The Dallas Cowboys come into 2017 with incredibly high expectations. Even with the hefty suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott and the tougher slate of opponents which the team will face, it’s hard to imagine fans settling for anything less than a division title.
This title would make the Cowboys the first NFC East team to win the division back to back times since the 2004 Eagles, by the way.
Anyway, some fans have even set their sights on bigger goals, such as winning the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade. And, while the Cowboys seem to have consolidated the young core to bring home that championship, history says they may be a year or two away, as they lack what previous champions all seem to have.
What do each of the Super Bowl winners since 2012 have in common?
Exceptional cornerback play down the stretch.
Where have the Cowboys seen the most change this offseason, and where will they rely on young, inexperienced players the most?
Their cornerback group.
For example in 2014, the Legion of Boom led the Seattle Seahawks to a dominant Super Bowl victory. Two years later the Denver Broncos rode both a highly productive pass rush and an elite cornerback group all the way to a championship. Names like Richard Sherman and Aqib Talib led feared units in pivotal playoff games.
Cornerback play matters, and come playoff time, it matters a lot. While it may not be as important as what goes on at the line of scrimmage, cornerback play is incredibly essential to a team’s success. If the Cowboys are to challenge elite passing offenses like the Packers and Falcons this season, they will need their corners to play a bit above their heads.
Now, this is not to say I disagree with the Cowboys’ methods this offseason in dealing with their secondary. It was time for change, and relying on Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and potentially Marquez White to get the job done will be effective soon enough.
I just find it hard to completely believe in year one. As good as we believe Anthony Brown to be, it took some time for him to reach that level of play last season. He struggled a bit when given chances early on before emerging as a legit starter down the stretch. Seeing a similar pattern from this year’s rookies wouldn’t be surprising.
This very well may turn into a “throw the young pups to the wolves and see how they react” type of year defensively. With the talent the Cowboys possess on offense, they should still be able to compete for that NFC East crown, but there is legit reason to be concerned with regression in 2017.
And, who knows what will happen. Maybe Orlando Scandrick will remain healthy and play like the veteran leader the Cowboys need in that cornerback group. Maybe Chidobe Awuzie will quickly reach the ceilings which his athletic profile projects him to hit.
As a fan, I certainly hope this will be the case. The start of the regular season cannot come soon enough, that’s for sure.