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Victory or defeat in Week 1 could hinge on how quickly Cowboys’ starters knock off the rust

Several first-team offensive and defensive players didn’t play much, if at all, in preseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

HERE. WE. GO. The 2021 NFL season will officially kick off Thursday when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Super Bowl champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Week 1 at Raymond James Stadium. These two teams were pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum of one another last season, but the slate is wiped clean right now heading into the season opener. For the Cowboys, it’s their first chance to prove last year is behind them.

The 2020 season was an embarrassing one for the Cowboys in just about every way imaginable. Unfortunate injuries played a big part in their lack of success last season, but not even that is a good enough excuse for a lot of the poor play and effort we witnessed game after game. 2021 is a bit of a redemption year for the Cowboys coaching staff and players alike. They are out to improve themselves, starting Thursday night against the Bucs.

Sadly, as things stand right now, there is more mystery surrounding this year’s team than answers. No one really has a clue as to what the defense will look like, but there is hope Dallas’ new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can at least make them a middle-of-the-road unit. Offensively the Cowboys should be one of the best in the league, however, staying healthy will likely be the biggest obstacle to overcome this year.

Surprisingly enough, despite all of the unknown still, there’s quite a bit of optimism surrounding this team. All of the optimist out there are hoping the Cowboys starters on both offense and defense are firing on all cylinders Thursday night, but the realist know that’s probably wishful thinking. The realist know Dallas’ first-team starters on both sides the ball didn’t receive many snaps in preseason, and as such, could be a bit rusty early on.

Preseason Snaps for Cowboys’ 1st-team Offense

QB - Dak Prescott: 0

RB - Ezekiel Elliott: 0

WR - Amari Cooper: 13

WR - Michael Gallup: 28

WR - CeeDee Lamb: 26

TE - Dalton Schultz: 22, Blake Jarwin: 22

LT - Tyron Smith: 16

LG - Connor Williams: 78

C - Tyler Biadasz: 54

RG - Zack Martin: 16

RT - La’el Collins: 43


Preseason Snaps for Cowboys’ 1st-team Defense

DE - DeMarcus Lawrence: 0

DT - Osa Odighizuwa: 122

DT - Brent Urban: 24, Carlos Watkins: 13

DE - Randy Gregory: 13

LB - Micah Parsons: 43

LB - Leighton Vander Esch: 27

LB - Keanu Neal: 34

CB - Trevon Diggs: 43

CB - Anthony Brown: 45

S - Donovan Wilson: 25

S - Damontae Kazee: 46


Seeing as it’s the first game of the 2021 season, and several of the Cowboys projected starters didn’t receive a lot of playing time in preseason, it’s completely understandable if they’re a bit rusty against Tampa Bay Thursday night. But, how quickly they are able to knock off that rust could very well be the difference between putting a “W” in the win column or taking the ”L”. There’s no doubt they have their work cut out for them.

The Cowboys will have a small margin of error if they want to have any chance of success in the season opener against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions. This is one of the more talented teams they will square off against this season and can be used as a measuring stick to help determine just how far this team could go this year. A victory could be the first steppingstone to a long season of success, but only time will tell.