The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Dallas Cowboys are America’s Team, and they go into the new year with high expectations. The Cowboys outlook for the 2021 NFL season has them atop the NFC East with some playoff success. Dak Prescott appears healthy and determined that this year will be special. We’ll see about that.
Dallas Cowboys 2021 season preview
The Cowboys have the second-easiest schedule in the NFL heading into the 2021 campaign. As a result, they don’t necessarily have to go through the gauntlet early like last season.
The Cowboys have the honour of being the team to open both the preseason and the season. Firstly, they play in the Hall of Fame Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dallas then kicks off regular-season action as well, with a Thursday Night Football bout against the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Offseason additions and losses
Dallas was a reasonably quiet team in the offseason. Andy Dalton, Cam Erving, and Xavier Woods were the Cowboys’ major losses in free agency. They also saw Sean Lee retire, while the team decided to part ways with Antwaun Woods.
They made a few big signings, including extending star signal-caller Prescott. Additionally, the Cowboys acquired Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal in free agency. Then, they told us he’s going to play linebacker. That gives them more linebackers than I have pairs of socks.
Brent Urban was a silently solid signing to bolster the interior defensive line. Furthermore, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe should provide an upgrade at the swing tackle position.
2021 NFL Draft
The Cowboys had a high-risk, high-reward draft. The selection of Micah Parsons might make more sense than we originally thought if he will be used as a pass rusher at least some of the time. The Kelvin Joseph selection was an excellent raw-talent pick. His game needs some shaping, but the ability is there.
The next two picks were spent on the defensive line. Although they didn’t make a ton of sense at the time, the thought that this team will run even and odd fronts make them acceptable. The Nahshon Wright pick floored me at the time, but he’s been the talk of the rookie minicamp cycle.
Then, the Cowboys got what many believe was a steal in linebacker Jabril Cox. There’s a bit of a logjam at that position now, but he could provide battles for multiple different offensive fronts if substituted creatively. In addition, Simi Fehoko is a height/weight/speed receiver who has intriguing upside.
Where do the Dallas Cowboys’ players rank in PFN’s Top 100?
Where do these Cowboys stack up in PFN’s Top 100?
88) Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back
Elliott endured his lowest production output in 2020. With the emergence and elusiveness of Tony Pollard, it’ll be interesting to see if the Cowboys lighten the load on Elliott a bit in 2021. He’s been an absolute warrior for this Dallas offense. In his five-year career, Elliott’s touched the ball 1,654 times. His vision is (and always has been) his calling card.
The former Ohio State Buckeye still has exceptional contact balance and will get you the extra yard or two, but the explosive plays come less often these days. He’s also struggled as a pass catcher in recent seasons. In 2020, he dropped 10% of his targets. Nevertheless, Elliott is still one of the best pass-protecting backs in the NFL.
54) Dak Prescott, Quarterback
If there were one person not to bet against in the NFL, it would be Prescott. He was on a ridiculous statistical pace in 2020 before his gruesome ankle injury. Prescott improved his footwork before the 2019 season, and it paid dividends on his consistency as a passer. He quickly became one of the most prolific downfield QBs in the league.
Prescott’s strength is his pre and post-snap ability. His trigger is outstanding, and it helps him be a menace up the seams and attacking the middle of the field. His other considerable strength is his ability to maximize his time in the pocket, manipulating the rush to create a throwing hallway and then releasing.
He’s also one of the most efficient red-zone runners in the league. So, it will be interesting to see how much Prescott’s injury affects how often they use him as a rusher.
34) Zack Martin, Guard
Martin is the best player on the Dallas Cowboys and is one of the best players in the NFL. He’s annoyingly in position at all times, no matter what. Technically, Martin so rarely makes a mistake that things become a tad dry. He’s not the mauler that Quenton Nelson is, which is probably why the hype surrounding Martin is significantly lower.
Last season, the Cowboys guard played over 100 snaps at right tackle while banged up. Even at tackle, he looked like a top-100 player. If Martin says healthy in 2021, pencil him in for another All-Pro at right guard.
Cowboys 2021 prediction
The Cowboys’ offense should be one of the most prolific in the league. Additionally, Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore have had a whole offseason together to implement the offense.
Possibly the biggest move was hiring Dan Quinn to be the defensive coordinator. The condensed offseason in 2020 killed Dallas’ defense early. It legitimately looked like one of the worst units in the league. Quinn has a whole summer to outline what the Cowboys’ defense should look like in 2021.
The Cowboys could have one of — if not the — best offense in the NFL in 2021. They have the second-best wide receiver trio in the league. Their two tight ends are both solid contributors, and they have two above-average running backs as well.
Top that off with an underrated quarterback on a mission, and you have quite the product. Their offensive line isn’t too shabby, either. Still, that offensive line needs to stay healthy.
The defense should almost get better by default. Schematically, there could be issues, at least from the standpoint of having people in the right place at the right time. However, Dallas is relying on a high-variance second-year cornerback and either Anthony Brown or rookie Joseph at the other outside cornerback spot. At safety, there’s Donovan Wilson and a lot of unknown until Damontae Kazee returns from injury.
This unit is unlikely to be a top-10 defense. It doesn’t need to be, and it won’t. Randy Gregory and Tank Lawrence are a high-upside duo on the outside. Trystan Hill was playing well before his injury in 2020, and Neville Gallimore has a lot of upside on the interior. Dallas’ defense just needs to survive.
2021 Cowboys record prediction
The Cowboys’ easy schedule should aid in their success heading into the 2021 season. They’re currently projected to win the division, and it would be a huge disappointment if they remain relatively healthy and don’t do so. This team should win 10-plus games, given their schedule.
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