5-1 at the bye week is a great place to be. The team has five straight wins since their close opening night loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offense is every bit as explosive as most thought, even as there have been key members out due to injury and suspensions for most of the time. The defense is opportunistic, fast and aggressive, which was exactly the plan when Dan Quinn was brought in to run the unit. Not everything has been perfect, and the Cowboys definitely had obvious things to reflect on at the bye week, but ultimately a lesson learned in victory is the best kind of lesson to have in the NFL.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys season thus far.
1. Dak Prescott is clearly a top five QB in the NFL.
To be honest, its not even controversial to say so at this point any more. Prescott is a super star who has firmly cemented himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league. The talent he possesses coupled with his work ethic and attention to detail puts him in rare company. The statistic are good, and they will always remain good with Prescott under center especially with this cast of talent around him, but what is most impressive is his understanding of the game and being able to identify in real time what defense are doing. He is playing with such confidence and the game has clearly slowed down for him. Look for Dak to continue to progress throughout the season and his career quite frankly, as we have just begun to see what #4 is capable of.
2. Dan Quinn’s impact has been felt almost immediately.
This defense is long, fast, physical, and aggressive. All these traits are exactly what Dan Quinn planned to bring to this defense and that mission has been accomplished. This team is so opportunistic when it comes to turnovers and that comes with playing with confidence and an understanding of what your defensive coordinator is expecting of you. From the techniques Quinn has taught all season, to the free agent signings and draft picks to add size and athleticism to this defensive unit, the presence of Quinn has been nothing but a positive for this team in 2021. As we mentioned earlier, there are clearly things to work on at the bye, but there is a lot to be happy about as it pertains to this unit, and it will be exciting to see just how this defense play can get when they get some of their stars back from injury.
3. This may very well be the best version of Ezekiel Elliott yet.
Zeke had an abundance of motivation coming into the season, from the talks of his demise, to the inward drive he has within himself, you just knew that things were going to be different for Elliott in 2021. That has certainly been the case as Zeke is top five in rushing at the bye week while also being spelled by Tony Pollard who has been balling in his own right, at a much more frequent rate than ever before. As a result of Tony Pollard getting more earned opportunities, Elliott has been fresh, explosive, and strong all season long. His blocking as a running back is elite, his burst is back, and his toughness has never left. It surely looks like with the combination of his own work ethic, the emergence of Pollard, and the way the Cowboys are using the running back unit as a whole, this is the best version of Ezekiel Elliott we have seen.
4. Anthony Brown has quietly been a solid CB2.
Its unfair to compare Brown to what his counterpart Trevon Diggs has been doing, but it is absolutely fair to suggest that since week one ended and he didn’t have to face the greatest quarterback of all time and Antonio Brown all night, Brown has been steady and doing his job at a very respectable level. Is Anthony Brown a Pro Bowl caliber player? No, he is not. But the Cowboys don’t need him to be to be happy with his performance this year. Week one has left a bad taste in Cowboys fans mouth, but week in and week out since then, Brown has been solid, and some would say even good to this point. Brown has had 32 tackles, six pass defensed, and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a score to put away the Giants for good. In comparison to Diggs, it is going to be lopsided, however Brown has been solid and it has been a bright spot for the Cowboys to reflect on going into the bye week.
5. This is the Randy Gregory we have all been waiting for.
Gregory is a game-wrecker, he is disruptive, plays with an edge, and is a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. This is exactly what the Cowboys had hoped he would be when they took a chance on him in the second round. Mind you, Gregory has been doing all this without his running mate DeMarcus Lawrence on the other side. Gregory has had to be the number one pass rusher on this team and he has risen to the challenge. He has played with relentless effort, and an aggressive nature that he has always possessed but has been correctly paired with the style Dan Quinn has brought to this team. As this team gets healthier and others start to come back to this defensive unit, it will put offenses in a bind when it comes to protection, leading Gregory to more opportunities to effect the quarterback and continue to make an impact.
