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Can the 2020 Dallas Cowboys Live up to the Preseason Hype?

It has been 25 seasons since the Dallas Cowboys won their fifth Super Bowl, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX 27-17 in Arizona. There are a lot of Cowboys fans (including our own Mauricio Rodriguez) who weren’t alive to see that. For many others, it’s a distant memory. As good as some of the teams were that the Dallas Cowboys have put on the field in the last 25 years, none of them were able to get beyond the divisional round of the playoffs, let alone compete for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Could this year be the year?

As the Dallas Cowboys concluded a disappointing 8-8 season in 2019, a frustration brewed as the team took a turn for the worst amidst raised expectations this time last season. Coming off a 10-6 season that saw them rebound from a 3-5 start to win the NFC East, hopes were high that the Cowboys could build off of that performance and make a run. The level of optimism grew to deafening proportions after a 3-0 start to the 2019 season, but that optimism was quickly silenced as they’d go on to lose their next three games and struggle for the rest of 2019. That led to massive changes to the coaching staff, which led to an increased urgency to take advantage of one of the youngest teams in the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys swiftly hired the experienced and very successful Mike McCarthy to take over as the head coach who then proceeded to overturn nearly his entire coaching staff. The only coaches to carry over; Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore and Tight Ends Coach Doug Nussmeier, who would move to Quarterbacks Coach. The rest of the coaching staff was made up of highly respected coaches as both coordinators (Mike Nolan and John Fassel) and position coaches (Joe Philbin, Jim Tomsula, and Special Assistant for the Defense George Edwards). It didn’t take long for the excitement about the new Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to take hold to raise the hopes and expectations for this season.

After they assembled the coaching staff, the Cowboys went to work in free agency to begin finding players that would fit Mike Nolan’s multiple look defense. In particular, they went after interior defensive linemen in Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy. They then added a bevy of defensive backs in the hopes of offsetting the loss of Byron Jones in free agency.

If free agency wasn’t enough to get fans and analysts excited about the potential of the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, then came the NFL Draft in April.

Held remotely, it was a surreal experience looking into the homes of general managers and coaches from across the league. Though there was no secret that the Dallas Cowboys had their sites set on Former LSU EDGE Rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, no one, not even the Dallas Cowboys, could anticipate the gem that would fall into their lap when they went on the clock at 17 overall.

When CeeDee Lamb was available for the Dallas Cowboys at 17 overall, it seemed that the stars had aligned for them. For an offense that was one of the best in the league in 2019, they had the opportunity to draft arguably the best wide receiver in a very deep draft class. And while they probably had targeted wide receiver as a position that they would want to attack, landing CeeDee Lamb is like finding a $100 bill in your jacket pocket.

That’s when the excitement about this team skyrocketed.

On any given play, the Dallas Cowboys would be able to deploy a wide receiver group that featured three players that could be considered a WR1 on many other NFL teams. In Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys had two players go for more than 1,100 yards and more than 15 yards per reception in 2019. One could make the argument that those two could have had more if not for issues with drops and injuries.

Things were looking fantastic with the offense after the first round of the draft, and then the Cowboys went to work finding players to help on the defensive side of the ball. With Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, Reggie Robinson II, and Bradlee Anae, the Cowboys grabbed players that were being projected a round or more higher than where Will McClay and company selected them. Their draft got rave reviews from local and national analysts alike. And while it will take a year or two to evaluate this draft class, this was the nuts on the ice cream sundae the Cowboys had been building all offseason.

And if this draft class was the nuts, the pass rushers they added this offseason are the whipped cream and the cherry.

When the Dallas Cowboys signed Aldon Smith in early April, expectations were pretty low. He hadn’t played a down of football since 2015 when he was with the Oakland Raiders, and he only played nine games that year. However, once reports came out of training camp about his play and his physique, it didn’t take long for the expectations to begin growing for Aldon Smith. Nobody is saying he’ll be the most feared pass rusher in the NFL as he was in the early part of the decade. However, there is a growing expectation that he can be a force for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Then as if it had come out of nowhere, the Cowboys signed arguably the best pass rusher in the free-agent class of 2020 in former Minnesota Vikings Defensive End Everson Griffen. Though he’ll turn 33 in December of this year, Griffen has remained productive in the twilight of his career. He recorded eight sacks last season while playing 15 games for the Vikings, giving Tyron Smith fits in Minnesota’s 28-24 win over the Cowboys in 2019. While he only had 0.5 sacks that day, he finished with four quarterback hits and a tackle for loss.

