2020 NFL Team Previews: Dallas Cowboys

2020 NFL Team Previews: Dallas Cowboys

This article is part of our Team Previews series.

Dallas Cowboys

Another underachieving campaign finally spelled the end of Jason Garrett's tenure at the helm of Jerry Jones' ship. New coach Mike McCarthy and an outstanding draft have renewed optimism in Dallas, but this is still a roster that needs to prove it can turn its talent into playoff success.

Offseason Moves

Key Acquisitions

A draft-day steal, he could be among the NFL's best No. 3 wide receivers.

The Red Rifle gives Dallas stability behind Dak Prescott.

Even after a down 2019, he could still upgrade a woeful kicking game.

Veteran warrior has at least five sacks in eight straight seasons.

Key Losses

Turned his best season since 2015 into a three-year deal with Houston.

An autoimmune disease cut short an All-Pro career.

Notched his first double-digit sack season since 2014 to earn a big payday.

Shutdown corner leaves a big hole in the secondary.

A Look Under the Hood

Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (Year 1)

Offensive Coordinator: Kellen Moore (Year 2) - Air Coryell scheme

Defensive Coordinator: Mike Nolan (Year 1) - 4-3 scheme

2020 Vegas Projected Wins: 9.5 (T-5th)

   

2019 Record: 8-8

2019 Points Scored: 434 (6th)

2019 Points Allowed: 321 (11th)

2019 Point Differential: +113 (6th)

2019 Run-Play Rate: 42.0 percent (12th)

2019 Situation-Neutral Pace: 28.26 seconds per play (2nd)

2019 Offensive Snaps: 1,069 (6th)

2019 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 4

Full 2019 Team Stats

   

Projected 2020 Depth Chart

QB: Dak Prescott / Andy Dalton

RB: Ezekiel Elliott / Tony Pollard

WR1: Amari Cooper / Ventell Bryant

WR2: Michael Gallup / Devin Smith

WR3: CeeDee Lamb / Cedrick Wilson

TE: Blake Jarwin / Dalton Schultz / Blake Bell

O-Line: LT Tyron Smith / LG Connor Williams / C Joe Looney / RG Zack Martin / RT La'el Collins                         (RotoWire Rank: No. 4)

Kicker: Greg Zuerlein / Kai Forbath

Full 2020 Depth Chart

Top Storylines

New Sheriff in Town

For nearly the entire 2010s, Jason Garrett clapped the Cowboys to just one losing record but little meaningful success, as the team won 10 or more regular-season games only three times and never got over the hump in the playoffs. Finally relieved of his duties, Jerry Jones has turned to a proven coach in Mike McCarthy to try and get better results.

McCarthy won a Super Bowl ring and had three NFC Championship Game appearances during his time with the Packers, but he also had Aaron Rodgers under center. Dak Prescott may not be the same kind of elite talent, but he does have much better weapons at his disposal.

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the league's few remaining true bell cows in the backfield, and he's working behind an offensive line that still features multiple Pro Bowlers even after the retirement of center Travis Frederick.

Both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are also coming off 1,000-yard seasons and are joined by first-round pick CeeDee Lamb, giving Dallas a collection of receiving talent that should be the envy of the entire NFL.

The pieces are in place for the team to follow the offense-first pattern the Chiefs rode to a title last year, but McCarthy will need to prove his triumphs in Green Bay weren't just a product of riding the coattails of a generational quarterback like Rodgers.

Paying the Piper

One of the drawbacks of drafting well in the salary cap era is that eventually, all those stars want to get paid. Owner/GM Jerry Jones has opened up his checkbook often in the last few years, handing big extensions to left tackle Tyron Smith, right tackle La'el Collins and right guard Zack Martin in addition to Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, and Dak Prescott figures to follow in short order by becoming one of the NFL's highest-paid players.

All that spending on offense doesn't leave much left over for the defense, and as a result star players like Byron Jones and Robert Quinn found big bucks elsewhere as free agents this offseason. There is talent on that side of the ball, as linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch form a dangerous duo when both are healthy, and DeMarcus Lawrence, who is coming off a down season, still totaled 30 sacks over the last three years.

That leaves a lot of question marks in the unit, however, and a motley collection of rookies, cheap journeymen free agents and players looking to salvage their careers attempting to answer them. Of course, from a fantasy perspective, a team with a potent offense and a shaky defense is the ideal scenario to create shootouts. Consequently, expect a lot of high-scoring affairs for Dallas in 2020.

No Rest for the Weary

If the Cowboys have a secret weapon, it might be their incredible skill-position depth. While Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are all established names, opposition defenses still will be under pressure when those stars aren't getting the ball.

Tony Pollard didn't see consistent work as a rookie behind Elliott last season but was electric with his chances, never getting more than 14 carries in a game but producing two 100-yard rushing performances.

Rookie CeeDee Lamb was widely viewed as one of the top wide receivers available in this year's draft and drew comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins for his yards-after-catch ability. After falling to Dallas with the 17th overall selection, Lamb will work as the third receiver and give secondaries nightmares as he and Cooper flip between the outside and the slot in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's flexible scheme.

Even Blake Jarwin, who steps into the No. 1 tight end spot following the departure of Jason Witten, has flashed his upside as a threat down the seam and averaged 8.9 yards per target in 2019, a better figure than Mark Andrews or Austin Hooper. Such depth could make touches hard to come by for some of the team's secondary options, but what they lose in volume they should be able to make up in efficiency as they get matched up against lesser defenders.

Barometer

⬆️ Rising: TE Blake Jarwin

Jarwin emerged as Jason Witten's heir apparent with a three-TD game in 2018. What Jarwin lacks in elite speed he makes up for in good size, reliable hands and route-running ability. Even in a stacked offense, he's a breakout candidate.

⬇️ Falling: K Kai Forbath

The veteran journeyman didn't miss a kick for Dallas after replacing Brett Maher late last year. That said, the addition of Greg Zuerlein in the offseason may leave Forbath looking for work once again.

😴 Sleeper: RB Tony Pollard

While touches could be limited behind Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard was productive in a secondary role in 2019. The second-year back has a chance to erupt if Elliott's big career workload begins to catch up to him.

🌟 Pivotal Player: Dak Prescott

Coming off his best season yet, Prescott will look to join Russell Wilson at the top of the NFL salary scale, and it's hard to argue he's not worth it. His ability to minimize mistakes gets the most out of the talent around him in the Dallas offense, and head honcho Mike McCarthy could help Prescott find yet another level to his game.

Dak Prescott has vaulted himself into the upper tier of NFL QBs, where he'll soon be paid handsomely.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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