Don’t sleep on the Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown (85) catches a pass against Dallas Cowboys defensive back Deante Burton (33) during during NFL football practice in Frisco, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

“The Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl” has become a go-to saying among the Cowboys’ fan base, popularized by famous Cowboys fan and internet personality Scooter Magruder.

It is widely known that for Cowboys fans, every year is “our year,” but the season ultimately ends in disappointment. However, this year, “America’s Team” has all the tools it needs to be a solid contender for the upcoming season. Dallas has many things going for it this year: a great receiving core, new-look defense, a potential bounce-back season for running back Ezekiel Elliott and the return of quarterback Dak Prescott. Barring injury, the Cowboys will almost certainly win the NFC East, and can likely make the conference championship game.

The receiver trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb make for one of the best receiving corps in the entire league. Cooper’s elite route-running ability makes him one of the hardest receivers to guard one-on-one. Cooper posted yet another 1,000-yard season last season, the fifth of his career, along with his career high of 92 receptions. Gallup, one of the most underrated deep threats in the league, ranked No. 24 in yards per reception last season. With this being a contract season for Gallup, you can expect good things from him. Lamb is one of the brightest spots for the Cowboys’ offense as he enters his second season. In his rookie season, he finished top 23 in targets, receptions and receiving yards. These receivers accomplished these things despite only having Prescott for five games and playing under four different quarterbacks behind an injury-riddled offensive line.

The 2020 Cowboys had a historically bad defense. They ranked second to last at No. 31 in rush defense and allowed 29.6 points per game, ranking No. 28. Late in the season, the defense picked things up and a few positives came from it. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence reemerged as one of the league’s top defensive linemen. The emergence of solid safety Donovan Wilson, as well as then-rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs getting his first career interceptions, gave fans something to be hopeful about. Dallas also used eight of its 11 draft picks this season for defensive players; however, none stood out more than the No. 10 overall pick: Micah Parsons. The middle linebacker from Penn State has been an early standout in training camp and preseason. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said he has built the defense to fit Parsons. With the abundance of first- and second-year players, the defense will likely start rough. However, by the end of the season, the young core will develop into a solid defense.

A big concern for the team has been the two-time rushing leader Elliott, better known as Zeke. Since Zeke’s stellar rookie season, he has been on the decline. His yards per game has decreased each season he has spent in the league. His rookie season, he averaged 108.7 yards per game, but last season, he averaged a career low of 65.3 yards. However, with the offensive line’s return from injuries as well as a better looking defense, Zeke’s chances of a better season are almost guaranteed. Not to mention, Zeke has rededicated himself and showed up to training camp this season having lost 10 pounds.

The biggest story surrounding the team for the past two seasons has been Prescott’s salary. Prescott got paid, which is an understatement. Signing one of the biggest contracts in NFL history, Prescott agreed to $160 million over four years, including a record $126 million guaranteed. Before his gruesome ankle injury, Prescott set the record for the most passing yards through the first four games of the season with 1,657 yards. With so many offensive weapons at his disposal, expect Prescott to have an MVP-caliber season if he can stay healthy.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy enters his second year with the team, having a full off-season and a preseason unlike last year. Continuity means a lot in sports, and McCarthy has had time to adjust and get comfortable, so improvements should be made on the Cowboys’ 2020 record of 6-10.

The Dallas Cowboys have everything they need to be legitimate contenders this season. The offense has too much power to ignore and will prove to be a lot to handle for opposing defenses. Dallas’ defense still needs work, but with a new defensive coordinator as well as a good amount of playmakers, their defense will certainly improve. If the team can stay healthy and get into a good rhythm, “Dem Boys” will win the NFC East, and they will have a good chance at being contenders this year and in years to come.