Dallas Cowboys Pivotal Player No. 3
It seems odd to include a back-up on a list of pivotal players but here me out:
Provided he’s healthy, there is really no scenario in which Dak Prescott is not starting in Week 1. He has all the leverage in negotiations, he’s gaining value by the day, and leading this high-powered offense in 2020 is only going to increase his league standing. He’s also head-and-shoulders better than Dalton so there’s zero chance the Cowboys rescind the franchise tag and opt for the cheaper player in Dalton.
But Dalton is the best Dallas Cowboys QB under contract at the moment (Dak has not signed his tag) and that needs to be considered. Additionally, Andy Dalton ensures the Dallas Cowboys get the most from their preseason practices. With no minicamps expected to take place, teams are going to lean on training camp as the sole way of preparing for the new season. Every practice rep is exponentially more important than before and having an NFL caliber QB throwing the ball every rep is paramount for the offense and the defense to get up to speed.
We also need to consider how the Dallas Cowboys built their team this season. By letting two of their best defensive players leave in the offseason, Dallas has essentially doubled down on their offense. They hope to see improvement from their defense but they clearly expect their offense to to lead them. All of that evaporates if something happens to Dak, so investing in a capable back-up became one of the most important things they could do for this season.
Dalton may have peaked as a player but he’s a proven regular season winner and someone who can keep this offense moving should something happen to Dak this season. Earlier this month, Kevin Cole at PFF made the case that Dalton could be this season’s Ryan Tannehill if he went to Buffalo.
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As many should remember, Tannehill took over for Marcus Mariota midway through last season and transformed the Titan’s offense into a playoff team. Tannehill did so becoming one of the most productive passers in the league. Even though his counting stats were ho-hum, his qualitative numbers were elite last season and he turned that into a ginormous contract this offseason (a four-year, $118 million deal).
While Cole’s article speaks to how Dalton could specifically transform the Bills, it speaks to Dalton’s standing and possible impact as a pro this season. Andy Dalton has been a consistent performer throughout his career and took his team to the playoffs his first five seasons in the league. While he failed to make the postseason since, it wasn’t because of him since his grades basically stayed the same.
On the Dallas Cowboys, Dalton will have elite talent around him so there’s no reason to think he couldn’t find the same success. He hasn’t ever performed at the individual level of Dak Prescott before so he wouldn’t be a very optimal solution in the postseason , but he can certainly win games in the regular season with this roster.
Andy Dalton basically gives the Dallas Cowboys the league’s best regular season insurance policy at the most important position on the field. He gives Dallas more productive practices leading up to the season and stability throughout.
The Cowboys don’t want him starting in the postseason but that doesn’t make him any less pivotal leading up to that point.