Dallas opens up the season this week in a Thursday Night Football match up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, our current NFL champions. Tom Brady and the Bucs hit fine form as the season rolled on, and gave the Chiefs a troubling time on Tampa soil in Super Bowl 55. But… don’t underestimate the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas has a very good roster, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. With Zeke back in what feels like full force, and the offensive line a lot healthier than it was last season. The 6-10 record looming over Dallas from the 2020 campaign feels a little misleading. Here’s several things you should look out for in Thursdays game.
The Most NFL Ready Rookie In The Draft
Micah Parsons is magnificent. The Cowboys landed arguably the best talent in the draft while everybody ahead of them fought over Quarterbacks. I was a little confused at the time expecting to see a corner taken, but Dallas clearly saw Micah Parsons as a guy they simply couldn’t pass on at the position. The second time in a row that’s happened after Ceedee Lamb fell into their laps the season before. What the Cowboys are doing is reloading their strengths. Receiver was a strength, and they reloaded it ahead of the possibility that they don’t resign Michael Gallup. The same is true for the backers. Sean Lee is of course no longer there, and Leighton Vander Esch is going to be due a contract in the near future. So they reload what they’re good at.
As was expected, the Cowboys then went for a corner in the 2nd round, with Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky, and again in round 3 with Nahshon Wright out of Oregon State.
But it’s Parsons we care about this week. The secondary is a weakness that will take time to address and fix, we know that. But Parsons is that new breed of speed at the linebacker position that changes an entire defence. Devin Bush, Devin White, Roquan Smith to name a few, are all guys who’ve come into the league and made a real impact. Bringing speed and coverage to the MLB position is game changing. Micah Parsons can run with just about any receiver in the NFL. Down or across the field. It’s a huge addition, and one new DC Dan Quinn will know how to use perfectly.
An Every Bit As Good Receiver Group
The Bucs have an impressive set of receivers at Tom Bradys disposal, but the Cowboys have their very own case for having the best group in the NFL. Amari Cooper is back and looks sharp as ever after video footage emerged of his route running, and his teaching Ceedee Lamb a thing or two during the NFL’s preseason series ‘Hard Knocks’.
Lamb himself was just shy of 1000 yards in 2020 playing primarily out of the slot, which may be changing. While both on the field in pre season game 1, Ceedee Lamb took 11 of 11 snaps on the outside. Where as Michael Gallup took 7 of his 11 from the slot. This marks a significant change for both Lamb & Gallup, who has averaged only 10% of his snaps from the slot in the three years he’s been in Dallas so far. The Cowboys seem to have made a decision that they can squeeze even more out of Ceedee Lamb if they line him up outside. Now that’s just a minor observation from a preseason game… but it might be something more.
Gallup is of course in a contract year, but has the ability to be a wide receiver number 1 on his day. Meaning the Cowboys have three of them. It’s an electrifying group which could destroy any secondary when on from. Dak has everything he could possibly need at his disposal to be able to dismantle Tampa Bay’s secondary on Thursday night. All he needs is the line to hold up for long enough for him to do so…
Bounce Back Zeke?
Zeke had some troubles last season. That much is clear. There was fumble trouble that got him benched. It wasn’t ideal off the back of a brand new contract. Tony Pollard looked good as his back up and is one of the far better 2’s in the league. His catching ability having been a college receiver is an advantage and he provides excellent support and depth that the Cowboys had to call upon last year.
However, Zeke is back and in excellent shape this year. He’s been working on his conditioning, cutting some weight in camp, and seems sharp. Of course, without consistency on the offensive line, it wasn’t quite as easy to be the Zeke we all know and love. Tyron Smith missed most of the season at left tackle, Zach Martin missed a few games too, and Joe Looney and rookie Tyler BIadasz rotated in and out at centre too. There should be far greater consistency this year, and the Cowboys will need it on Thursday, going up against one of the scariest defensive lines the league has to offer.
The Secondary is Developing
Dallas has added reinforcements to a depleted secondary, and while it might not be perfect, it’s better than it was. After allowing Chidobe Awuzie to hit the market, it appears that sophomore season corner Trevon Diggs needs to step up into the CB1 role. He’ll be very much tested on Thursday against a hall of fame 7 Super Bowl winning Tom Brady, and a wide receiver core featuring Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. We’ll get a good feel for just how much Diggs has improved during the game.
Additions in Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker should give Dan Quinn something more to work with, and we as fans should give this newly built secondary a chance to grow together. Hooker has great upside if he can only stay healthy, and Kazee comes over with Quinn from Atlanta, a long with now converted linebacker Keanu Neal.
Dan Quinn didn’t have a great year in charge of the Falcons in 2020, and ultimately giving away games cost him his job. But being able to focus solely on the defence, and contribute his experience to this team, can only be a good thing. Let’s not forget he was an excellent coordinator with a Super Bowl ring on his finger before he took the Atlanta job.
And Of Course, Dak is Back
Make no mistake about it. Dak is better than Andy Dalton. This is his team, and a season ending injury ended up getting him the contract we felt he’d deserved for quite a while. Now, freshly paid and ready to work, the Cowboys have announced that he’s good to go ahead of the season opener. Dak has been battling some shoulder trouble amidst his return to football, and has been closely managed on his snaps in camp.
Now cleared, we’re all hoping to see Dak Prescott pick up where he left off on record breaking numbers. Dak was on course for almost 5000 yards last season before the ankle injury that ended his campaign. With Ceedee Lamb now in year 2, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup good to go, and an inspired Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, this offence could go toe to toe with anybody on any given Sunday.
The Cowboys are currently 7.5 point underdogs as they travel to Tampa to face the Bucs. Thursday nights game will be a treat for everybody as NFL football returns to us for the first time since the Super Bowl back in Feburary. The season is back, and the Cowboys will be no easy opening game for Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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