The Dallas Cowboys made huge strides defensively in 2014. After fielding a historically bad defense in 2013, the Cowboys weren’t exactly the ’85 Bears in 2014, but they were at least respectable, and that improvement helped the team to win the NFC East. However, questions abound on defense entering the 2015 season.
The Cowboys struggled to get after the quarterback in 2014, ranking 28th in the NFL in sacks. The team was hopeful that the acquisition of Pro Bowler Greg Hardy would help in that regard. However, the NFL slapped Hardy with a 10-game suspension as the result of the domestic violence arrest that wiped out most of Hardy’s 2014 season. Even if the suspension is reduced it’s going to be a while before the former IDP DL1 is of any use to fantasy owners.
A broken foot hampered Demarcus Lawrence for much of his rookie season, but with Hardy out indefinitely a lot more will be expected from the former Boise State star in Year 2. There could be more than a little fantasy upside present with Lawrence, but until he can string a few good weeks together Lawrence has to be viewed as at best a boom-bust matchup option.
Until Hardy returns the early plan appears to be to have second-round rookie Randy Gregory man Hardy’s RDE spot. Gregory has bulked up to about 255 pounds and showed all kinds of athleticism at Nebraska, but it’s rare for rookies to make a big IDP impact.
When he’s been on the field, Sean Lee has shown himself capable of top-10 fantasy production. The problem is that the 28-year-old just can’t stay healthy. Still, Lee told ESPN’s Todd Archer he’s eager to show he’s 100 percent in 2015. “I played on pretty torn ACL for a couple of years,” Lee said. “The further I got away from the injury, the less it would shift. It happened maybe a couple of times a season to maybe once or twice a season. I thought it would be fine and then when I slipped last year the knee went on me. It was a matter of time.”
Lee will slide to the weak side in 2015 so that Rolando McClain, who resurrected his career with the Cowboys last year, can stay in the middle. Much like Lee, McClain can be plenty productive when healthy, but the 25-year-old battled a number of nagging injuries last year. With that said though, McClain should have plenty of opportunities to produce in 2015, and in early IDP drafts he’s carried a much lower draft-day price tag than Lee.
When it comes to the defensive backs in Big D, there’s really only one name IDP owners need to know. After leading all defensive backs in Draft Buddy IDP fantasy scoring in 2013, strong safety Barry Church slid all the way to the back end of the Top 20 last year. Blame the variance inherent to defensive backs, or improved front-seven play. Blame Obama if you want. Church remains a weekly starter in IDP leagues, but the sixth-year veteran is closer to being an IDP DB2 than DB1.