The Dallas Cowboys will go as far as the defense takes them

Jun 3, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 3, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “The Dallas Cowboys will be a playoff team if they just have an average defense.” We seemingly tell ourselves this every year, because, well, it’s been a minute since the Dallas defense has been average. In fact, they’ve been simply awful more often than not. One need look no further than last season’s historically bad unit for proof.

It was so bad that an offense that averaged 32 points a game in the first five weeks only managed to go 2-3. Even then, they needed a Week 2 “watermelon kick” miracle to win the game against the Falcons. Covid or no Covid, coaching changes or no coaching changes, last season was an abject disaster.

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense will dictate their fortunes in the 2021 season.

And look, I’m no sycophant when it comes to these Cowboys lately. I’ve been semi-joking to friends that I’ve stayed with them “for the kids”. Jokes or no, it certainly feels like a long-term marriage that lost its spark decades ago. I’ve stayed because it’s comfortable, it’s what I know, and I’ve been too loyal and/or lazy to do anything differently.

So here’s where we find ourselves. Given a modicum of good fortune and health, the offense should roll. Dak Prescott is returning from injury and will helm an attack that features Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and an ostensibly healthy offensive line. In other words, if we’re complaining about the offense at any point, then something has gone very wrong.

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So that leads us to the defense. This was a group that ranked 20th in sacks, 23rd in yards allowed per game, and was next to last in rushing yards allowed per contest (158.8). It doesn’t require rocket science to understand why they were horrible. This is also why the current draft class must come in and provide a spark immediately. Rookie linebackers Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox almost certainly have to be ready to compete with or fill the shoes of incumbents Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. This says nothing about the fact that the Cowboys evidently drafted their next linebacking corps so soon after taking Vander Esch and Smith, but if it helps the defense improve, then I’m all for it.

The bottom line here is that the Cowboys continually paint themselves into corners when it comes to a year-to-year strategy of team building and providing roster depth. It’s evident on the offensive line as well. Any spate of injuries on that end threatens to derail what could be a top-five attack. The NFL is always a delicate endeavor against attrition. It’s just that the Cowboys aren’t very good at planning for it.

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So as training camp approaches, count me in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” group. This organization is so random in the way they go about the business of winning. I liked the draft class and its emphasis on defense, but the team was forced into that position because of questionable past decisions. Strap in. The Hall of Fame Game is less than two months away. This season will be a wild ride, and while it may be infuriating at times, it’ll be anything but boring.

  • Published on 06/14/2021 at 11:33 AM
  • Last updated at 06/14/2021 at 11:33 AM