While the offseason feels incredibly long and drawn out to most Cowboys fans, it can also be a time for wishful thinking and optimism.
Unfortunately, those positive feelings haven’t lasted all the way through a Cowboys season since 1995, the last time Dallas won the Super Bowl. But this year could be different.
The Cowboys are seemingly afterthoughts among the teams in contention to win a Super Bowl. Dallas has the ninth-best odds to win it all on two major sportsbooks.
But Vegas gets things wrong all the time, and these are the three things that need to happen in the Big D this season if the Cowboys want to leave the oddsmakers scratching their heads as they hoist the Lombardi Trophy:
Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs dominate again
Debating whether a dominant pass rusher or a lockdown cornerback is more important to a defense is like debating whether the chicken or the egg came first. There’s really no right answer.
But Dallas was lucky enough to have both last year in Parsons and Diggs. Parsons had 13 sacks, the sixth-most in the NFL, and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, an All-Pro and a Pro-Bowler. Diggs snagged 11 interceptions for 142 return yards, both tops in the NFL. He, too, was honored with an All-Pro and Pro-Bowl selection.
Parsons and Diggs are certainly going to draw more attention from offenses this season, but if the other nine players on defense can step up this year then there’s no reason the Cowboys can’t have one of the best defenses in the league.
In 2021, Dallas allowed a tick above 21 points per game, the seventh-best mark in the league. They’ll need to be even better in 2022 to win the Super Bowl.
Ezekiel Elliott needs to bounce back
Zeke has been criticized greatly since signing his massive six-year, $90 million deal back in 2019. But last season was certainly the most disappointing of Elliott’s career. His 58.9 rushing yards per game and 16.9 receiving yards per game were each the lowest of his career.
This was largely due to the partially torn PCL Elliott suffered in week 4 last season. He still started every game but was a non-factor on a handful of occasions.
But Elliott appears to be prepared physically and mentally heading into this season. Coaches have been on record as saying he’s in the best shape of his life (I bet you’ve never heard that one before). He was even clocked at 22 MPH during OTAs.
If Zeke can return to form and be a productive back again, the Cowboys will be a well-rounded offense again and not need to rely on Dak Prescott slinging the rock as much. Prescott had the ninth-most pass attempts in 2021.
The Cowboys are also leaning on some unproven wide receivers this year after parting ways with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson in the offseason. If Elliott can come out of the gates hot and shoulder the load offensively to start the year, it would go a long way in letting receivers like rookie Jalen Tolbert and James Washington get their feet under them. Especially since WR2 Michael Gallup may miss time early recovering from his torn ACL late in 2021.
The Cowboys FINALLY show up in the postseason
The Cowboys have built a reputation of having promising regular seasons, just to fizzle out almost immediately in the playoffs. Last season was no exception. Dallas followed up a 12-5 regular season with a Wild Card Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers where the offense could only muster up 17 points on home turf.
But for a lot of young, key players like Parsons, Diggs, CeeDee Lamb and more, that was their first exposure to postseason play. While the Cowboys historical postseason failures have become stereotypical, that shouldn’t be the standard these Cowboys are held to.
They’ll need to leverage the experience from last year’s postseason loss to better prepare themselves this season.