It’s the bye week near the middle of the season, and that means it’s time to take a look back. Mercifully, we’re a little over halfway through the 2020 regular season. For the Dallas Cowboys, it’s been as disappointing a first half as anyone could have imagined.
Dallas came into the 2020 season with the sixth highest Super Bowl odds of any team in football, according to FanDuel. They also were the clear favorite in the NFC East. Now, just over two months into the season, how things have changed. FanDuel now has the Cowboys with the eighth worst Super Bowl odds, a +21000 underdog.
Granted, there are plenty of reasons for the disappointing year to date. The Cowboys have been hit as hard as any team by the injury bug. They’ve lost Dak Prescott, Gerald McCoy, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins, all for the season. Dallas also has suffered plenty of other key injuries on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys also, for the first time in 10 years, brought in an entire new coaching staff that had to deal with the strangest offseason in years because of COVID.
It’s a tough time for the Cowboys, and things may only get worse. The light at the end of the tunnel is a potential top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the hope that their stars will recover and come back healthy next season.
Despite the Cowboys shot at making the postseason being down the drain, there is still plenty to look back on through the first nine games of 2020. Today, we’ll kick off our midseason review series, by having our front page writers answer the question, “who/what surprised you most in the first half?”
Now onto the BTB Writers biggest first half surprise....
What most surprised me was the way the free agents that we talked ourselves into being so excited about turned into diddly and squat. Outside of Greg Zuerlein, there was almost nothing there. Everson Griffen was at times serviceable, but apparently not enough to keep around. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix couldn’t even make the roster out of camp. Brandon Carr couldn’t see eye to eye with the staff. Dontari Poe was just washed, and Gerald McCoy was lost to the first of the interminable injuries. While the names were better known, it was another trip to the remainders bin for the Cowboys, with results we should have seen coming. So being surprised was all on me, I guess.
The thing that surprised me most was how badly the Cowboys struck out on their three defensive free agents. Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen seemed like home run signings at the time, and Daryl Worley was a versatile veteran with proven results. Instead, none of these guys even made it to the bye week. It’s hard to pick which one of those was a bigger bust, but each of them underwhelming the way they did contributed in a big way to this defense’s slow (to put it politely) start to the year.
The biggest surprise for me has been the immediate impact from this new class of rookies. First off all, it’s hard to remember the last time I was this excited about a draft haul. The new process of just letting Will McClay and his scouts do their job without so much outside interference from the coaching staff allowed them to take great pick after great pick back in April. And the guys they selected have wasted no time showing their ability. First-round gem CeeDee Lamb is as good as advertised as he leads the team in receiving touchdowns and is on pace to have over 1,000 yards receiving despite the offensive struggles without Dak Prescott. Before his injury, Trevon Diggs was showing everyone why he was in consideration as a potential first-round target. The Cowboys have found themselves a great no. 1 corner for the future. And while he might’ve been thrown into action sooner than expected due to injuries, Tyler Biadasz has done a fantastic job holding down the center position for this team. Even Neville Gallimore is flashing some great playmaking ability as he’s now starting games and is coming off the best game of his young career. The Cowboys season has been very disappointing, but this young crop of rookies should make us feel great about the future.
The player that has surprised me the most so far would be Dalton Schultz. We knew the Cowboys passing game was going to be a strength on this offense and we knew the coaching staff was excited that they had a stretch tight end like Blake Jarwin on the roster. But when Jarwin went down there was a real question about what they had behind him depth wise. We’ll Schultz has stepped up to the challenge and been a reliable receiver for all four of the starting quarterbacks used this season. Making plays to move the chains or beating linebackers down the seem. Whatever they’ve asked of him he has been able to provide.
I would say my biggest surprise this season has been the complete devastation of the offensive line. It’s so easy to take something for granted when it’s so reliable, and that has been the unquestioned case with this O-line troupe. Travis Frederick’s retirement did come as a huge surprise to many including myself, but our remaining slew of Pro-Bowlers still left me with the utmost comfortability and confidence in Big D’s offense to move the ball downfield. Welp, minus one point for me in that regard. They began to drop like flies. The first man down was La’el Collins - whose season-ending hip surgery was made so much worse by Tyron Smith’s subsequent downfall in succession. Brandon Knight and Mitch Hyatt round out injured-reserve names, and now Frederick’s replacement Tyler Biadasz is out with a hamstring ailment. Huh, no wonder Zeke can’t seem to eat up yardage like he did in year’s past. We’ve been so accustomed to seeing Elliott’s “feed me” celebration and the Cowboys’ O-Line move opposing weight like they were operating a Brinks truck, that now their collapse is the worst thing imaginable - and then some. It’s like the nastiest knuckleball from the nosebleed bleachers in left field. A “humbling experience” is the best way I can adequately collectivize all of the chaos.
The thing that surprised me most in the first half of the season is secondary’s struggles. Coming into the season, I was one who believed the offseason acquisitions could really improve the Cowboys’ secondary. Losing All-Pro Byron Jones was a big hit, but I felt that a return of Anthony Brown, the addition of Daryl Worley, and rookies Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson being added to the fold could really soften the blow. Boy was I wrong. Other than Diggs, all three of the other corners have really struggled, or in Robinson’s case, not even seen the field. Worley was so poor he did not even make it to the bye week. Even Jourdan Lewis, a guy who came into the season with high expectations, has really struggled. The secondary cost Dallas a few games in the early going, and I really did not expect them to preform this poorly.
Let us know what you think about our answers, and drop your biggest first half surprise in the comment section below.