It seems like there’s been nothing but rough seas for the Dallas Cowboys lately. This led to feelings of doom and gloom around the Cowboys fanbase. It’s hard to see the bright side when the organization continues to expose deep-seated issues. But there are also a lot of recency biases involved in pessimism. So, as a counter-argument to that, let’s talk about some things that give us hope that this coming season can be good. Here are some doses of optimism.
The first-ever unanimous pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year could be the biggest asset on the field for the defense for years to come. He was not only exceptional among his draft class, he was one of the best defensemen in the league. Whether he’s rushing the passer or playing a more traditional linebacker role, he’s exceptional, and there’s little to add to the volumes of praise he’s already received. Expect these number 11 jerseys to keep flying off the shelf.
During the second half of last season, there was a lot of talk about the quarterback crisis. Despite this, several post-season rankings place him in the top 10 at his position. This may indicate that the perception of his decline was exaggerated.
The most difficult and necessary position for any NFL team is that of quarterback. Less than half the teams in the league have a real franchise player there. Just filling it with someone who is in the top 10 among their peers provides the team with something to build on. Moreover, no one seems more determined to understand their own mistakes and improve than Prescott.
The rest of the list
You need more than one standout player on either side of the ball to be successful in the league. According to the PFF Top 101 list for 2021, seven members of the Dallas roster deserve recognition for their performances. That includes both Parsons and Prescott, as well as offensive linemen Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Connor Williams and WR CeeDee Lamb. It was surprising to many to see four members of a lineage who struggled on this list, although few can argue too much that Martin was ranked the league’s fourth-best player in any position, or that Parsons was in the top 10. PFF claims to be objective in its ranking, but it’s based on analysis of the video.
It bakes in an element of subjective interpretation, so we hope they’re not totally wrong. Still, maybe the closet is better stocked than some think. Also, one player who was not on PFF’s roster is Trevon Diggs. Although he allowed plenty of yards in coverage, he also led the league in interceptions by a wide margin. He is a bit of a player when he goes after the ball. This will cause him to burn out at times, but arguably his impact when he gets his hands on the ball goes way beyond busts.
Recognition from Cowboys members was not limited to players. Quinn was named Assistant Coach of the Year. Considering the marked improvement we’ve seen from the defence, it’s not at all surprising.
Following that success, everyone assumed that Quinn would fill one of the many head coaching opportunities this year. His retention in the team is a big plus. Reading between the lines a bit, he may well have turned down an offer. Either way, he not only brings a keen sense of drive, but an energy that inspires everyone on the roster. Good to see him again for a second year.
The appearance of Mike McCarthy’s spine
One of the things that has been seen as a disruption to Dallas’ strength over the past two weeks has been the somewhat acrimonious exchange between Jerry Jones and his head coach. While appalling in many ways, he also has the potential to turn out well for the team. With his strong desire to be so active in managing his team, Jones badly needs a head coach who will stand up to him and fend off interference. McCarthy ultimately did just that. It was a bit of a scorching blow for the bridges, but he must also be very aware that this is a breakthrough season for him. It requires a holistic approach to things, and in a way he just pushed all the chips into the middle of the table. It may not go well for him, but he seems ready to fight for success and swing. And if that means getting more involved in the offense, which means closer scrutiny of Kellen Moore, all the better.
Free agency never does much for the Cowboys. It’s a major flaw in the team’s approach and leaves them too dependent on the draft to acquire new talent. Luckily, they’ve done well since McClay grew more powerful in the draft process, especially with their picks in the first two days. Last year saw a major home run with Parsons, solid success with Osa Odighizuwa, and Kelvin Joseph and Jabril Cox could still prove real assets. If you’re going to rely so heavily on copywriting, it really helps to have someone really good leading the way.
The rest of the NFC East
Dallas won the division crown in 2021. While there hasn’t been a repeat winner since 2004, this certainly looks like a great opportunity for the Cowboys to break that trend. All of their division rivals have questionable quarterback situations. Both New York Giants and the commanders in Washington are clearly in rebuilding mode, and they and the Philadelphia Eagles could be looking to draft a QB in a year that has what is considered a relatively weak talent pool in the position. There’s no guarantee Dallas will have another divisional sweep to help flesh out its record. But there’s also not much evidence at this point to argue against that possibility.
So it’s not all bad. There are definitely big challenges ahead, especially figuring out what they can do to retain some key free agents like Randy Gregory and Jayron Kearse. There are still real reasons to be optimistic. Of course, if things go wrong, we’ll have a very different discussion a year from now.