Romo had most efficient season of career with big assist from NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who signed with division rival Philadelphia as free agent. Defense masked weak pass rush and significantly improved over 2013.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DEs Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory; CB Byron Jones; LB Jasper Brinkley; OL La’el Collins.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Murray; DE George Selvie; LBs Bruce Carter and Justin Durant; WR/KR Dwayne Harris; CB Sterling Moore.
CAMP NEEDS: Now that WR Dez Bryant has long-term contract and won’t hold out, biggest story will be battle to replace Murray. Third-year back Joseph Randle has early nod, but former Oakland top 10 pick Darren McFadden will get look, along with oft-injured Ryan Williams, healthy after spending last season on Cowboys’ practice squad. Defense will be watching for ways to get through four-game suspensions to start season for Hardy (domestic violence) and LB Rolando McClain (substance abuse).
EXPECTATIONS: Even without Murray, Cowboys thinking Super Bowl after feeling they were pretty close considering key role played by Bryant’s catch-that-wasn’t in loss to Packers. If running game struggles, Romo could be back in difficult spot of carrying offense. That has led to disappointments for years. LB Sean Lee returns after missing last season with knee injury, and defense should have better pass rush between Hardy and promising second-year player DeMarcus Lawrence, among others.