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Three Cowboys that may surprise you in 2021

Looking at three Cowboys players that may rise above expectations this upcoming season.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This time of the year is all about projection. Projecting a team’s win totals, projecting the 53-man roster, and projecting if players will perform better or worse than they did last season.

Today we start a two-part series doing just that. We’ll take a look at three Cowboys that may surprise you with their performance in 2021.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

WR, CeeDee Lamb

It may be crazy to say, but there is a realistic chance CeeDee Lamb is the Cowboys leading receiver in 2021. Despite playing with a backup level QB for much of 2021, Lamb had an outstanding rookie year. The first-round pick caught 69 passes for 877 yards out of the slot, the most by a rookie wide receiver since 2006 from that postion, according to PFF.

The rookie also showed his knack for making the big play, recording seven receptions of 30 or more yards.

Lamb is only going to get better as he enters year two in the league. If he’s able to have a healthy Dak Prescott throwing him the ball for 17 games, Lamb is almost a lock to surpass 1,000 receiving yards.

He’s not as high-paid as Amari Cooper, or even talked about as much as Michael Gallup, but CeeDee Lamb will be the Cowboys’ most productive wideout in 2021.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

DE, Randy Gregory

If you were going to rank the biggest positives to come out of the 2020 season, Randy Gregory’s performance would be right at the top of the list. For just the third time in his career, he appeared in at least 10 games. Gregory made some serious impact during his time on the field.

Despite playing in just 10 games, Gregory’s four sacks were tied for the second-most on the defense. He also recorded 13 QB hurries, eight QB hits, and had a PFF pass-rush productivity rating of 8.5, the 11th-highest rating of all edge defenders that played in at least 10 games.

Gregorys’ PFF pass-rush grade of 81.9 was by far the highest of his career and was the 13th highest among all edge defenders in the NFL.

For the first time since 2016, Gregory is on track to play in back-to-back seasons. If he’s able to stay on the field and play a full 17 game slate, Gregory could be one of the best pass-rushers in football in 2021.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

CB Jourdan Lewis

After the 2020 season came to an end, it sure seemed like Jourdan Lewis’ time with the Cowboys would also come to a close. But, Dallas felt differently, bringing back the slot corner on a three-year, $13.5 million deal. The Cowboys showed a lot of faith in Lewis giving him a long-term deal, and it may have something to do with what he showed towards the end of the season.

In Week 15 against the 49ers, Lewis had his best game of the year. He recorded a sack, a PBU, and allowed just 3.5 yards per reception, according to PFF.

Lewis certainly had his struggles in 2020, but playing under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn might help him find consistency. He’s always been a good cover guy, averaging a PFF coverage grade of 69.5 over his first three seasons in the league, and always has a knack for making plays on the ball.

He’s the clear favorite to be the Cowboys starting slot cornerback, and Dallas being willing to shell out $13 million to him seems to make you think they believe he will succeed.

He’s not going to become the league’s most dominant slot corner, but he will look much more like the guy we saw in 2017 and 2018 this upcoming season. The development of Trevon Diggs and play of Kelvin Joseph will play a large part in deciding how well Lewis performs, but he could be in for a very good year.