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PFF ranks the Dallas Cowboys roster just outside of the top five entering the 2020 season

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The Cowboys have a talented roster, should they have been ranked higher or lower?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like it is generally agreed upon that the Dallas Cowboys have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. Nobody is necessarily saying that they’re number one, but they’re near the front of the line. To be fair, we are talking about a group that was highly efficient on offense last year and added CeeDee Lamb to the mix. While that can’t totally make up for any potential issues on defense, the Cowboys did bring in veterans like Gerald McCoy and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, although they did lose both Robert Quinn and Byron Jones.

Where many people view the Cowboys as being most improved is with their coaching. That doesn’t factor into the talent on the roster but it is obviously critical and of extreme importance. Recently PFF ranked the talents of each NFL roster over at ESPN and they have the Cowboys near the top, but not quite in the elite.

PFF ranked the Dallas Cowboys as the sixth-best roster in the NFL entering 2020

PFF used their own database in their calculations and put some heavier consideration on projected starters for each team. We don’t technically know who some of the starters for the Cowboys will be this season, but we have a fairly strong idea. PFF’s projected starters for Dallas next season include Tyler Biadasz, Randy Gregory, and Trevon Diggs.

How each player was graded last season obviously played a role in determining the overall rankings of each roster here in 2020, and that means that Dak Prescott was among the higher-graded Cowboys by PFF’s standards. Here is their evaluation.

Biggest strength: Not too many quarterbacks have it better than Dak Prescott. The trio of wide receivers that Dallas plans to run out on the field in 2020 is arguably the best three-deep group in the NFL. Among the 104 wide receivers to run at least 250 routes in 2019, both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup finished in the top 10 in receiving yards per route run. And now the Cowboys have the FBS leader in yards per route run last season — CeeDee Lamb — after selecting him in the first round of the draft.

Biggest weakness: Losing cornerback Byron Jones is going to hurt the Cowboys’ secondary. Rookie Trevon Diggs is a player PFF liked coming out of Alabama — someone who projects well in a press-heavy, zone scheme — but you can’t expect him to replace a top-10 cornerback such as Jones as a rookie. The cornerback depth becomes even thinner if Chidobe Awuzie transitions to safety as some chatter this offseason has suggested.

X factor for 2020: A neck injury took a large portion of last season from linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, but even when he was healthy, his play wasn’t at the same level as it was during his rookie season. A decline in play against the run was a major culprit. Vander Esch’s run-defense grade fell from 81.3 as a rookie to 43.2 in 2019, and he missed nearly as many tackles in 2019 (12) as he did in 2018 (13) on fewer than half of the opportunities. Following Vander Esch’s offseason surgery, the Cowboys will be hoping the player who looked like one of the NFL’s best linebackers as a rookie returns to the field.

It is certainly fair to wonder how the Cowboys are going to fare in the secondary without Byron Jones, especially if Chidobe Awuzie is moved to safety. The depth there is very shallow for Dallas and they will undoubtedly be leaning on Trevon Diggs and possibly Reggie Robinson II early on.

Considering who PFF ranked ahead of the Cowboys in this exercise (Ravens, Saints, 49ers, Chiefs, Buccaneers) it is hard to see what is unfair about the evaluation. Dallas is among the better rosters in the NFL and certainly has one of the best offenses across the league on paper. Much like we expect their games to be this season they are held back by their defense and will need their offense to carry them.

Team 40 Burger.