There are a total of 32 teams that make up the present day National Football League. But out of those 32 teams there is only one they call “America’s team.” The team I am talking about of course is none other than the Dallas Cowboys – who despite being five time Super Bowl champions, have not made a Super Bowl appearance since 1995.
This does not mean by any means that the very loyal Cowboys fan base has lost any hope for their team to reach that coveted Lombardi trophy for a 6th time.
It seems like ages now since the days of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo taking control out on the football field, throwing absolute dimes to his first ballot hall of famer tight end Jason Witten.
Of course this was only back in 2016, five years ago, when due to an injury suffered by Romo and then by backup quarterback Kellen Moore ushered in a new era of Dallas Cowboys football that we are still seeing to this day. That new era was brought to you of course by none other than Dak Prescott, quarterback out of Mississippi State and Ezekiel Elliott out of Ohio State, the new quarterback and running back duo respectively. They had an amazingly impressive breakout year with Dak winning offensive rookie of the year, throwing for 3667 yards, going 13-3 in the regular season and making the playoffs.
They ultimately went on to lose that playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, but we don’t really talk about that. Cowboys fans were still mad about the incompletion call on Dez Bryant from the playoffs in 2014.
Fast forward to the 2020 season. It was only Week 5 of the regular season, Dak was on pace to have a monster year as far as passing yards. He was way ahead of all the competition. There were still very obvious problems in the defense that had not been cleaned up, but nonetheless, the Cowboys geared up to face NFC East divisional rivals – the New York Giants. The game was tough and very close. Prescott had just celebrated a receiving touchdown right before the half – that’s right – a quarterback with a receiving touchdown from wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
That’s when tragedy struck, and the season was over for this QB One. Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle. It was a very scary, very emotional unfortunate event. Prescott was wheeled off the field with tears in his eyes as his teammates and fans cheered him on.
The rest of that season went just awful. They were just not in the game the same after that. The Cowboys secondary was giving up massive amounts of yards and the D line was no better ranking dead last in rushing yards allowed. Andy Dalton, the backup QB to Dak for the 2020 season did not fare much better, giving up multiple interceptions and not to mention Zeke’s fumbling problem. They ended the season with a disappointing 6-10 record that we all wish we could forget about.
But enough of the sad past. We all just have to brush past it, as if it were a bad dream. As even Zeke says he already forgot about last season.
Now the year is 2021, we are going into Week 9. We are halfway through an extended NFL regular season now that they added an extra game to the schedule for a total of 17 regular season games and the Dallas Cowboys have come a long way on both ends of the football from the catastrophic 2020 season.
Prescott this season has looked unbelievable. Despite not taking a single snap in the pre-season, he has not missed a step. They really went toe to toe with the entirely unchanged Super Bowl championship squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they were bullying them out there. Getting some turnovers too.
There might’ve been a couple controversial calls here and there that one might say were favoring the Bucs, but what do you expect when you’re playing against Tom Brady. The guy has more world championships himself than the whole Dallas Cowboys team. Only to give credit where credit is due they both played an instant classic of a game, they even had the highest viewership rating for a primetime game in a while. They only lost by a kick, but they sure set the mood and set the bar high for the rest of the season.
There are three main points or changes, if you will, that attribute to this team changing and becoming what it is now. I will be going through those points and you can let me know if you think these reasons have been the secret change to success for the Dallas Cowboys, or if you think it can be credited to something else.
The most surprising and all be it exciting change from the Dallas Cowboys this season, was the acquisition of the defensive mastermind Dan Quinn, because Mike Nolan sure did not know what he was doing with these defensive guys on his squad.
Who wouldn’t want a defensive coordinator that was known so well for his defensive play calling that his defense was nicknamed the “Legion of Boom.” They had the best secondary in Seattle while Dan the man was in charge, and now his presence in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff has been very evident.
The Cowboys did a pretty good job in the draft all things considered and looking back at some questionable past draft picks, picking up a class of mostly defensive players apart from some offensive line and a wide receiver.
The addition of rookie LB Micah Parsons out of Penn State has proved so far to be one of the steals of the draft. That guy wants to tackle anything and everything that moves. Sure they have been moving him around. Position wise starting at linebacker and now playing some snaps at edge rusher, but it is ultimately this adaptability and spirit of teamwork that has changed the face of the Dallas D. Parsons along with the rest of the defense is full of team players, all ego, all complaints are put aside with one goal in mind. This defense has been looking hungry and they have been feeding.
There is no more frustration on the faces of the defensive guys. They don’t give up on plays like they would do so often. And not to call any one singular player out, but I am totally going to call out this singular player.
Jaylon Smith, former Cowboys LB. He’s a good football player. He was good at what he did. He was not however great. It feels like there was a decline in his explosiveness and quickness with every season. He was not making the same tackles for loss he was making before, and would sometimes give up on plays that got out of his reach.
Not to discredit his work because, like I said, I believe Jaylon Smith is a fantastic player and more importantly a locker room leader. He was one of the more experienced guys out there and it showed. He was the leader that some of these younger guys needed. The only thing with being that leader is that the position is not irreplaceable. You have Edge Rusher Demarcus Lawrance who can be that guy or Kearse who started taking up the job when going against the Vikings in Week 8.
