Film room: 3 new Cowboys additions who will make the biggest impact in 2021 - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
If the Cowboys are going to be successful in 2021 they need these three players to show up in a big way.
The 6-7, 300-pounder carries massive power in his hands, which enables him to control blockers, while his strong lower body and efficient technique enable him to occupy double teams and protect the linebackers behind him.
In addition, Urban can fit in up and down the defensive line, and get the job done anywhere from a four- (head-up on the offensive tackle) to a zero-technique (head-up of center) and everywhere in between. Therefore, Quinn can deploy Urban at different places depending on opponent and game plan — much like how the Chicago Bears used him in recent years.
If Dallas’ LBs notably improve their play this year after their dreadful performance as a unit in 2020, Urban’s presence will undoubtedly be a big reason why. Therefore, don’t be surprised if Urban finishes the season with pedestrian stats that a more akin to a replaceable role player rather than an impact defender. However, those with a keen eye for trench play and how it affects the second level of the defense will understand Urban’s impact by season’s end.
It’s not a flashy game, but some interesting points about why the Cowboys-Falcons game could be much more important than some imagine.
Why aren't we talking more about the Nov. 14 game against Atlanta? Ok, I know the answer to it – it's not the game people gravitate to. When they think about games that are going to really matter, it's either the division games at the end of the season or the ones with name-grabbing headlines like when they open the season against Tom Brady and the defending champs on the first Thursday of the season or their first-ever game against KC's Patrick Mahomes.
But we all know this – these games count the same. The only thing that really matters is the final record. Sure, the division is important, but you can still go 0-6 against the NFC East but if the overall record was 10-7 or even 11-6, you could still win it. So don't overlook some of these games, just because you might have put a big "W" next to it, or the fact that Fox decided to make it a Noon game on a Sunday.
Trust me, games like this one against the Falcons are going to be the kind of games that truly separate the Cowboys from being a decent team, to a really good one.
Taking a look at some potential stat leaders for the regular season.
WR CeeDee Lamb. There's no question the receiving corps is the strength of this team. Combining Lamb with Cooper and Gallup was always going to be a challenge for secondaries, and their results with a combination of Ben DiNucci, Andy Dalton and Garrett Gilbert show the skill they have. Here's how their receiving leaderboard broke down last year: Amari Cooper: 130 targets, 92 catches, 1,114 yards, five touchdowns CeeDee Lamb: 111 targets, 74 catches, 935 yards, five touchdowns Michael Gallup: 105 targets, 59 catches, 843 yards, five touchdowns
With a full year of experience under his belt, there's reason to believe Lamb will take over as WR1 in Dallas. For starters, Lamb's explosiveness stood out last year. He was tied for 11th in the league in receptions of over 20 yards with 18 such plays (tied with Davante Adams). For context, Cooper was tied for 27th with 13 and Gallup was tied for 37th with 11. Lamb also led all Cowboys receivers in passer rating on targets, per Pro Football Reference.
It was clear last season when Prescott was playing he had early chemistry with his rookie receiver. Lamb was leading the team in receiving with 433 yards and two touchdowns in five games when Prescott went down.
Which matchup on the schedule are you most excited for?
3. Washington Football Team – Weeks 14 and 16. As things stand now, the Washington Football Team appears to be the team the Dallas Cowboys will contend with for the NFC East. Much of how they fare in 2021 will depend on how much magic Ryan Fitzpatrick has in his arm. The defense should be one of the best in the NFL again and they have weapons in Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. Quarterback play has been the Achilles heel and there’s still uncertainty at the game’s most important position.
4. New York Giants – Weeks 5 and 15. Another team that could be in contention with the Dallas Cowboys for NFC East superiority is the New York Giants. Still featuring Daniel Jones at quarterback, the Giants brought in Kenny Golladay in free agency, drafted Kadarius Toney in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and will be getting Saquon Barkley back this season. Winning these matchups will be huge for the Dallas Cowboys in their bid to win the NFC East. With Dak Prescott as the starter, the Dallas Cowboys are 7-2 against the Giants.
Mike McCarthy got a pass in 2020. It’s pretty clear he won’t get one regardless of what happens in 2021.
So McCarthy got a pass in 2020. But first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan didn’t as the team quickly parted ways with him this offseason after a historically poor performance by the defense. Dallas hired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn to take his place. Entering his second season in Dallas, McCarthy faces more pressure than ever to win. But does that mean he’s potentially on the hot seat for 2021? Here’s what ESPN’s Todd Archer recently said on the JaM Session podcast with Matt McClearin and Jean-Jacques Taylor.
“This is a huge year for Mike McCarthy. You’ve got your get out of jail card for all the things that you want to excuse it. Those are gone now. Your program is in place. You’re not behind anymore. You’re not playing from behind. I’m not saying he’s got to win a Super Bowl. I’m not saying he has got to go to the NFC Title game. Just look like your more organized and have a plan.”
In one offseason, the Cowboys’ linebacker group has gone from a weakness to a potential strength.
Parsons may get penciled in as the starter at middle linebacker, leaving the veterans to have to jostle for their snaps elsewhere. LVE has earned a reputation as an injury-prone player, something Dallas has already dealt with and could be the explanation as to why his fifth-year option was not picked up. It’s wise for the Cowboys to not hold the expectation of his game-day availability any more.
Smith has also gained a bit of a reputation that could affect his playing time. While he did have a career-high number of tackles in 2020, he was often out of position, unable to meet players at the line of scrimmage, and he cost the team with silly penalties. The issue becomes, who will they trust more? A first-round rookie who possibly shines in training camp and throughout the preseason against second-string players? Or, if available, do you continue to stick with the players you know and understand what they offer?
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