The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won the NFC East in six years. This season, though, they may have as good of a chance as anyone to take home the division crown.
After finishing in third place in 2012, the Cowboys’ odds to win the NFC East have been set at plus-210 by the online betting Web site Bovada. They’re right behind the New York Giants, who are the favorites at plus-200. The defending division champion Washington Redskins come in at plus-250, while the Philadelphia Eagles are longshots at plus-375.
With Tony Romo at quarterback and one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL, Dallas has a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They will, however, need to get more than just strong play from their stars. Several of the Cowboys 2013 draft picks could be asked to play major roles in the upcoming season.
Dallas raised some eyebrows by drafting a center a with their first-round pick. Thus far, though, it seems like the Cowboys may have found an impact player in Frederick.
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“I think they picked a good one there,” Romo said, according to ESPN Dallas. “He’ll be a guy who’s going to help us for a long time. People were talking about whether or not we reached for him, I guess at the time, but he’s a good football player and we got a good first-round draft pick there.”
Frederick could be a key in helping strengthen the Cowboys offensive line. The club was near the bottom of the league in rushing last season, and only five quarterbacks got sacked more than Romo. The rookie will have to build chemistry with Romo, who didn’t practice until training camp because of surgery he underwent to remove a cyst.
The Cowboys took tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round with hopes that he could be the team’s second tight end to Jason Witten. However, Hanna, their sixth-round pick from 2012, is ahead on the depth chart. Escobar is considered a liability as a blocker, which could provide Hanna with more opportunities. Fortunately for Dallas, Hanna has stepped up this summer.
“We really like James Hanna,” head coach Jason Garrett said in late July. “We drafted him and his progress and development over the course of last year was unbelievable. He just got better and better and better before our eyes. As you guys remember, we used him a lot toward the end of the year, and he really became a little bit of a mismatch player for us in certain situations. So we like what he’s all about, what he’s done, his development, his growth.”
Dallas could use a lot of two-tight end sets this season, giving Hanna chance to shine. If he can give Romo another reliable option near the end zone, Dallas’s passing attack will be even more dangerous.
Several running backs on the Dallas roster will be competing for carries in 2013. DeMarco Murray will enter Week One as the starter, but three other rushers have a chance to get on the field. Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner are No.2 and No.3 on the depth chart, but Randle is also vying for playing time.
"This is the next step," Randle said before the Cowboys second preseason game. "I'm just trying to establish myself as a hard-working guy and earn the respect of my teammates, all the things new people try to do. You earn respect from your teammates by what they see you doing and they see you working hard in practice, all the things that really matter in order for me to stay on the team. I have to be in order to do my part."
The rookie was a standout in the Hall of Fame Game, leading the team with 70 yards on 13 carries. He struggled against the Oakland Raiders, but so did the rest of the Dallas rushers. It may be hard for the fifth-round pick to find significant playing time with so much competition, but he’s making a strong case to get a few carries.