We got the doomsday scenario out of the way. Now let's look on the bright side of things.
The Dallas Cowboys did lose significant contributors from 2021 this offseason. Wide receiver Amari Cooper, defensive end Randy Gregory, right tackle La'el Collins, and left guard Connor Williams to name a few.
However, with the most recent signing of offensive tackle and long-time Philadelphia Eagle Jason Peters, the Cowboys roster looks better than it did yesterday.
Here are all the free agents the Cowboys have signed since last season ended:— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) September 5, 2022
- James Washington
- Dante Fowler Jr.
- Ryan Nall
- Christian Sam
- Malik Jefferson
- Lirim Hajrullahu
- KaVontae Turpin
- Anthony Barr
- Brett Maher
- Jason Peters
Is Jason Peters the best move?
Along with Peters, Dallas signed other free agents who will impact both sides of the ball this season. Will they be enough to give the Cowboys a winning record in 2022? Here are three reasons why the Cowboys could go 11-6 for the 2022 season.
3. Brett Maher makes a difference in close games
With Greg "the leg" Zuerlein as the kicker last season, the Cowboys were left wondering which version of Zuerlein would show up if it came down to a game-tying or winning field goal. He let them down a few times.
Greg Zuerlein played 16 games for the Dallas Cowboys this regular season.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) January 9, 2022
He missed at least one kick of some kind (field goal or extra point) in 8 of them.
That is literally half of the time.
According to PFF, Zuerlein was the 29th-best kicker in the league out of 49 qualifying players. Not good. The front office decided to make a change and go with a familiar face in Brett Maher.
Yes, Maher was not great either when he played for the Cowboys for one and a half seasons, but he was more consistent last season for the New Orleans Saints. Maher had an 88.9 field goal percentage in eight games, the highest of his career. It could signify things trending in a positive direction for the third-year placekicker.
Maher also has a big leg like Zuerlein, which is a critical weapon on kickoffs. The less opportunity the opposing teams can return the ball to help with field position, the better. It can put this defense in an excellent spot for more three-and-outs and give the offense shorter drives to work with.
In games where Dallas lost by three points or less in 2021, Zuerlein went 5 of 9 in field goal attempts. Adding three games to the win column would have gone a long way for the Cowboys. If Maher can stay consistent and deliver in close games for the Cowboys this season, it could mean the difference between going 8-9 and 11-6.
2. Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr return to Pro Bowl form
Anthony Barr and Leighton Vander Esch used to be considered two of the best at their position. In 2018, when Vander Esch was a rookie, he became a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro. That same season, Barr was nominated for the Pro Bowl for the fourth time.
Since that season, both linebackers have not been as dominant. Vander Esch missed time in 2019 and 2020 due to injury, and Barr missed significant time in 2020 and 2021. The silver lining is that Dan Quinn is their defensive coordinator.
Quinn got the best out of Vander Esch in his first season with Dallas. The former Boise State product was healthy for all 17 games and was relied on heavily in the second half of the season. From Week 10 through the playoff loss, Vander Esch saw an average of 67 percent of defensive snaps.
Barr is the third former Minnesota Viking to come to Dallas in as many seasons. First, it was defensive end Everson Griffen, then safety Jayron Kearse, and now the former first-round pick. Griffen was here when Mike Nolan was the defensive coordinator, and Kearse came in during Quinn's first season in Dallas. History is on Barr's side; hoping Quinn can get the best out of him as he did with Kearse and many other players in 2021.
Jaylon Smith and Vander Esch were a dominant duo at linebacker in 2018. They were a big reason the Cowboys stunned the New Orleans Saints that season on Thursday Night Football. If Quinn can turn Barr and Vander Esch into one of the league's best linebacking duos, they will be great defending the run and will also allow Micah Parsons to be used as a pass-rushing machine.
1. Kellen Moore elevates his play-calling to a Sean McVay level
Kellen Moore is heading into his fourth season as offensive coordinator. It's time for him to step it up. The reason why head coach Mike McCarthy kept Moore on his staff is because of continuity. McCarthy knows how important it is for a quarterback to stay in the same system from year to year with his development.
In the three seasons that quarterback Dak Prescott has had Moore as his OC, he totaled 11,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, 25 interceptions, and a career-high completion percentage in 2021 with 68.8, which ranked fourth in the league. It's safe to say that Moore has been Prescott's best friend. In 2022, the OC needs to be everyone's best friend.
The Cowboy's offense was the best in the league in many statistical categories. However, after their Week 6 victory over the New England Patriots, the No. 1 offense seemed to lose its juice. Sure, the team beat up on bad teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Commanders, and the Atlanta Falcons. When it came time to face playoff-contending teams, Moore didn't seem to have the answers.
If Moore wants to be considered for head coaching opportunities next season, he has to outsmart the teams on the schedule who are in Super Bowl conversations. The Buccaneers, the Rams, the Bengals, and the Packers. He has the experience now to get it done.
Fans have seen how creative his play-call style can be. Moore needs to finally use Tony Pollard in different packages and scheme up plays to get CeeDee Lamb involved all game. The offense has lost some key pieces this offseason, but any good offensive coordinator should be able to make it work.
Moore needs to maximize his player's strengths and mix it up play calling like he did the first few games last season. If he can do that for all 17 games this season and beyond, his name will be in high demand for a head coaching position next year.