The offseason of the Dallas Cowboys was filled with many question marks, and we’re now entering the new season after waiting a long time to get answers. While it’s only one game, we have a little bit of information to help sway our opinions about some of the controversial moves the front office has made. With one game in the books, it’s time to once again ask ourselves the following questions...
QUESTION 1: Is CeeDee Lamb a true WR1?
Hmm, I dunno.
CeeDee Lamb was a gift from the 2020 NFL draft when he fell to the Cowboys in the first round, and after 153 catches and 2,037 yards over his first two seasons, it’s easy to buy into the notion that he could be the team’s next star receiver. But his debut in the WR1 role did not go that well as Lamb only caught two passes for 29 yards on 11 targets.
$20 million will get you a lot of pie, and it’s understandable that the Cowboys want to make sure those pricy resources are producing dividends. The emergence of CeeDee Lamb has made the front office wonder if they can re-direct those funds in a more talent-optimizing way. The team felt they could supplement a quality receiving group with Lamb, a healthy Michael Gallup, and then an assortment of new guys with little or no NFL experience. So far, that plan isn’t working.
Cooper was statistically quiet in his debut with the Browns catching just three passes for 17 yards, but on tape, he was still creating some nice separation. It’s tough to assess what that means in terms of Cooper’s true ability right now, but the rapport he has had with Prescott was sorely missed on Sunday night.
QUESTION 2: Do we miss La’el Collins?
If you asked this same question prior to Sunday’s game, you might’ve gotten a different answer. The training camp injury to Tyron Smith has thrown an early wrench into the mix. The Cowboys' unwavering faith in their first-round draft pick Tyler Smith put so much pressure on the rookie, especially since he was thrown to the wolves at left tackle right out of the gate. But let's give the kid credit. He did a great job on the edge and is showing that he is up for the task. And with Jason Peters now in the Cowboys' back pocket, the tackle depth for the Cowboys doesn’t look quite as bad.
Third-year tackle Terence Steele didn’t have a good game as he was called for four penalties, including three false starts. The mental mistakes weren’t good, but he held up from a physical standpoint. Steele looked like what we have grown accustomed to seeing, which is a reliable blocker. Cincinnati Bengals right tackle La’el Collins had all sorts of fits with the Steelers' T.J. Watt, but let’s be fair, who wouldn’t? LC also showed up at times doing LC things, so really nothing’s changed with this ordeal. Considering the money they saved, the Cowboys may have handled this the right way.
QUESTION 3: Do we miss Randy Gregory?
Whether it’s Randy Gregory, Von Miller, or Za’Darius Smith, fans are going to be reminded of the fish that got away as the Cowboys front office had opportunities to sign these veteran edge rushers this past offseason, but didn’t. And while they are all good players, the Cowboys have a pretty good edge rusher themselves in Micah Parsons.
Yes, more pass rushers are more pass rushers, but any snap that Parsons is not taking rushing the passer is a rep wasted. So, when you’re doing the math (Gregory signed a five-year, $70 million contract) you have to think about what they’re ultimately adding to the team. With Parsons getting his, the Cowboys might be able to supplement close to Gregory’s production at a much cheaper cost.
Some might be disappointed that rookie edge rusher Sam Williams only had six reps in Sunday night’s game, but he is still developing and we should temper our expectations for him early.
QUESTION 4: Is Dak Prescott back to being Dak Prescott?
We all know that the Cowboys' season hinges on the arm of Dak Prescott. He played amazingly in the first half last year and then was a completely different quarterback after his calf injury. The question coming into the season was, can he get back to superstar Dak?
Unfortunately, this is a question that will have to wait even longer as a hand injury has sidelined him for the next 4-6 weeks. And when he does return, how long before he’s comfortably gripping the football? Dak struggled in the opener prior to the hand injury, so that’s not promising, but to be fair, he didn’t play a single snap in the preseason game. Not only will we have to wait until November to see Prescott in action, but we can’t even be sure what type of player we’ll see.
QUESTION 5: Did they botch up the kicker situation?
Brett Maher is fine. He was the only source of points for the Cowboys on Sunday as he nailed a 51-yarder right down the middle. And if you saw the kicking mess that many NFL teams faced on Sunday, Maher is the least of the Cowboys' problems. Will there still be bumps in the road for him this season? Absolutely, but unless you’re one of the few teams who roster a great kicker, this is just what you’re up against.
The Cowboys tried to give a rookie a shot whose upside could’ve turned into one of those reliable kickers, but it wasn’t in the cards for Jonathon Garibay. So now, the Cowboys are back to holding their breath at kicker just like most everyone else.