(Photos courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Talk of Fame Network
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are back. So, apparently, are the Cowboys.
We asked our listeners and readers in the weekly Talk of Fame Network poll to identify the best team in the NFC East, and the Cowboys won in a landslide. America’s Team received 84 percent of the vote, with the defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins a very distant second at 9 percent. The New York Giants received five percent of the vote and the Philadelphia Eagles two percent.
Romo won the NFL passing title and DeMarco Murray the NFL rushing crown in 2014 as the Cowboys captured the East with a 12-4 record. But Murray left in free agency in 2015, Romo missed 12 starts with injuries and Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant missed seven. Those absences contributed mightily to a collapse from first-to-worst, with the Cowboys sliding to the bottom of the NFC East with a 4-12 mark.
Romo and Bryant are both back now and in good health, and the Cowboys hope to replace the Murray production with first-round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. Ten-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten also is back, along with the best offensive line in football.
The Cowboys will need to score points in bushels to protect one of the NFL’s worst defenses, though. They finished last in the NFL in takeaways (11) a year ago and 25th in sacks. Ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are the team’s two best pass rushers, but both will sit the opening month of the season for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, the team’s best run defender, will sit the first 10 games with his own suspension for substance abuse.
The Talk of Fame Network co-hosts were split. Clark Judge cast his ballot for the Cowboys while both Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin gave the nod to the Redskins.
"Last time the Cowboys had a running back this good (Murray), he not only led the league in rushing he protected the quarterback," Judge said. "And the quarterback responded by staying healthy. If Dallas can keep Tony Romo in the lineup the Cowboys are the team to beat."
For Borges, it was more a lack of faith in the Cowboys than faith in the Redskins.
"As kids we played cowboys and Indians," Borges said. "When the NFC East is decided this fall I like the Indians, or in this case the Redskins, because I don't trust that the sheriff in Dallas, Tony Romo, will ever get it done."
The Redskins have added one of the game’s best cornerbacks in Josh Norman and also gave quarterback Kirk Cousins two additional quality targets in veteran Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis and first-round draft pick wide receiver Josh Doctson. The Giants spent millions in free agency to repair the NFL’s worst defense, signing defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Giants also used a first-round draft pick on Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple.
(Kirk Cousins photo courtesy of Washington Redskins)