The Dallas Cowboys enter the offseason training portion of 2021 as the favorites to win the NFC East. It's early and a lot can change as training camp and the preseason moves along but there's very little reason to think the Cowboys won't be in contention for the division. Sure there are reasons to doubt their legitimacy as Super Bowl contenders, for one thing, the NFC is stacked.
At the same time, the team will be better in 2021 and as we've seen in the past, if you can make the playoffs, you have a shot to make a run. I know there's are still a lot of questions about this team, and I'll cover them soon, but there's still a lot to like about the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.
1. Dak Is Back
You literally can't understate how important the quarterback position is in the NFL. Though football is the ultimate team sport, the one position that makes the biggest difference is the quarterback position. When the starting quarterback goes down, especially when it's early in the season and they're out for the season, the season is pretty much toast.
Yes, we know the Eagles won a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback, but that was an aberration.
The Dallas Cowboys return for the 2021 season as the favorites in the NFC East and have a shot to make some noise in the conference. And the reason for optimism about this team is because of the quarterback. He makes the offense go. Sure, there were times where turnovers early in games in 2020 put them behind the 8-ball, but Prescott rallied the offense and got them back in games.
I don't imagine Prescott pressing as much in 2021 as he's learned from past seasons every single offseason.
Remember in 2018 when Prescott was among the league leaders in sacks taken with 56. In 2019, that number dropped considerably to 23. In fact, among quarterbacks that took at least 390 dropbacks that season, only three QBs had fewer sacks and only Jared Goff had more dropbacks.
Prescott learns from his mistakes and grows. With as bad as the defense was Prescott and the offense knew they had to score 30-40 points a game to have a chance. Meaning they couldn't afford to take a sack or even punt the ball away.
Prescott probably understands watching the film from 2020 that he was trying to do to much and will do a better job protecting the football. He won't have to be Hercules this year and carry everything because the…
2. Defense Can't Get Any Worse
It was bad in 2020. Historically bad. There's no nice way to talk about the defensive performance last season. And if you read this space often, you know I always try to find a positive spin.
The Mike Nolan experiment didn't work out. The team even transitioned away from some of his principles midseason to bring them back to more 1-gap run fits in the second half of the season. Nolan was fired not long after the season and former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was brought in to replace him.
A new energy and an infusion of talent at every level of the defense has that unit trending in the right direction for the 2021 season. Of course, we have to see it all on the field, but the additions of Keanu Neal, Demontae Kazee, Micah Parsons, Kelvin Joseph, Brent Urban, Jabril Cox, Osa Odighizuwa, and others have created competition in some much-needed areas. It's evident that the Cowboys didn't want a repeat of the disasters at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, and Washington Football Team. Teams that gashed them through the air and on the ground.
This team is going to be better against the run with their additions on the interior of the defensive line and have a lot better coverage and athleticism at the linebacker level.
The Cowboys defense is going to be better from the coaching staff to the players. The scheme will maximize what these players do best and they'll have a much better year than they did last year. One big reason the defense will be much improved is that the Dallas Cowboys will get…
3. A Full Offseason for Randy Gregory
It's pretty incredible that Randy Gregory has been with the team since 2015 and has yet to put in a full offseason with the club. It's been a struggle for Gregory off the field but that seemed to turn a corner in 2020. Gregory was reinstated and the NFL lightened the consequences for a positive marijuana test in the substance abuse policy. Players won't be suspended, instead, they'll incur fines. The testing window was greatly reduced as well. As the country turns his ideology on marijuana use, so is the NFL.
We haven't heard much out of Randy Gregory this offseason aside from his terrible food takes. Quiet is a good thing. He's getting his first opportunity to work out in the offseason with teammates and attend OTAs, minicamp, and will be available for all of training camp.
With the way Gregory finished the season in 2020, there's a great chance he springboards that into a 10 sack season in 2021. He was arguably their most productive pass rusher when he played in 2020.
From week eight, when Gregory got his first opportunity in earnest (in week seven, he played just six defensive snaps), to the end of the season, Randy Gregory finished 11th in the NFL in pass rush win rate and 10th in pass-rush productivity. per Pro Football Focus.
If he's able to build on that stellar end to the 2020 season, it's going to give the Dallas Cowboys a tremendous duo rushing off the edge with Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.