We're roughly a month away from the start of the 2021 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys. They'll open up against the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And though there are still questions to be answered as the Cowboys progress through training camp and the preseasons, there remains a lot of optimism about this team moving forward.
The Cowboys are expected to improve their 6-10 record a year ago, and a lot of it hinges on how the offense performed in the early part of 2020. With everyone back on offense, including Prescott, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, and Blake Jarwin, who were all lost to injury, the Cowboys should be one of the best teams in the NFC in 2021.
Bleacher Report's Chris Roling took a look at four teams ready to make a big leap in performance from 2020 to 2021, and the Cowboys were among them.
That's about as encouraging as it gets after he completed 68 percent of his 222 attempts last year with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He'll be a dramatic upgrade over the Andy Dalton-Garrett Gilbert-Ben DiNucci quarterback carousel that held back the offense last year. Flanking Prescott is running back Ezekiel Elliott and arguably the league's most dangerous wideout trio: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Prescott might have dragged a miserable defense kicking and screaming to the playoffs last year. But Dallas saw it fit to revamp what was a historically bad unit that ended up surrendering 29.6 points per game, the league's fifth-worst mark. – Roling
Obviously, the offense should be really good. They'll be even more efficient as the running game will get a boost from the return of Smith and Collins at tackle. However, the big question remains: can the defense improve enough to make this team a serious contender in the NFC.
In is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn; free agents Malik Hooker and Keanu Neal; and first-round linebacker Micah Parsons, second-round corner Kelvin Joseph and third-round defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston. In sum, eight of Dallas' 11 draft picks went to fixing the defense. A back-to-basics approach on D under a proven coordinator and the return of a top-10 passer should have the Cowboys looking at the upper echelon of contention in 2021. – Roling
They've made a ton of additions, most notably the hiring of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. With Quinn and the plethora of players they've brought in to overhaul the defense, the Cowboys should be better. We just don't know how much better.
For the Cowboys to be serious contenders in the NFC, they'll have to be in the top half of the league in points allowed per game and takeaways. The offense we know will be good, but the Cowboys need an opportunistic defense to go with it to provide them with some short fields and take the pressure off of Prescott and company to score on every possession.
2021 looks like it will be a good year for the Cowboys, but unless the defense can take a considerable step forward and do so quickly, it could be another rough season for the Dallas Cowboys.