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The Cowboys who are indispensable if Dallas hopes to win in 2020

It’s no coincidence that the last two times the Dallas Cowboys used the Franchise Tag they placed it on the players they need most to make a return to the playoffs.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, left, team owner Jerry Jones, center, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, right, visit before the main event between boxers Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia on Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

The Dallas Cowboys appear to have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. They have the look of a dominant offense and, although they have questions to answer on defense, they have depth on that side of the ball as well.

Injuries haven’t crushed the Cowboys in recent years as the team has been somewhat fortunate to avoid a disastrous injury to hamper their season’s success. 

Tony Romo’s fractured clavicle in 2015 was the last season that was ruined by a major injury. Romo was the Cowboys’ most indispensable player for many years, and as he went, so did the Cowboys.

Heading into the 2020 season, here are the two players who the Cowboys cannot afford to play without on both sides of the ball:

QB Dak Prescott

This isn’t rocket science. The quarterback is usually the most important piece of a team’s puzzle and the Cowboys are no different. Dallas would be sunk if Prescott were to go down with an injury that accounted for most of the season.

Prescott is one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL and he’s just hitting his prime. The 2019 season was the best yet for Prescott and now he’ll get a more aggressive coach who has embraced the analytics that his predecessor eschewed. With a strong offensive line and elite weapons at the skill positions, Prescott is ready to take this team to the next level.  

Andy Dalton is a quarterback capable of starting and winning games if Prescott were unfortunate enough to get hurt, but he’s a clear backup QB these days. Dalton wasn’t brought in to start the majority of games, he was signed to keep the Cowboys’ head above water if Prescott suffered a short-term injury. 

Prescott has been remarkably healthy since he came into the league, so the Cowboys will be counting on that to continue. Dallas could survive and hopefully still make a playoff run if Dalton had to play a few weeks, but their Super Bowl aspirations would be shot if he had to play for an extended amount of time.

DE DeMarcus Lawrence

The NFL game is about the QB. Championship-caliber teams need a good quarterback and they need to be able to disrupt the opposing QB on defense. If the Cowboys don’t have Lawrence to do the latter, they would be in trouble. Last season wasn’t his best statistically, but Lawrence was still one of the better pass rushers in the league.

Lawrence is the only consistent pass rusher on the roster, for now. We don’t know what to expect from Aldon Smith’s return, Randy Gregory still hasn’t been reinstated, and, while Tyrone Crawford is a good player, rival offenses aren’t game-planning to stop him.

Rookie fifth-round draft selection Bradlee Anae could surprise us with a great rookie campaign because of his seasoned array of pass rushing moves, but that’s a lot to ask. The Cowboys have talent, but Lawrence is the one player every team attempts to bottle up when facing Dallas. 

A new defensive scheme under Mike Nolan should help the defense and Lawrence is a big part of improving the sack totals for the upcoming campaign. Lawrence has managed to play in every game over the last three years, but he has also battled nagging injuries to stay on the field. 

Lawrence is the best defensive player on the roster and if anything should happen to knock Lawrence out for a long period of time, the defense would suffer greatly.

Which players do you think are absolute musts for the Dallas Cowboys to be successful? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.

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