Season Preview: Dallas Cowboys

Season Preview: Dallas Cowboys
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Sports Mole takes a look at the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the start of the 2013 NFL season.

The Dallas Cowboys head into the 2013 NFL season having not made the playoffs for four years.

The NFC East side will begin this year's campaign against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Sports Mole looks at the team's off-season activity and pre-season form.

Head coach: Jason Garrett is preparing for his third full season as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach, having been promoted from offensive coordinator mid-way through the 2010 season. The Cowboys are yet to have a winning season under Garrett, and have finished third in the NFC East since he took charge. This season, Garrett has relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.

Last season: 8-8

Review: The Cowboys made a slow start to the 2012 NFL season, winning just three of their opening nine fixtures. An impressive run of form from wide receiver Dez Bryant helped the team win five of their next six contests, bringing them back into contention in the division. However, a week-16 defeat to the New Orleans Saints left the team needing to beat the Washington Redskins in the final game of the regular season to clinch a playoff place, but the Skins were able to secure their second victory of the season over their divisional rivals, ensuring that the Cowboys finished third in the NFC East for the third consecutive season.

Notable Ins: The Cowboys have relied on the draft to bring new players to the AT&T Stadium this off-season. The side have kept eight rookies on their 53-man roster for the coming season, including first-round Draft pick Travis Frederick, wide receiver Terrance Williams and tight end Gavin Escobar.

Notable Outs: The team decided against re-signing running back Felix Jones, despite the 26-year-old recording the second-most rushing yards for the team last season. Jones, who scored three touchdowns for 402 yards, has since joined the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree was also allowed to leave during free agency. The 26-year-old was a solid backup for the Cowboys last season, recording 436 receiving yards and scoring four touchdowns, and is now part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster.

Key Player Offense: Dez Bryant: The wide receiver was unstoppable during the second half of the 2012 season, finishing the year with 1,382 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, despite playing the final month of the season with a fracture in his hand. Having recovered from the injury, the 24-year-old is expected to be even stronger during 2013.

Key Player Defense: DeMarcus Ware: Under the team's new defensive system, DeMarcus Ware will make the switch from linebacker to defensive end. The 31-year-old has been one of the most productive members of the Dallas defense since being drafted by the team in 2005, making 534 tackles, 111 sacks and 32 forced fumbles during his first eight seasons with the team. He believes that the change of position will help him avoid injury and prolong his career.

Rookie to watch: Joseph Randle: The fifth-round Draft pick saw plenty of action during the team's five pre-season games, having 55 carries for 215 yards and a touchdown. With Felix Jones leaving during the off-season, and DeMarco Murray struggling with injuries last year, the 21-year-old could have a big impact in the Cowboys' running game.

Pre-season form: The Cowboys had an extra game during the pre-season, beating the Miami Dolphins during the annual Hall of Fame contest. However, the Cowboys went on to win just one of their other four clashes.

2013 prediction: The Cowboys have made few changes during the off-season, which should mean they have had time to gel as a team during training camp. However, with little change at the Redskins and Giants too, 2013 should remain a tight contest between the trio. The Cowboys might be able to sneak into a wildcard spot.

Arizona Cardinals' Jay Feely during training camp on July 26, 2013
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Result: Cardinals edge out Cowboys
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