Why does every offseason always feels way too long? This year was no different. However, have no fear as there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel and finally we can say we are just days away until the Dallas Cowboys officially report for training camp in Oxnard, CA.
When your 12-5 season that saw a division championship end in a disappointing fashion, followed by having a tumultuous offseason, coupled by very few comings with a lot of impactful goings, naturally there is much to discuss and figure out for this Cowboys team heading into the new season.
It wouldn’t be the Dallas Cowboys without some drama and headlines off the field, but shifting focus, you could honestly say on the field there also seems to be question marks and intrigue at many positions. Although there may be dozens of stories of note, we will touch on three story lines that surely will get attention and will need answers as training camp is about to kickoff.
1. Can Dak Prescott reach the next level?
League wide everyone knows Dak Prescott is a quality quarterback. Dak has developed into a high level passer, a smart decision-maker, and has continued to be a great leader for his team. Whether you have him in your top 10, or just outside of it, his talent and skill set cannot be denied. Many people within the organization and league wide believe he has that special ‘it’ factor about him, however many agree that Dak has not quite taken that leap to put himself in that upper echelon to solidify himself within the top 5 of the leagues best QB’s.
The word out of Dallas about Dak heading into camp is that he is healthier than he has ever been, including a new found diet and body regiment that has him looking lean and more agile than we have seen before. How all this translates to on field success is still to be determined, however, what can’t be understated is how important Dak is and it’s clear that heading into year seven this is a pivotal point in his career. There is another level that has yet to be unlocked for QB1, and if the Cowboys want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, Dak will need to find that.
2. Will the Cowboys lack of player acquisition aggressiveness hurt them in the end?
All offseason fans of the Cowboys have begged the team to be more aggressive in their roster development. The team operates with small purposeful moves that surely do not satisfy the palate of Cowboys Nation, and this year in particular left many within the fandom hungry for more. The signings of players such as Dante Fowler and James Washington in theory allowed the Cowboys to draft freely, but fans wonder if what they did is actually enough.
The loss of Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, and Randy Gregory, among other impactful players that found themselves leaving the team, makes it feel like the talent difference from 2021 to now is on a downward trajectory. Early in training camp is when teams find themselves being honest with themselves when it comes to roster evaluation. Will the Cowboys take a hard look at some of these question areas on the roster and kick themselves for not solidifying them earlier? That is always a real possibility, and honestly, it’s more than likely the Cowboys add players once camp commences. Stephen Jones likes to remind us that talent acquisition is a 24/7 business, but the question remains, is there enough on the roster to win now, and if not, is there enough out there available to make a difference going forward? All eyes will be on the holes on this roster and just how they handle them will determine the success of this season.
3. Can the offensive line hold up for the season?
Four out of the five positions on the offensive line are locks and spoken for, and that last one is likely to become a lock soon. Beyond that, the offensive line is one massive question mark. Who will be the left guard week one is still in some doubt but first-round pick Tyler Smith is very likely to be the guy. He is himself a question mark, but many within the organization are rooting for the young rookie to hit the ground running and take a firm hold on the starting job. Smith’s development will be pivotal to this teams success, not only as a first-round pick, but as a day one starter.
Beyond the starting lineup there seems to be many more questions down the line needing answers as well. Connor McGovern should be the first call for a backup guard. Look for second-year tackle Josh Ball and rookie Matt Waletzko to duke it out for the swing tackle job while second-year lineman Matt Farniok may see himself in a fight for a roster spot with undrafted free agent center Alec Lindstrom to round out offensive line spots. Conceivably the Cowboys could use outside resources to secure depth for this position if need be, but the team will give the current guys every chance to prove they belong before doing so.
We’ve seen what bad offensive line play has done to this team and their chances of being successful, and they have learned that lesson the hard way. It seems risky to hope for development to be expedited and for injury prone players to stay healthy for the entire season. It’s not out of line to think that this team’s chances rest with the big men up front and will need many things to go right for them in 2022.