It would be hard to consider the Cowboys a big winner this offseason. They traded Amari Cooper for next to nothing, lost out on Randy Gregory in free agency and lost other important pieces in Connor Williams and Cedrick Wilson Jr.
The good news for the Cowboys is they didn’t need to win the offseason to have a good chance at repeating as champions in the division.
The division isn’t quite as bad as it was in 2020 when the Washington Commanders won with a losing record, but it isn’t exactly stacked either.
The biggest addition for the Commanders was Carson Wentz. Given his Week 18 collapse against the Jacksonville Jaguars, that isn’t going to strike fear in the hearts of the division.
The Giants still have work to do. They’ll be deciding whether Daniel Jones is the quarterback of the future. Brian Daboll should offer a coaching upgrade, but it’s hard to predict a one-year turnaround from five consecutive losing seasons.
That leaves the Eagles as the primary competition for the division title. Philadelphia has a good case as the most improved team of the group of four. Adding A.J. Brown, Haason Reddick and Jordan Davis gives them a serious weapon for Jalen Hurts and defensive upgrades.
Whether the Cowboys repeat as champions might depend on Hurts’ development as a passer and Dallas’ ability to replace the production it lost this offseason.
Dante Fowler, James Washington, and Ryan Nall don’t move the needle for the Cowboys this offseason, compared to what they’ve lost.
Orr: The Cowboys. I’m surprised, somewhat, that the Cowboys did not punch the accelerator this offseason. After watching both the Rams and Buccaneers take home Lombardi trophies in consecutive years, it’s obvious the formula is amassing a talent glut so significant that no other team can compete. The Cowboys’ young core is rounding into their collective athletic prime. Supplement them with a little more than Dante Fowler.
And one more Cowboys mention before our boots-on-the-ground reaction ...
The free agent move I liked the most was …
Breer: The Bengals signing La’el Collins. I like it in part because it happened after they brought in linemen Alex Cappa and Ted Karras—which showed they were willing to go over the top to fix the issue in front of Joe Burrow, one that probably cost the franchise its first Lombardi. Collins is different from anyone Cincinnati had last year, and because he played for Bengals line coach Frank Pollack in Dallas, he arrives as a known commodity. That he’s been a part of elite lines in the past is the icing on the cake.
Our takes: The SI national guys aren’t “wrong.’’ Most Cowboys fans agree with the “accelerator’’ take, but they should at least be armed with Dallas’ philosophy here, which is to keep the roster and the cap balanced while chasing annual success.
That doesn’t make the philosophy right - but we might argue a bit with the insistence that the Rams’ way and the Bucs’ way is “obviously THE WAY.’’
Former Cowboys DE Greg Ellis takes over college program as head coach - Todd Brock, The Cowboys Wire
This is Ellis’ second job with a Texas football program.
Ellis, 46 years old, has been named the head coach at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, an NAIA school with about 2,000 students in the Texas town of Waxahachie, 30 miles south of Dallas. The SAGU Lions went 9-3 last season.
Ellis was previously the head coach at Texas College, located in Tyler. That program’s 2020 season, Ellis’s first with the school, was canceled due to COVID-19. Last season, he oversaw the team’s finish at 0-11, including a 63-0 drubbing at the hands of SAGU.
(As bad as that sounds, it wasn’t even the Steers’ worst loss of the year. They lost other games by 65, 68, 71, and 73 points. On the season, they were outscored 648-108. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Ellis and the school parted ways in 2022.)
A North Carolina native, Ellis played for the Tar Heels and went on to be the Cowboys’ first-round draft pick in 1998. Selected eighth overall, Ellis was perhaps best known initially as the player that Dallas took instead of Randy Moss.
Getting an even better version of Terence Steele is a big part of the Cowboys plan for improved play up front this season.