6. We knew this WR group was deep, but Cedrick Wilson is even better than imagined.
Since the minute Michael Gallup went down, everybody knew it was a massive opportunity for Cedrick Wilson, and man he has met that challenge. In a lot of ways the Cowboys offense just kept rolling without the presence of Gallup in the lineup, and that is not a knock of what Gallup brings, it is a testament to Wilson and his ability. The Cowboys face an offseason question as it pertains to Gallup as his contract expires at the end of the season and he surely will command a high price tag. We are a long way from that point in the offseason, but this makes you wonder if the performance of this offense, and Wilson specifically, changes their view of those negotiations moving forward. Now, the Cowboys look to be getting Gallup back possibly for their next game on Halloween night, and if that is the case, the Cowboys offense is so ridiculously stacked, it is borderline unfair. Cedrick Wilson as this teams #4 WR option is just bonkers to think about. Defense are going to lose sleep trying to figure out how to stop this passing attack.
7. Terence Steele has cemented his future on this team.
La’el Collins suspension is over, and at the same time that might signal Terence Steele’s time as a starter, for now, is over as well. That is not an indictment on Steele or his play, Steele has exceeded most, if not all, expectations with his play this season. He looks to have firmly grasped a role on this team as, at the very least, the swing tackle of the future. Steele has quietly come in and played quality football for this team, and the fact it has been quiet is the biggest compliment you can give an offensive lineman, because in most cases at that position. if you hear their name it is usually due to something negative. Team brass has always been a fan of Steele since he got to the team, but the work that Steele has put in this offseason has clearly shined through as he has been confident and sound in his technique while facing some of the league’s best pass rushers early on in this season, and has has not blinked while doing so. Moving forward if Steele’s number is called, there is a real confidence that he would be able to step in, and get the job done, Coming into the season not many people may have had that feeling or sentiment, but his play has certainly silenced the doubters.
8. Winning games in prior seasons, they would not have.
This team is tough. They are resilient, they know how good they are, and they know how good they can be. There have been moments in this season where you could look at this team and say “prior seasons I don't know if they would recover from this”, but not this year. This year they have taken every shot thrown at them, every self-inflicted wound, and every scenario in stride as they stayed focused on the task at hand - winning. Whether that’s the leadership of the coaching staff, the belief in the quarterback, or the overall maturation of the team as they have grown and gotten more confident in themselves, this team has proven itself to be the team that will find a way to win a ball game, no matter the scenario. The scary thing for opposing teams is the fact they have not played a complete game to date. When this team puts it all together on all three phases for 60 minutes, there isn't a team in the league they can’t beat.
9. Winning the division should be the standard, but it is still the first task at hand.
The Cowboys are head and shoulders above their division rivals, that much can’t be debated. However, the conversation as of late has turned away from securing the division to worrying about other conference contenders and their relevance to the Cowboys seeding. While its a nice thought to be thinking three moves ahead for the playoffs, its surely more of a conversation had by fans and talking heads as the Cowboys will look to stay where their feet are at. Take each game one at a time, as this league can surprise you and humble you real quick. The first goal is to secure the division, and as quickly as possible, and the easiest way to that is to just win. Winning takes care of everything. Lets not worry about what the Buccaneers are doing, or how the Packers look, lets worry about how the Vikings are going to attack them this week, and the rest will take care of it self.
10. The Marathon continues.
This season has been fun so far. The offense is rolling, Trevon Diggs has been a human highlight reel, and this team has given us many reasons to smile through the first six games. However, here we go, this is the time to lock in and see how special this team can and will be. This team has Super Bowl aspirations, and this group has a chance to crush every goal they had set for themselves in the offseason. The season is a marathon and not a sprint, this Cowboys team will need to remember that. There will be challenges, surely there will be some losses and some tough outings, it will be how they respond and come back from the adversity that will shape how we view this season. We will be best served if we all just enjoy the ride that has given us all hope and excitement we haven't had in a quite a while. Who knows where this season takes us all, lets just buckle in and enjoy it.