A defense that already boasted DeMarcus Lawrence can now roll out Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith in their pass rush packages. Be afraid, be very afraid. 

And then the news came in last week from the NFL that Randy Gregory would be reinstated. Though he won’t be available for the active roster until October, Gregory will be a welcomed midseason addition that will give offensive lines another player to think about on the pass rush.

The injury to Gerald McCoy was certainly a punch to the gut, but the emergence of Trysten Hill, who, according to Stephen Jones, has earned his starting spot, eases the pain a little bit. Indeed, the injury to La’el Collins and Xavier Woods are troubling. Still, with the pass rush the Cowboys will deploy and the bevy of weaponry at Kellen Moore’s disposal, they should be able to overcome average play at both right tackle and safety.

Even with injuries, the Dallas Cowboys hype train continues to roll down the tracks. Look around the NFL at the regular season predictions, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a publication or network that doesn’t have the Cowboys winning the NFC East. Many have gone so far as to predict the Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl this season, including yours truly.

As optimistic as I am, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat concerned about the amount of hype surrounding this team. We’ve seen teams that were highly thought of in years past fail to meet even the most conservative expectations of a playoff appearance. Each of the 2008, 2010, 2015, 2017, and 2019 teams was unable to live up to expectations for one reason or another. Can this year’s Cowboys team rise to the occasion?

I think they can and will. Here are three reasons why.

1. Mike McCarthy

As much of a fan of Jason Garrett as I am, simply put, Mike McCarthy is a better football coach. He’s proven it. Sure, McCarthy had Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback and only won one Super Bowl during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers. However, the NFC has been a deep conference for two decades. The only team with multiple Super Bowl wins in the last 20 years is the New York Giants. Yuck. 

Mike McCarthy has a proven track record of success. And while the players played for Jason Garrett, there’s a certain amount of gravitas that comes with the resume that Mike McCarthy brings to the table.

When your ultimate goal is to win a championship, you need someone who wants to go out and take a game. Too often, it seemed like under Garrett that the Cowboys were trying not to give the game to their opponents. It’s that aggressive nature that is going to help get this team to where it wants to go.

2. Dak Prescott

It’s incredible to think that Dak Prescott is just 27 years old. Though he’s just entering his prime, he’s already played in 64 regular-season games and three playoff games. As we witnessed with Tony Romo, good quarterbacks get even better as they age and have a better grasp of NFL defenses and a deeper understanding of how to beat them.

Things weren’t perfect for Prescott and the Cowboys last year, but he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in 2019. As we’ve seen from him during his four-year career in the NFL, Prescott will only continue to get better. There’s no reason to think Prescott can’t build off of his stellar 2019 that saw him throw for 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards. He may not hit 5,000 yards in 2020, but he’ll undoubtedly exceed the 30 touchdowns he threw for last season.

With his progression and the Cowboys advanced offensive weaponry, Prescott is about to take his game to another level, and that will lead to wins for this team.

3. Built to Win When it Matters

NFL teams that find success in December and January are teams that can run the football, rush the passer, and take the ball away.

The Cowboys have been built to run the football for nearly half a decade. Here’s where despite our feelings for Jason Garrett, we stand and humbly acknowledge that he helped build the Cowboys into one of the best running teams in the NFL.

Take a moment for internal reflection.

The difference moving forward is that the running game won’t be the primary focal point of the offense. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will get their carries, but the Cowboys will throw the ball more under Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy. Even if the passing game gets them to the playoffs, the running game becomes vitally important in the playoffs.

The teams that can create splash plays in the playoffs are the teams that typically advance. And by splash plays, I mean take the ball away from the offense and sack the quarterback.

For a team to advance to the Super Bowl, they have to have a defense that can help them win some games. It’s not enough to not give up points. The defense has to create short fields for their offense to work with and prevent opposing offenses from sustaining drives.