I am curious how Terence Steele has looked so far heading into camp. Is he bigger? Stronger? How do you feel about his chances as the starter and what do you see may be his strengths over La’el Collins? Thanks! – MIKE CURTIS / IDAHO FALLS, ID
Nick: I don’t notice much of a difference in his appearance or his play for that matter. Here’s the thing about Steele – no one was really giving him much of a chance in Week 2 against the Chargers when he had to start. But Joey Bosa wasn’t even a factor as Steele rose to the challenge and handled his business. I think that’s what Steele has become – a player that isn’t flashy but gets the job done. Usually, that’s what a right tackle is in the first place. I think Steele is a better athlete than Collins right now but may not have the same strength. What the Cowboys will miss with Collins is an enforcer and that’s something Steele could add to his game.
Kyle: He may not be much bigger than he has been over the last few years, but he certainly appears more filled out and leaner. He’s the presumed starter at this point in the process and I’m interested to see if he’ll take a year three jump much like he did in year two. In talking with Coach McCarthy and Coach Philbin, they’re ecstatic about his work this offseason and the growth they’ve seen. So that plays into his strengths of work ethic, consistency, and steady growth on the field.
Though a favorite prospect of Dan Quinn, special teams coordinator John Fassel had more of a role for Wright in his rookie season.
Dallas drafted Wright with of their three 3rd-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Oregon State product was probably the most-maligned pick of the entire draft class; many declaring it a reach and some not even projecting Nahshon would get drafted at all.
But with Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn’s love for big-bodies defensive backs, Wright’s 6’4″ build naturally put him on the Cowboys’ draft radar. And despite other pre-draft rankings, Will McClay’s crew obviously felt Nahshon merited being a Day 2 pick.
Wright did contribute for Dallas last year as one of the busiest special teams player. He finished fourth on the team in total ST snaps, trailing just Luke Gifford, C.J. Goodwin, and Corey Clement in that area. His biggest moment was recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown in the Cowboys’ 43-3 beatdown of the Falcons.
Third-round picks are meant to do more than play special teams, though, and especially in their second seasons. But with a crowded CB depth chart in Dallas right now, how much more can Nahshon Wright expect in 2022?
Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis are the veteran top three from last year. Kelvin Joseph, drafted in the 2nd Round last year ahead of Wright, is naturally expected to remain ahead of him on the depth chart as well.
This leaves Nahshon in the unenviable but not unusual position of having to leapfrog other talent for a larger role. It won’t be enough for him to simple progress in Year 2, but could also require one of Brown, Lewis, or Joseph giving Dallas a reason to start looking further down the list.
One reason already exists in Brown and Lewis’ contracts. Anthony’s deal expires after 2022 and Jourdan’s could make him a cap casualty, offering Dallas $5 million in potential relief if he’s released next year.
Two division rivals trying to unseat the Cowboys as champions have the defense to make it possible.
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Week 15
2021 Defensive Ranking: 18th
Defensive Players Lost: Steven Nelson (CB), Hassan Ridgeway (DT), Genard Avery (LB), Rodney McLeod (S)
Defensive Players Coming In: Haason Reddick (OLB), James Bradberry (CB), Jordan Davis (Drafted (DT), Jaquiski Tartt (S)
The Philadelphia Eagles might be one of the most improved defenses in the league and that’s hard to believe considering the talented defensive front they have had. But the rich just got richer with the addition of rookie Jordan Davis.
If you thought it was tough running against this defense with Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, well things just got tougher with Davis now in the mix. They were also able to add pass rusher Haason Reddick who will now be paired with Derek Barnett to form a talented pass-rush duo. The front office was also able to get James Bradberry who will now play opposite Darius Slay and Jaquiski Tartt opposite Anthony Harris.
The effort the Eagles’ front office put in to add impact players to this defense is something Cowboys fans have been yearning for out of their front office for years. Now, the Cowboys players will have to face off against this defense twice just like the Commanders. Last season Cox and Hargrave beat up center Tyler Biadasz. Hopefully, he’s been in the weight room this offseason because if they can push him around again, it’s going to be a tough two games for Prescott and the Cowboys’ running game.
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