Cowboys Are Making the Leap from Underachievers to Substantial Bowl Contenders in 2021

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 03: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at AT&T Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Tom Pennington/Getty Photographs

With a monumental blue megastar in the center of their self-discipline, an outspoken owner in Jerry Jones and a rich ancient previous, the Dallas Cowboys convey the highlight. They’re normally known as “The US’s Team.”

Dazzling or no longer, all that flash raises expectations. This franchise has fallen searching the hype in most contemporary seasons, nonetheless they are a crew of substance in 2021.

This roster is constructed to dominate the NFC East, host a playoff sport and downside contenders in the convention. 

In Week 1, Dallas went down to the wire with the defending Substantial Bowl champions. Despite a 31-29 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cowboys’ efficiency residing the tone for the early phase of the season. Their stars performed at a excessive diploma, unique acquisitions equipped an affect and role gamers on all aspects of the ball made contributions.

The Cowboys then won three consecutive games, racking up victories against the Los Angeles Chargers—who inquire treasure the excellent crew in the AFC West—the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles and the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Over the final two weeks, Dallas has outscored opponents 77-49. 

While many would demand the Cowboys to self-discipline a excessive-powered offense with a wholesome Dak Prescott and a talented wide receiver neighborhood that aspects Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has put collectively a multilayered, balanced attack. 

Quarterback Dak Prescott (left) and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore

Quarterback Dak Prescott (left) and offensive coordinator Kellen MooreTom Pennington/Getty Photographs

Prescott would not obnoxious in the dwell 5 in a bunch of passing categories, nonetheless he’s efficient, ranking second in completion rate (75.2) and tying for third with Tom Brady in landing passes (10). With Gallup on injured reserve due to of a calf wound, tight discontinue Dalton Schultz has carried over a pair of of his momentum from the previous campaign, hauling in 20 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

Dallas just will not be any longer overly reliant on Prescott to switch the ball and salvage aspects, even though. In his worst day out, he didn’t throw or lumber for a landing against the Chargers, nonetheless the Cowboys pulled out a victory with an efficient flooring sport and a important defensive efficiency. They ran for 198 yards and two ratings while preserving Los Angeles to a season-low 17 aspects.

In the back of a moderately wholesome offensive line, running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard personal change into a viable two-man backfield that leads the Cowboys’ second-ranked dashing attack. Dazzling guard Zack Martin solely overlooked one contest while on the reserve/COVID-19 record. Wanting ahead to Week 8, the 5-man unit might per chance additionally steal the self-discipline at paunchy energy as soon as factual tackle La’el Collins serves his 5-sport suspension for searching to bribe a drug-take a look at collector, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

We personal now viewed the Cowboys disappoint their fanbase with a high-notch offense previous to. In 2019, they gathered basically the most yards with the sixth-ranked scoring attack nonetheless overlooked the playoffs at 8-8.

This year’s squad can high that document with an aggressive defensive vogue that ought to back them beat quality opponents—one thing the crew struggled to achieve two years ago. Own in tips for the 2019 campaign, Dallas fielded the 11th-ranked scoring defense nonetheless ranked 25th in takeaways and 19th in sacks.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn

Defensive coordinator Dan QuinnJulio Aguilar/Getty Photographs

The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after his unit gave up a franchise-worst 473 aspects in 2020, and unique play-caller Dan Quinn has already made a valuable affect.

While Quinn’s unit has to work through some red-zone components (19th), Dallas has forced the second-most turnovers (10) and ranks 11th in third-down conversions allowed (37.5 p.c). Last year, the defense ranked 26th (46.9 p.c) in the latter stat class.

Quinn has tapped into cornerback Trevon Diggs’ ball-hawking trends, as he leads the league in interceptions (5) and flow breakups (eight). Newbies Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa personal change into fast key contributors, logging 27 tackles, 5 for loss and 4.5 sacks combined.

On story of of Parsons’ capacity to play linebacker and lumber the passer, he ought to be a entrance-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year. His presence in the entrance seven has modified the complexion of the Cowboys defense.

Dallas’ depth has paid dividends on defense as successfully.

Tarell Basham and rookie third-rounder Chauncey Golston personal logged quality snaps on the line of defense while edge-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence recovers from foot surgery.

Though Keanu Neal has overlooked two games while on the reserve/COVID-19 record, Quinn aloof has Leighton Vander Esch and a versatile safety in Jayron Kearse, who can line up in the box. In step with Schefter, the Cowboys released 2019 Pro Bowler Jaylon Smith, which shows their confidence in the linebacker neighborhood.

Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs

Cowboys cornerback Trevon DiggsRoger Steinman/Connected Press

Overall, the defense literally plays at a diversified slide in contrast to final year’s neighborhood. In step with Next Gen Stats (h/t Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning Files), 10 Cowboys defenders personal played at a slide above 19 miles per hour; solely three gamers reached that threshold through Week 3 of the 2020 campaign.

In diversified phrases, Quinn has gamers closing passing windows, swarming the ball and making stops, which has resulted in shorter drives for the opposition (third-down stops) and a excessive rate of takeaways.

With your complete plaudits for the Cowboys’ electric offense and some distance-improved defense, Elliott thinks this crew can put forth an even bigger effort to shut out opponents. He shared some candid tips with reporters following final week’s 36-28 victory over the Panthers:

I assume we’re supreme sufficient where, we mustn’t, nonetheless we get up and I assume we extra or less let our foot off the gasoline pedal. I assume our next step as a soccer crew goes obtainable and choking a crew out. I assume final week and this week we had alternatives to complete the sport early, nonetheless we extra or less allow them to loiter round. I remember that is the NFL, nonetheless I are searching for to appear us as a crew steal that next step.”

If the Cowboys assemble that killer instinct leisurely in games, they’ll personal the recipe for decisive wins.

With solely one double-digit rob season since the 2017 interval of time, the Cowboys personal the final capacity to rack up 10 or extra victories as the dwell crew of their division. They’ve arguably a high-10 quarterback in Prescott, an offense that averages 31.5 aspects per sport and a defense that can race down premier quarterbacks or power turnovers downfield.

The US’s Team appears to be extra treasure a complete membership ready to step back into the contender circle after consecutive non-profitable seasons.

Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Document. You’re going to additionally note him on Twitter, @MoeMoton.

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