There are a lot of new faces in new places with the Cowboys defense which doesn’t have The Athletic feeling too optimistic this season.
23. Dallas Cowboys
Last year: 19th
It’s tough to know what to expect from this group and new coordinator Mike Nolan. They’ll likely be more blitz-heavy and less vanilla than they were last year. But will they be better? Dallas lost two of its best defensive players in Robert Quinn and corner Byron Jones. They added veteran defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe and used a second-round pick on talented corner Trevon Diggs. They’re set at linebacker with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. New starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has had tackling issues and is on his fourth team in three seasons. This is a high-variance group, but with five potential new starters and a new coordinator, it’d be wise to temper expectations.
Intercepting the ball appears to be a lost art for the Cowboys as Mickey Spagnola from the Mothership provides some very depressing statistics in recent years.
The Cowboys finished this past season with just seven interceptions, finishing in a three-way tie for dead last in the NFL with Arizona and Detroit. The Raiders’ nine were the only other team not in double figures. The Patriots led with 25. Pittsburgh had 20. The Cowboys’ last three-year total of 26 just barely beats the Patriots output this past season. And over the past five seasons, the Cowboys have totaled 41 interceptions.
From 1960 through 1987, 28 seasons, 13 interceptions had been the least in a single season. Heck, the 0-11-1 Cowboys in that inaugural 1960 season had 15. And that in the three-yard-and-a-cloud-of-dust NFL era.
2020 NFL predictions: Cowboys, Steelers among 2019 non-playoff teams who will make it in this year - Jared Dupin, CBS Sports
Every year there’s a good turnover in playoff teams, and CBS Sports picked the Cowboys as one of the teams returning to postseason action.
Coming into last season, the Cowboys were the poster boys for the type of team we would expect to regress and miss the playoffs after making it the year before. Dallas had gone 10-6 and won the NFC East in 2018, but had the point differential of an 8.4-win team and gone 9-3 in one-score games. Teams that overperform their point differential and have far-better-than-.500 records in close games tend to regress the following season, and that’s exactly what happened to the Cowboys: Dallas went 8-8 last year.
However, the 8-8 Cowboys actually had the point differential of a 10.7-win team, with their plus-113 mark checking in as the sixth-best in the NFL. They also went an unsustainably bad 1-6 in one-score games. They are now a team that absolutely screams positive regression. If they are simply average at winning one-score games in 2020, they should be something like a nine- or 10-win team.
How will the WR depth chart shake out? Here are six guys who could make the team, including one guy nobody is much talking about, Noah Brown.
Brown will be an interesting case study for this training camp. He’s going into the final year of a rookie deal he signed under the former coaching staff. Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan liked Brown’s blocking ability. That, combined with his capabilities on special teams, often gave him opportunities for playing time with the offense that other seventh-round draft picks might not get.
What’s intriguing about his game is his ability to combine his size with his reliable route running. Like CeeDee Lamb, Brown could be an option in the slot if the team needed Brown to take some snaps. Brown’s ability could allow him to back up at all three wide receiver spots and give the Cowboys quality snaps. However, with a new coaching staff in town, there’s no telling how much value they’ll place on Noah Brown’s blocking ability.’
Could this undrafted free agent find a way to crack the Cowboys roster?
It goes without saying there is a roster spot for Ezekiel Elliott, who will once again handle the majority of the backfield duties, and second-year speedster Tony Pollard earned an increased role after his rookie year.
The Cowboys released RB Jordan Chunn in July leaving only Dowdle, along with fellow UDFA Darius Anderson out of TCU, as the remaining tailbacks on the roster. The kicker for both Anderson and Dowdle will be how many running backs Mike McCarthy and his mostly-new staff choose to keep around.
If the Dallas top brass does decide more backfield insurance is needed, the South Carolina product has a real chance to edge out Anderson, especially if Dallas feels comfortable with his medical situation.
Isaac Alarcon now gets to train with the players he idolized in college.
Alarcon’s natural gifts and eventual acceptance of the position allowed for quick progress, and his desire to improve motivated him to closely observe the game’s top offensive linemen in search for development cues. Time after time, his research led him to the trenches of America’s Team. Cowboys All-Pro offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin rapidly became role models. Alarcon became a fan not only of both players, but of the team itself. At Tech, he wore Smith and Martin jerseys to class and made a ritual of watching every game, mimicking their moves and footwork.
“Tyron is so fast, his hands are always in great position,” Alarcon said. “First thing I’ll do after I introduce myself is say: ‘Teach me, please.’” Assuming the 2020 NFL season carries on as planned, Alarcon will get the chance to solicit mentorship from one of the best offensive line units in the league.
Last season, the Cowboys allowed the second-fewest sacks in the NFL and ranked fifth in total rushing yards.
Are we talking about the plan at fullback enough? We discuss on the latest episode of Cowboys Hoy.
Make sure that you never miss an episode from Blogging The Boys by subscribing to the Blogging The Boys podcast feed!
Also make sure to subscribe to the official YouTube Channel from Blogging The Boys.