Things haven’t gone according to plan for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. If you hadn’t embraced the harsh reality that this team isn’t very good, the last two weeks are plenty of evidence to prove it. It’s a team that’s going nowhere unless that somewhere in the bottom of the standings and potentially a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
With a report that the Dallas Cowboys are listening to offers on Defensive End Everson Griffen, that should signal a move toward seeing what the young players on this team can do for this team down the road. 2020 is lost, but getting an evaluator headstart for 2021 should be the main priority at this point.
It’s time to see what Bradlee Anae can do with a healthy portion of defensive end snaps. Through the first seven games of the season, Anae has only seen six snaps on defense. You want to see what one of the more refined pass rushers has in the NFL, get him on the field more. Start working him in as a pass rusher and then expand his role if he’s up to the challenge. You have to find out if he can help you in 2021 and beyond.
It’s time to see what Reggie Robinson can do in the secondary. Whether it’s at safety or cornerback, it doesn’t matter; get him on the field and let him play. It’s difficult to understand what’s going on with Robinson at this point. With all of the struggles the Cowboys have had in the secondary, for him to not get even a whiff of playing time at this point is just strange. At 2-5 and with a team that will struggle to get to five wins, why not find out what your fourth-round cornerback has to offer.
Neville Gallimore has been thrust into action with the injuries to Gerald McCoy and Trysten Hill and the poor play of Dontari Poe, so he’s going to get an opportunity to develop. I’d start him and play him as much as possible. The only way he’s going to get better is by playing. He needs to work on being a two-gap player and improve against the run, but he’s got some natural pass-rushing ability as well.
It’s also time to see more of Francis Bernard. He may not be ready for a full workload at linebacker, but it’s time to start working him into certain situations. He was a playmaker for an impressive Utah defense in 2019, so why not give him a shot to see if he can be a part of your linebacker depth or more in 2021 and beyond.
Tony Pollard should get a longer run at running back this season too. If you can save any wear and tear on your starting running back who is effectively under contract through the 2022 season, then they should do it. Ezekiel Elliott isn’t going anywhere, so you might as well look at minimizing his workload and saving him for a time when this team can be competitive. The Cowboys should at least go with a 50/50 timeshare between the two running backs and if things get out of hand in a game, give Pollard the full workload. He’s run pretty impressively at times, even behind this shoddy offensive line. It’s time to see what he can do with an expanded opportunity.
When Zack Martin returns, I’d really like to see them flip Connor McGovern to left guard and move Connor Williams to either left or right tackle. The more natural move would be to left tackle as the footwork is a bit more similar, but either way, get him some snaps at tackle and see what he’s capable of. He couldn’t be worse than Cam Erving or Terrance Steele at tackle. Steele could certainly develop moving forward, but we’ve seen a lot of him through the first seven weeks. It might be a good thing for him to take a step back and get a reset.
And that brings us to the quarterback position. Andy Dalton is questionable for Sunday. He’ll need to work through the concussion protocol to have himself ready to play Philadelphia. Even if he’s ready, it may not be a bad idea to give Ben DiNucci some snaps in the game, especially if the Cowboys get behind. Get him some experience and give him some tape to learn from. It won’t be pretty, but he shows some things that could be desirable as a backup quarterback in the NFL.
The Cowboys are unlikely to make anything out of the 2020 season unless, by some miracle, they catch lightning in a bottle like the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League. This team has that feel to it. However, I find it improbable that this club makes any sort of serious run in the second half of the season to have themselves in playoff contention. And because of that, it’s time to start looking at the 2021 season and evaluating the young guys on your roster who could potentially contribute then.
It would be a missed opportunity not to take long looks at this year’s crop of rookie draft picks or some of the younger guys from previous draft classes. If it leads to losses, so be it; this year wasn’t going to end in celebration anyway. The best thing the Dallas Cowboys could do for themselves for the rest of 2020 is to embrace evaluation by playing the guys that they want to get answers on sooner rather than later.