2020 was not what the Cowboys wanted, finishing 6-10 and third in the NFC East, they lost to the New York Giants for the first time since 2016 in their final game of 2020 and missed the playoffs for back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2010-13.
The Cowboys will be looking to surprise a confident Buccaneers side who will go into the game as favorites, according to DraftKings NFL odds.
Dak Prescott is now fully recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of parts of 2020 and was ready to start training camp in the preseason. With the likes of Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and La’El Collins recovering from their 2020 injuries too, the Cowboys look to have key pieces back in place going into the 2021 season. Prescott was quoted saying “From the time that I got drafted until now, this offense is built off of those guys. They're the three most veteran guys on this team, and that's for a reason. Those guys are walk-in Pro Bowl guys when they're healthy, future Hall of Famers. Just to have those three guys lead the five guys up front, everything starts with them. When you have those guys back healthy, energized, it's special.
With their first pick of the 2021 draft, the Cowboys went with reinforcing their defensive unit, bringing in Line Backer Micah Parsons from Penn State. He is seen as one of the top defensive picks in the draft and shows the versatility to play as a traditional linebacker as well as a pass rusher. This will please Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn who will have the opportunity to mold the talented youngster into a solid starter for the Cowboys.
They added more defensive pieces through their first three picks, with second-rounder Kelvin Joseph coming in as Cornerback and third round defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa. Odighizuwa comes in to add depth to a limited pass rush, where the Cowboys only really had DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory as proven pass rushers heading into 2021.
Cowboy’s fans can also be excited about their 2020 draft players coming into a campaign with a little more NFL experience. Having gone through the expected growing pains of moving into the NFL from Collegiate football, picks such as CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs both come into 2021 with a season under their belts and experience around the franchise.
Their 2020 draft was considered one of the best on record and CeeDee Lamb showed why Dallas jumped at him when he dropped to 17th on the board. He did not disappoint and pulled in 74 balls for 935 yards while playing with four different quarterbacks.
Diggs was ranked as one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL last season, and struggled to adapt at first, but showed high-quality coverage scores toward the end of the season. With that experience, he showed his mental strength and repaid the faith put in him by the coaching staff. He will likely be a solid NFL cornerback this season and if he plays consistently at his latter 2020 season level, could well be a pro-bowl cornerback in 2021.
There has been a drop-off in the level of excitement around the 2021 class of draft picks from 2020. A number of players have question marks around them, including Kelvin Joseph. The second-round pick from Kentucky has had medical and off-the-field issues, the latter of which being why he was dismissed from LSU and ended up at Kentucky. Josh Ball was selected in the fourth round who too brings off-field issues with him after being accused of violence towards his ex-girlfriend. He was not charged with any crimes.
Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy will be aware of these issues, and the Cowboys are known to be a franchise that will always give a player a second chance. These two players could be difficult picks to back up for Jerry Jones and could find the transition into the NFL a difficult one to take.
Israel Mukuamu, the defensive back from South Carolina, could be an intriguing pick from the Cowboys down at 227. He adds size and talent to the Cowboys' secondary and could be used as a cornerback or safety going forward. Defensively, the Cowboys need to improve, and picks like Mukuamu will add competition and talent to a unit that needs to improve when they are without the ball. Depth at cornerback and defensive end has been added which means more competition and players will need to make improvements to keep their spot on the roster.
If their key offensive weapons can stay healthy they could become one of the most dangerous groups in the NFL this season. They have the talent available to them to triumph in the NFC East and book themselves a playoff spot this time around. If they can keep Prescott fit, along with Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb, Mike McCarthy will see his side as having every opportunity to bounce back as Super Bowl contenders in 2021.