The Cowboys are going to need Joseph to hit the ground running.
What’s Next: Trevon Diggs might have set some unreasonable expectations for a rookie cornerback selected in the second round by being a reliable and promising Week 1 starter. Joseph might come along a little bit slower than Diggs, but the Cowboys did use a valuable draft pick to select him, and they desperately need improved cornerback performance over last season, so the rookie will be expected to be able to contribute to the defense during his rookie season. At 5-11, he isn’t the tallest cornerback the Cowboys drafted in 2021, but he might be the most physical and athletic. He showed a knack for making plays, and looked more than competent in SEC play. The hope is that with Jourdan Lewis signed to play the inside cornerback and nickel packages and Anthony Brown available to provide leadership and depth, Diggs and Lewis will eventually be the starting outside cornerbacks of the Cowboys’ future.
Bet You Didn’t Know: Joseph’s most promising performance last season was a matchup with Alabama’s Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, who the Eagles drafted with their first-round pick this offseason. Joseph stuck with Smith as well as any cornerback in college football last season and even picked off Alabama QB Mac Jones, who was targeting Smith on a go-route. The Cowboys are likely to see plenty of Smith over the next handful of years, so they’ll be hoping Joseph can channel some of those same coverage skills.
The offensive line needs to have a solid center starting for them.
Tyler Biadasz, C
One of the biggest areas of concern on the Cowboys’ roster no one seems to be talking about is the center position. After starting in only four games as a rookie, only one of which with quarterback Dak Prescott under center, 2020 fourth-rounder Tyler Biadasz seems to have automatically inherited the starting role.
While the Cowboys still have the option to re-sign current free agent Joe Looney, who started 12 games for Dallas at center last season, they seem more than content to gift wrap Biadasz the job. A solid performance from the second-year center at training camp could help alleviate fears about his sudden ascension.
If the team is able to stay healthy all season, they will be a tough team to stop.
All things are looking up for the Cowboys as they look to rebound from a disappointing 2020 season. But they’ll need that health to maintain throughout the season to be ready to compete. Injuries happen. It’s inevitable, but the Cowboys won’t be able to withstand the same amount of injuries like they did last year and hope to contend.
Keeping Dak Prescott upright and most of the offensive line intact will be huge for the Cowboys’ chances to contend in the NFC East and the NFL. Even without their star offensive linemen and terrible defensive performance, the Cowboys were still competitive. Yes, they had a losing record at 1-3, but they were staying in games.
The Cowboys were one of the most injury-riddled teams in the NFL in 2020, and it showed. Often playing their fourth and fifth offensive tackles and as many as four quarterbacks, there was little chance they would be able to compete. However, if they can get a reversal of fortunes in 2021, the Cowboys will be among the best teams in the NFL.
Prescott is far ahead of the field.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is entering the 2021 season coming off of an injury that took nearly the entire 2020 season away from him. Now entering his comeback season, many are high on Prescott’s ability, as FanDuel has listed Prescott as the favorite to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award in 2021. Below is the full top 10 for player odds to win the award.
Dak Prescott (+200)
Christian McCaffrey (+700)
Joe Burrow (+700)
Saquon Barkley (+700)
Carson Wentz (+1000)
Nick Bosa (+1000)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (+1400)
Jameis Winston (+1700)
Sam Darnold (+1700)
Odell Beckham Jr. (+2000)
Prescott was on pace to have one of the best years of his career last year until he suffered a compound fracture in his ankle against the New York Giants in October of last year. The injury resulted in Prescott being carted off the field immediately and right into surgery, thus ending his 2020 season.
The return of Prescott to the field will be huge for a Dallas offense that struggled to post big offensive numbers in 2020 after his injury. Prescott was on-pace for a career-high season, as he had thrown for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns at the point of his injury. Dallas was averaging 31.5 points per game in games that Prescott played the entirety of, but then fell to a mere 21.1 points per game in games played after his injury.
It’s going to be fun watching the Cowboys build this year's roster.
Interior defensive line - 5
This is a crowded group as well. Neville Gallimore is the only remaining player that looks to be secure. Osa Odighizuwa is going to make the team due to his draft position, assuming he does not fall completely on his face. Trysten Hill has been mentioned as a surprise cut and will have to prove he is back from injury and can build on to a solid if brief showing from 2020.
The rest is not only about talent but how Quinn wants to use the players. Brent Urban is a solid run-stopper, and that is expected to be the role for rookie Quinton Bohanna. It leaves an open question about whether the team can carry two such players, which would make the challenge even greater for Bohanna. Carlos Watkins may be a bit of a sleeper to watch.
Linebackers - 5
Barring injury, the five will be Jabril Cox, Keanu Neal, Micah Parsons, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. Parsons and Vander Esch look like the most likely starters, and in the nickel Neal and Cox could get looks, while Smith could get some significant snaps in a DPR role. Cox is another who would have to force a cut on his own due to where he was drafted.
The Cowboys first-round draft pick continues to generate different opinions.
Dallas Cowboys: Drafting Micah Parsons
Let’s get one thing squared away before Dallas fans break out the pitchforks and torches. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is a wildly talented young defender with the potential to be a difference-maker in the NFL.
The risk the Cowboys took with Parsons has less to do with the player himself and more to do with the decision to take him 12th overall in April.Of all the needs the Cowboys had entering the 2021 draft, off-ball linebacker ranked toward the bottom of the list. Yes, Leighton Vander Esch has had injury issues of late. Yes, Jaylon Smith’s level of play in 2020 wasn’t as good as the season before. But both young linebackers have Pro Bowls on their resumes. Dallas also signed safety Keanu Neal in free agency with the intention of moving him to linebacker.
Parsons is also, for his talents, rather raw as a prospect. He opted out of the 2020 season at Penn State and didn’t play much coverage in college.
The Dallas O-line isn’t the strength it once was. The secondary needs work. The team needs edge-rush help opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
Eschewing those positions for Parsons was a gamble.
Cowboys’ Ben DiNucci moving past ‘weird’ rookie season in backup QB battle: ‘That wasn’t me out there’ - Patrik Walker, CBSSports
Just words at the moment, he’ll need to prove it on the field.
DiNucci completed only 21 of 40 passes for just 180 yards with no touchdowns, along with losing two fumbles on 79 offensive snaps. It wasn’t all bad in the eventual loss, however, because despite being under siege due to an injury-ravaged offensive line, he didn’t throw an interception. And when you’re the Cowboys and DiNucci, looking for something that hints at a silver lining, that’s what sticks out in an otherwise forgettable outing.
“It was a surreal moment for me,” DiNucci said. “That’s something I’ll be able to say for the rest of my life – ‘Hey, I started a game for the Dallas Cowboys my rookie year.’ But I think just some positives for me, as you watched the game progress, I felt like I got a little more comfortable every quarter. Just some things, when the checkdown is there, take the checkdown, a positive play is a good play, no negative plays, just throwing the ball out of bounds when guys aren’t open.
“Just things that come with playing. And that’s all stuff that I’ll be able to work out in the preseason. It’ll be nice to have preseason this year just to kind of be able to get back in the flow of games, play in games and get out there and show what I can do.”
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