America’s team have the second easiest schedule behind division rival Philadelphia. Expectations are high in Arlington for a bounce-back season.
After a horror 2020 season in which they missed the playoffs, the Cowboys will be looking to improve with Dak Prescott under centre.
With the NFL draft now done and dusted, we all know roughly how every team is shaping up heading into the pre-season.
For the Dallas Cowboys, the 11 selections in the draft – eight of which were defensive players – suggest that Jerry and Stephen Jones know where the team’s weaknesses are. Last season even when Prescott was healthy, they could put up points at will. However on the other side of the ball, the defence couldn’t stop a nosebleed.
Their first-round pick in Micah Parsons, the LB out of Penn State, was named by many as the best defensive player in the draft. What the move suggests is that Patrick Surtain II was the Cowboys’ first choice and then the second was Jaycee Horn, both of whom were taken before Dallas was on the clock at pick ten.
With news circulating that Dallas will not pick up the fifth-year option on Leighton Vander Esch, the addition of Parsons helps add something to the linebacking core. Both Jaylon Smith and Vander Esch were not able to stay healthy for long enough over the last couple of seasons so Parsons could get some decent game time. Add to that the retirement of Sean Lee and Parsons could play a pivotal role in 2021.
Dallas has to get better defensively, don’t they? Well, they couldn’t get any worse than the 2020 version. New co-ordinator Dan Quinn will have his work cut out to get the defence playing better.
The defence most likely will still not be in the top ten, but improvements must be made. With draft picks in LB Parsons, CB Kelvin Joseph, DT Osa Odighizuwa, DE Chauncey Golston and CB Nahshon Wright all taken in the first three rounds, there is a younger feel to the Dallas defence. With veteran Antwaun Woods being released, Odighizuwa has all the ability and background to come in straight away and become a vital cog along the defensive line.
Add to that young corner Trevon Diggs, who showed signs last season that he can be a quality player in the league, and hopefully Randy Gregory can continue his improvement and DeMarcus Lawrence should be better than he was last season. The defence won’t be world beaters, but they should be better than previous years.
Now let’s talk about the offence. Prescott is back in the saddle, the offensive line at this stage is healthy because let’s face it, last year they were just gutted.
Travis Frederick retired in the off-season, La’el Collins missed the entire year with a hip injury, LT Tyron Smith was in and out of the team before succumbing to a neck injury, and then there was guard Zack Martin, who missed the second half of the year with a calf injury.
Tight-end Blake Jarwin showed that he can be a real weapon in the passing game, along with Ceedee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz and Zeke Elliott, and you have the ingredients for a successful team.
However, as we saw last year, Elliott was a shadow of his former self, dropping and fumbling balls just about every game. The offensive line was in tatters and with Prescott injured, the Cowboys were painful to watch.
With the defensive side of the ball seemingly being a focus during the draft, Prescott back under centre, and new co-ordinator Dan Quinn coming in, one thing is for sure: the Cowboys should be better. Dallas still has huge question marks defensively as we know what they can do on offence.
They are the best team in the division, but only just with the Giants and Washington both improving. The Eagles are an unknown with Jalen Hurts although they did acquire Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith so Hurts has a major weapon to throw to.
Dallas should be winning more than the six games they won last season but how good can they be is unknown at this stage. With an offence that can put up points when they feel like it and a defence that is Jekyll and Hyde at the best of times, who knows what the Cowboys will look like in 2021.
One thing is for certain though: they have to be better than last season.