In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys took the league by storm and had a better year than even most of their fans thought they would have had. The biggest surprise of their 2016 campaign was the fact that it was led by two rookies: Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott went on to win Rookie of the Year, pushing the streak of quarterbacks winning the title to three consecutive years.
It wasn’t just their two rookies stepping up though, as their defense also thrived, finishing 14th in yards allowed and an impressive 5th in points allowed. The biggest disappointment they faced last year was getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Green Bay Packers. Can they duplicate their success and push even further in the playoffs, or will it be another great regular season that ends in mid-January once again?
Offense: Not much has changed for the Cowboys offensively, and it showed in the draft, as they only selected two offensive players with their nine picks. The Cowboys biggest loss on offense was Ron Leary, who was a key part of the stout offensive line. With a running back such as Elliott, I believe his exit will be hardly noticed.
Elliott finished the year with over 1,600 yards rushing, and he’ll only continue to get better. There were some other key losses such as Mark Sanchez and Gavin Escobar, but those losses mostly affect their depth. If this team can stay fairly healthy, I believe the Cowboys will improve upon last year, which is scary, considering they ranked 5th in yards gained, and 5th in scoring. Outside of Atlanta and New England, I can’t seem to find a better offense than this young Dallas team.
Defense: The Dallas defense succeeded beyond their expectations last year, and yet it was their biggest concern to address in the draft. Of course, their offense is one of the best in the NFL, so it makes sense to why the franchise would approach the draft the way they did. First round pick Taco Charlton should help the team get after the quarterback, while second round pick Chidobe Awuzie has the ability to provide support in coverage, and we’ll see if third round pick Jourdan Lewis will get significant playing time.
Getting to the quarterback will be a key of emphasis for this team, as the Cowboys ranked 24th in sacks last year at 28 total, and 30th in interceptions. The franchise has proven that they can stop the run, but in order to beat Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan for the conference title this year, they’ll have to place more pressure on the quarterback.
I think their defense will improve, but the secondary will still need a lot of help. This defense will give Dak enough to help finish around that same 12-4 mark they hit last year in the regular season.
Bottom Line: There has been speculation that Prescott could see a sophomore slump this year. Do those kind of slumps happen? Yes. To everyone? Absolutely not. Prescott has the pieces around him to be successful once again this season, as he has a strong receiving corpse, and a running game that teams are forced to respect. The Cowboys have a defense that can stop opposing average offenses, but their entire season could very well rely on their young and rebuilding defense. I expect for the Cowboys to win the NFC East, likely by two games (Cowboys go 12-4, Giants go 10-6). From there, the Cowboys have the opportunity to further than they did last season.