With a shift in coverage technique and a focus on creating turnovers, the Dallas Cowboys will take the ball away more in 2020 than they have in recent years. Life is going to be incredibly difficult for opposing quarterbacks with the plethora of pass rushers the Cowboys will roll out on any given Sunday. That will, in turn, create more opportunities for turnovers.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t strangers to the spotlight. As the most recognizable franchise in North American Sports, the Cowboys always get a lot of attention and hype. Any level of optimism is generally blown out of proportion to the potential questions facing the team. This year, however, the Cowboys have the squad and the coaching staff that will be able to overcome the problems that follow every team from training camp into the regular season.

As good as we think this team is and can be, the time has come to finally take what we see on paper and put it on the football field. It doesn’t matter how good we think this team is or can be. All that matters is what they do when they line up on game day.

This year’s team is ready for the moment. The Dallas Cowboys are ready to take the next step toward winning that elusive sixth Super Bowl.

And come February, we’ll all be screaming in the legendary voice of The Rock,

“Finally, the Lombardi has come back to Dallas!!!”

Ep 34: Dallas Cowboys 2020 Regular Season Preview

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Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. They’re always hyping up how great they’re gonna be ! Jerry Jones for you! Now they’re gonna let the players kneel during our anthem , well screw the Jones for letting those unrespecting pos do it! Bye bitches

    • I completely agree, Dennis.

      The NFL had better be extremely careful. The NBA with all of its BLM propaganda has turned off fans in a huge way. Pro basketball is now dead to me and to nearly everyone I talk to. Soccer teams tried the whole kneeling thing too, but their fans boo’d the hell out of them and the owners put an end to the stupidity.

      The NFL, under the feckless “leadership” of Roger Goodell, has directly inserted itself into a heated political debate, and has clearly chosen to support one side while affirmatively alienating the other side. Fans may tolerate it short term, but their tolerance and patience will run out quickly if the powers that be choose to continue leveraging the beloved game of football to achieve a political agenda that offends so many U.S. veterans and football fans.

      Average fans want, need, and deserve a break from the anger, hatred, and chaos being force-fed to us daily. Fans want football, but not if its served with a steaming pile of politics.

      • That’s a fair and valid stance but to me personally, it’s not really any different that when the game (all sports for that matter) became much more about being business. You can’t watch or follow a sport anymore without hearing about contracts, negotiations, labor disputes, etc … and yet I’ve been able to ignore that crap and just enjoy my sports in the very manner you suggest. This is no different, and it you contend that it is, then I’d likely argue that’s because you have been struck by emotions and are unable to separate the two, and that falls on you as a choice you make, not the league? If people “need” sports, they’ll find a way to enjoy it in the means that best befits them. If what occurs 3 minutes before the game truly does upset you that much, then I suggest what needs to be altered is the person being upset and their perspective. Why is right to have the players, teams, and league please you but not the others who may be opposed? Just get back to enjoying the sport … times they are a changin’ …

  2. Haven’t been this excited about a season in a while. The addition of Griffen and Smith absolutely galvanized a position of weakness and Lamb falling into our laps was a gift from the gods. Throw in Jarwin and with Dak and Pollard having another yr under their belt they will only be better. But the cherry on top was the addition of McCarthy and Co. Who have brought a breath of fresh air to a talented but floundering team. Appears that McCarthy and his resume hit the ground running. This man knows what a super bowl team is suppose to look like. If we can get healthy the sky is the limit. WHY NOT US?

  3. Coming from a military family as I do tends to give one a unique perspective on these matters. Much like a person from a discriminated group absolutely has a unique perspective that no one else could ever relate to. Personally wish another forum was used to protest these important and relevant social injustices. The flag and the national anthem to military people (and many non-miltary) has a tremendous amount of symbolic value and reverence to the degree many could not possibly comprehend. For some the anthem is something to hurry along so we can get to the game, for others it is much much more. Ok u kneeled before a game big deal! Now what? How many of these millionaire athletes are actually out in their communities doing tangible acts that actually mean something and promote actual change? No one is opposing one’s right to protest, but many do take offense that they are using our flag and anthem as their forum. Personally I would love to talk about nothing but sports. Talking about and watching our cowboys is a welcome escape from this crazy world. Seems like ALL we hear now is covid and social injustices. But true as Bob Dylan sang “the times are a changin” some for the best some not. Anyway GO COWBOYS and bring on football baby!

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