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Cowboys news: To be true contenders, Dak Prescott must consistently be Cowboys’ best player

Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

To be true contenders, Dak Prescott must become Cowboys’ best player on a weekly basis - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News

There's certainly always pressure on Dallas’ signal-caller.

As Dak Prescott enters his seventh NFL season, it’s clear he must play the best football of his career for these Cowboys to become contenders. That’s because the offense will revolve around him for the first time since parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Then, he wasn’t ready to elevate the rest of the offense, so the Cowboys had to spend a first-round pick on Amari Cooper. Prescott’s career can be pretty easily broken into six chapters. Games 1-24, he took advantage of injuries to Tony Romo and Kellen Moore to become one of the league’s young stars.

Then came the struggles of 2017 and 2018, when he didn’t have a true No. 1 receiver and Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games. In a 14-game span, he passed for just 194.9 yards per game with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Cooper gave the passing game stability and Prescott thrived, for the most part, since he joined. That changed last year, when Prescott was consistently inconsistent after missing one game with a strained calf. He refused to use the injury as an excuse, but it was clear he wasn’t playing his best football. Now, it’s time for Chapter 6.

5) More Reliable - Cowboys Offense or Defense? - Staff, DallasCowboys.com

This offseason has made it much more difficult to decide which unit is more reliable.

5) More Reliable - Cowboys Offense or Defense?. Nick Eatman: This question was a little harder to answer than I thought. Let's not forget, the Cowboys did rank No. 1 in total offense last year, in terms of yards. But the defense also led the NFL in turnovers and ranked among the Top 5 for the most of the year. To me, I go by the players and coaches. In terms of coordinators, Dan Quinn gets the nod over Kellen Moore. And with the players, I think Micah Parsons is the best player on this team. And Trevon Diggs isn't too far behind and when you throw in D-Law, Jayron Kearse and maybe a guy like Neville Gallimore, I really think the defense has surpassed the offense as the "best thing the Cowboys do." But here's the thing, it doesn't really matter at the end of the day. There will be games the Cowboys will rely on the defense to win. And there will be times the offense must get to 30 points to win as well. That's football. As long as neither side is a weak link, it's fine.

Buying Or Selling NFL's Latest Rumors, Buzz Entering Training Camps - Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

Taking a look at some rumors around the NFL.

Sean Payton to Coach Again in 2023?. After 16 years as the head coach in New Orleans, Sean Payton stepped away from coaching earlier this year. But at the time, he made it clear that this siesta from the sideline isn't necessarily permanent. "I still have a vision for doing things in football," Payton said. "And I'll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don't think it's this year, but I think maybe in the future."

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, that break from coaching may not be a long one at all—if the right job becomes available. Payton has reportedly expressed to associates that he has a measure of interest in coaching the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins should one of those jobs open up in 2023.

"The associate said warm weather, a roster good enough to compete and most importantly, control over personnel decisions," Jackson said. "Having a good quarterback would be helpful but that isn't the No. 1 or No. 2 factor, the associate insisted. On a much lower scale, the close associate said he also would prefer to work in a market where he could golf some, though his work ethic and long hours largely limit those opportunities to the offseason."

This one is equal parts buy and sell. For starters, it's not at all hard to imagine Payton expressing some level of interest in all three of these jobs. All are in warm-weather cities. All three teams have no shortage of offensive talent. Two of the three have established, high-end quarterbacks, and the third quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) has quite a bit of potential. However, things get a little trickier from there.

Cowboys Have a Critical Advantage in 2022 NFC East - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

Dallas has a clear advantage at the QB spot within their own division.

When it comes to the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, where he stands in that “best passers” conversation is an evergreen hot topic. But whether you see him as NFL elite or a second-tier QB, or even if you have significant doubts about his credentials, Prescott goes into this season as the clear front-runner among his NFC East rivals.

Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts is still trying to establish himself as a consistent winner. The Eagles went 8-7 in Hurts’ 15 games last season and the second-year QB had middling passing production at best. He came up short in the playoff loss to Tampa Bay, completing just 53% of his passes and throwing two interceptions.

Still, at least Hurts has shown glimpses of a future winner who’s trending upward. That’s more than the Commanders or Giants can say about their quarterbacks. Carson Wentz, now trying to resurrect his career in Washington, is coming off an all-over-the-place year with the Colts. He started all 17 games, a nice feat given his injury history, but was among the NFL’s worst in completion percentage and yardage per game. That said, Wentz did finish 10th in touchdowns and 13th in passer rating.

Cowboys roster breakdown: As Dallas heads to training camp, is a future DPOY in tow? - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News

Taking a look at Dallas’ defense as a whole.

Analysis: There is a reason the Cowboys focused on linebacker before camp started, signing free agents Jefferson and Sam. The depth leaves some room to be desired; Devante Bond’s knee injury in May during organized team activities did not help matters. Parsons, of course, is exemplary.

An argument could be made that, after Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, he is already the second-best defender in the league. As a rookie, he finished second to T.J. Watt in voting for Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.

Great players elevate those around them. Lifting his fellow linebackers is part of Parsons’ challenge in Year 2. The Cowboys can get away with less depth at linebacker because of their safety usage in subpackages. Part of Jayron Kearse’s value is the versatility to drop into the box as a nickel or dime linebacker. Cox (ACL) and Clark (neck) missed the entire spring. Cox is expected to practice in Oxnard, but Clark won’t and seems unlikely to appear in a game as a rookie.

How Cowboys can get the best out of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard - Brandon Clements, Blogging The Boys

The Cowboys need to find a way to use their running back duo effectively.

Before the injury occurred in week four, Zeke was off to a solid start as he averaged over 5.3 yards a carry and averaged one touchdown a game. His rushing yards per game was at 85.5, and doing the math in a 17 game season, would’ve brought his total to 1,454 yards. The total of 1,454 yards would’ve put him second in the league behind Jonathan Taylor for the NFL rushing crown. His average of 5.3 yards a carry would’ve put him behind his backfield running mate Tony Pollard, for ninth in the NFL. Both numbers averaged out over a full season would be considered elite by most people around the league.

Unfortunately for Zeke in 2021, after the injury there was a significant drop in production. Even with the knee issue, he still gutted it out and not only started all 17 games, but reached over 1,000 yards in the process. Even with one good knee he also averaged a solid 4.2 yards a carry which happens to be slightly higher than two players ranked by those same folks in the ESPN article as top ten backs, Joe Mixon and Najee Harris.

As for Tony Pollard, there isn’t much of a conversation that needs to be had. From a statistical perspective between both Pollard and Zeke, Elliott carried the ball 65% of the time and Pollard picked up the remaining 35% of the workload. Although Elliott carried the ball 2/3 of the time, and Pollard 1/3, it’s actually a good balance considering Pollard’s receiving ability. Speaking of his receiving skills, it was reported recently at OTA’s that he was getting work in at wide receiver. That’s the other piece of the puzzle that needs to be utilized by the Cowboys offense.

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