Is there playoff hope for Cowboys in '14?

IRVING, Texas -- Coming off three straight 8-8 seasons, there is much doom and gloom surrounding the Dallas Cowboys.

They will not be able to get in the top-end of free agency and likely won’t have enough money to keep Jason Hatcher, who led the Cowboys with 11 sacks in 2013. They are stuck in the middle of the first round, generally where the talent level drops off. They scored on Travis Frederick after trading down in 2013, but a year earlier they missed -- at least so far -- on the trade-up for Morris Claiborne.

Tony Romo is coming off his second back surgery in eight months. Core players are a year older. They still don’t have much depth.

But ESPN Insider KC Joyner writes that the Cowboys are the best bet to make the playoffs in 2014 among the teams that missed the playoffs in 2013.

Here’s what Joyner had to say about the biggest improvement:

“Potential improvement factor: It's hard to do much worse than Dallas did last season in terms of rush defense (128.5 yards allowed per game, ranked 27th), pass defense (63.4 Total QBR allowed, ranked 27th) and pass rush (5.5 percent sacks per attempt, ranked 32nd), so there are many ways the arrow can point upward here. [Ha Ha] Clinton-Dix would be a big plus in pass defense (he is the highest-rated safety in this year's draft) and Tuitt is a high-motor player who led Notre Dame in sacks last season. Further development of Terrance Williams (who had a 10.1 YPA on 73 targets) and improved health for Morris Claiborne (who missed six games this year) could give both the pass offense and pass defense a significant boost.”