The Dallas Cowboys had their first test of the 2021 season in the Hall of Fame game last Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the most part it went as expected considering it’s just the first of four preseason games, but there are some areas of the roster that still need to be addressed. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time to do that.
As things stand right now, the Cowboys still have quite a bit of work to do to prepare themselves for the games that actually matter this year, starting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener. Before the Cowboys can even think about Week 1 of the 2021 season, though, they have to fix the current concerns and fill out their roster.
Today, will take a look at some of the concerns that popped up in the HOF game and identify a few veterans who could probably step right in to help fix those issues.
OT Russell Okung
One of the Cowboys bigger concerns right now has to be at offensive tackle. With Tyron Smith’s known health issues, and him trying to bounce back from a season-ending injury that required offseason surgery, the Cowboys need a reliable backup. Sadly, neither Ty Nsekhe or Brandon Knight’s play against Pittsburgh made it look like they are the solution.
Although his play has declined over the past few seasons mostly due to injuries, Russell Okung could step in and be an immediate upgrade as the Cowboys swing tackle for the 2021 season. He’s missed 19 games over the past two seasons and was only able to start seven last year with the Carolina Panthers. His health is a pretty big red flag, however, it’s one worth taking a chance on as a backup if he’s willing to play that role.
DE Olivier Vernon
Although the Cowboys defense already looks much improved from a season ago, there still is one issue that stood out against the Steelers last week. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory out against Pittsburgh, the Cowboys had to rely on their depth at defensive end to provide a pass rush. Sadly, it was close to nonexistent and could possibly use an upgrade.
That upgrade could come from a familiar face in Olivier Vernon, a former division rival with the New York Giants. Surprisingly enough, Vernon is coming off a nine-sack season, the second-best of his career, but is still somehow a free agent on the open market. If the Cowboys want a formidable pass rush in 2021 they’ll need some help from the outside and the former Browns and Giants pass rusher still has enough left in the tank to do the job.
DT Geno Atkins
The Cowboys defensive front wasn’t awful on Thursday night against the Steelers, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a little upgrading. The Cowboys have the bodies to rotate in and out of the lineup, but are sadly lacking that disruptive presence along the interior. Neville Gallimore is their best hope of being that player, but even he can’t do it alone.
You’ve heard his name before and will continue to do so until he’s off the market, but Geno Atkins is someone the Cowboys should definitely kick the tires on. He’s a relentless pass rusher who has racked up 76 sacks in 161 games in his 11-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He may have only played in eight games last season due to a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery, but he’s still a vet who can help Dallas.