FRISCO, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys was among the biggest disappointments in the NFL in 2020 and finished with a 6-10 record in coach Mike McCarthy’s first season.
Attach the results of the coronavirus pandemic, bad decisions in the game by the coaching staff, a porous defense or injuries to the quarterback Dak Prescott and offensive linemen Tyron Smith and La’el collides, among other.
When cowboys look to 2021, there is a fundamental question to be asked: Are they better, worse, or the same?
Here’s a position-by-position look at the Cowboys’ 2021 offense:
Loss: Andy Dalton
Better, worse or the same? Worse, and it has nothing to do with Prescott’s return from a serious right ankle injury. It has everything to do with the untested backups.
A year ago, the Cowboys had Dalton with his long track record in Cincinnati as Prescott’s No. 2. Dalton is now with Chicago Bears, and Gilbert, Rush and DiNucci have combined in two career starts (one each for Gilbert and DiNucci last season). Cowboys met with free agents Jeff Driskel and Brett Hundley, but they seem to be ready to go with Gilbert as No. 2 for now.
It’s a risk, but it’s a risk they have taken in the past. Honestly, if Prescott goes down again for any length of time, the season will not be what the Cowboys are hoping for regardless of backup.
Loss: Jamize Olawale
Better, worse or the same? The same, but with a star.
Elliott comes out of a down season with 979 yards and six fumbles. Was it a pronounced dropout for Elliott or a product of damage on the offensive line or the loss of Prescott? We find out when the regular season starts.
Pollard showed he can be more than a pace change left, but his workload should not be expected to increase dramatically. The Cowboys have yet to show that they can figure out how to get him enough work to maximize his talents while giving Elliott the lead back. Pollard’s explosiveness should be a major part of the passing game in 2021.
Better, worse or the same? Better, even if the five best recipients from a year ago are the same. Why? Lam’s numbers with Prescott would have been fantastic, and one receiver generally makes the biggest leap in Year 2.
Cooper had a career high in catches (92) while working with four different quarterbacks. His touchdowns dropped (from eight in 2019 to five), but the passing game confused together for a good enchantment after Prescott went down. Gallup, which is in a contract year, is a major threat. Wilson had a 100-yard game with Prescott. Brown is a service recipient, block and special lumbering machine.
Loss: Blake Bell
Better, worse or the same? Let’s go with better, even with Jarwin coming back from a torn ACL in last year’s season opener.
He was supposed to have the breakout season. Instead, it was Schultz who took over for Jarwin after catching just 13 passes in his first two seasons. He finished with 63 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Like figuring out how Pollard gets more involved, coordinator Kellen Moore will have to figure out how to make the two-tight-end look productive when there are so many staff to choose from at the offense. It’s a good problem to have, and why he’s got a significant raise to stay after opting out of the Boise State coaching search.
Better, worse or the same: It’s the same with a chance to get better, depending on the health of Tyron Smith, Collins and Martin.
Smith played in two games due to neck surgery last season. The left tackle has not played an entire season since 2015, but the Cowboys’ hope is that the operation will solve what had been a recurring problem. Collins did not play at all in 2020 due to hip surgery. Martin missed six games last season due to a concussion and a calf injury.
If they are right, cowboys must be right. If not, then the hope is the players who gained experience a year ago – McGovern, Steele and Knight – are not so green and can play better.
Biadasz, a center, performed decently in his four starts before a hoarding injury stopped his development. He needs to show that he can handle a 16-season and make the necessary checks on the line. Having Smith, Martin and Collins should help him with that.