So now that they have let go of Jaylon Smith, the defensive front instantly seemed tighter, less sloppy and a lot more focused and aggressive. As of now, going into Week 9 they ranked No. 8 defense overall. Micah Parsons also just got the NFC Defensive player of the week.
While the front has been shutting down the rush game of many big rushing teams, it is impossible to talk about how well this defense has been performing, without talking about the vast improvement in the Cowboys secondary, and more specifically I am talking about seven interception DB Trevon Diggs – seven interceptions through six games.
The argument has been made very heavily for awarding him defensive player of the year although it is still too early to tell. And on the other end of that spectrum there are the people that believe he is not very good at his position having given up many yards against some wide receivers and sometimes blowing coverages. What some people fail to realize when they judge him too harshly is that he is only a second year player.
And if you talk about Micah Parsons being a steal in the 2021 draft, then 2020 second round pick Trevon Diggs was a whole heist. He has a year and a half of pro experience under his belt yet he leads the league with most interceptions making the Dallas Cowboys place top three in turnovers for the season so far.
Diggs has been a ball hawk. He has had two interception return touchdowns even tying his own brother Steffon Diggs, WR of the Buffalo Bills for touchdowns. There is no doubt he has been balling this season.
The second aspect of change to this football team that needs to be addressed is a complete 180 taken by Running back Zeke Elliot. He recorded the least amount of yards and the most fumbles of his career in the 2020 season. The Cowboys were the team with the most turnovers against – man those were crazy times. And if the 2020 season wasn’t weird enough the entire NFC East Division was the laughing stock of the league being the only division with all teams recording a losing record by Week 16.
During the offseason Zeke went hard in the paint. He was determined to make this the revenge tour and he sure needed it. Opposing fans were quick to say that the man was washed and that the Cowboys should trade him while he was still worth something, but Zeke has been shutting every single one of the doubter’s mouths as he is in the top five for rushing yards this season so far – only a yard away from fourth place even.
He took the last season very personal and took the off season very seriously. Anyone who follows Zeke on social media could see that the work he was putting in was for real. He has been so far the quickest, yet most patient and most smart player he could possibly be. Shedding any extra weight that was slowing him down quickly made a big change to his performance.
He is in peak condition plus he has five years’ experience on his resume. He was destined to do great things this season, and he is making everyone pay for ever doubting.
And man, oh man, if we are talking about the improvement in the running game for Dallas football, I can’t fail to mention RB two Mr. Tony Pollard. Possibly the best running back duo that the Dallas Cowboys has ever had. Pollard and Elliott work together in a perfectly balanced way of play where Zeke is a more patient seeker for an offensive hole while Pollard comes out like a rocket from the backfield and good luck catching up to him to bring him down. Together they are a dynamic running duo that came as a bit of a surprise. Sure we saw what Pollard could do last season having a high yard per carry rate, but with both Elliott and Pollard locked in and at peak performance, Dallas seems unstoppable on the ground
And to the air that brings me to my third and final defining point that has turned this Dallas Cowboys team around and really earned the respect of so many people.
I mean you have to think the Cowboys are one of the most hated sports team in the world. Not sure why people think it’s cool to hate on the Cowboys, but it is what it is. The person I am talking about, previously mentioned is Dak Prescott. At the helm he is the general, the leader, the spirit and soul that unites the Dallas team.
When he was injured back in the previous season, he not only affected the quarterback position, it had a lasting effect on all his teammates with morale shifting diminishing game to game, loss after loss. It was like losing your best friend, moving schools and having to start over with a new friend – your mood changes – and I think that is what happened to players like Zeke and even Amari Cooper who were not having the best of years. They needed their commander-in-chief.
So far, off to a good start, No. 4 has had a really good season not racking up the same amount of yards that he was in the last season, but yards don’t matter much when you come in clutch with important plays and you play very consistent. He has proven he can be in the contendership for winning MVP. He has been throwing more precisely than ever, deep balls falling right into the arms of his wide receivers, playing smarter, scrambling more safely. It’s like he never even broke his ankle when he’s out on the field. Most of his interceptions have been deflections. He is just playing on a different level and maturity than before. His on field presence is bringing the rest of the team along with him to that next level. He is an example of what a real leader should be out on the field.
But a quarterback is nothing without his weapons down the field and Dak has the greatest set of weapons that any team could possibly ask for. Each receiver, Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz and even Cedrick Wilson are on top of their game week in, week out, playing like WR 1 like they are out there to prove something. And they are doing just that. At this point in the season, Amari has been targeted 54 times and has dropped zero – zero dropped passes is phenomenal.
Dak should really be above the 2,000 yard mark by now, but he took the week off with a sprain on his leg. Having Cooper Rush make his first start and got his first win as a Dallas Cowboy.
Dak was franchise tagged last year and there was a lot of talk and skepticism on if he was worth signing to a multi-year deal, but it goes without saying that he has earned the contract he was given at the beginning of the year.
With all things seeming right in the Dallas Cowboys. This might just be the perfect storm they needed to come about to make it further into the playoffs and possibly win one more Super Bowl championship.
I see it as a very plausible outcome. The way the Dallas squad has been leaving it all out on the field and quickly taking control of the NFC East. Time will only tell how far they can make it and if the first half of the season is any indication of how the second half of the season will go. The other 31 teams are in for a long season because the Dallas Cowboys are here to wreak havoc, take names and show the whole world why Dak Prescott and the rest of the Cowboys are “Dem Boyz.”