The Dallas Cowboys have wrapped up OTAs and mandatory minicamp and are currently on a break until training camp begins in a little over a month in Oxnard, California. America’s Team is looking to forget the disaster that was the 2020 season and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
To do so, they’ll need their star players to stay healthy, which was a major hindrance last season. With the NFL extending to 17 games, a lot of milestones will be easier to obtain. Now, let’s predict what three players, in particular, will be able to do on the field while the Cowboys pursue their 21st NFC East crown since the 1970 merger.
Trevon Diggs will grab 5 interceptions
After the Cowboys got the steal of the 2020 NFL Draft when they took CeeDee Lamb 17th overall, they got another one the very next round. Trevon Diggs was selected at 51 and the expectations began immediately.
He had somewhat of a rollercoaster season which is what you expect from a rookie cornerback, and missing four games with a broken foot stalled his progression as well.
Despite the ups and downs, Diggs finished with 58 tackles and led the team in interceptions (3) and passes defended (14), making him the first rookie in team history to accomplished that. With one NFL season under his belt, the former receiver turned cornerback will see his impact increase as he looks to further establish himself as the team’s CB1.
Randy Gregory gets 10 sacks
One of the brightest spots of the Cowboys 2020 campaign was the return of Randy Gregory who hadn’t played since 2018. He would miss the first six games of the season due to a suspension. However, after knocking off the rust, Gregory started to show flashes of the raw talent he came into the NFL with out of Nebraska in 2015.
Gregory would finish with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles on limited snaps. Also, he did so playing in four fewer games and logging 186 fewer snaps than he did two seasons prior when he amassed a career-high six sacks.
DeMarcus Lawrence may not have had big sack numbers the last two seasons but he still demands double teams. This creates more one-on-one opportunities for Gregory, and with an increased snap count, the former Cornhusker has a shot to shine bright.
Ezekiel Elliott reaches 1,500 yards rushing
Ezekiel Elliott set his bar high fresh out the gate when he won the rushing title in 2016 and 2018. In between that, he led the NFL in yards per game (98.3) despite a six-game suspension. After receiving his six-year, $90 million deal before the 2019 season, Elliott finished in the top four in terms of rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, second in all-purpose yards, and tied for first 100-yard games.
2020 was Elliott’s only down season in the league. He tied a career-high with six fumbles, had a career-low in terms of yards per rush, and failed to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in a full season. His top-three linemen (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La’el Collins) missed 36 games combined, and with no real threat from the quarterback position with Dak Prescott missing 11 games himself, defenses were able to key in on Elliott a lot easier.
Elliott has indulged in a rigorous offseason training regimen and has looked very agile and explosive while also looking leaner than he has in years past. With Prescott and his offensive line back healthy, and the motivation to silence the critics who have claimed he’s no longer an elite runner, Elliott should prosper in 2021.
If the Cowboys are to make the postseason these are three of the most important players that will make that happen and they need monster seasons from each.