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Cowboys enter 2020 season with high expectations, but plenty of unknowns

"This is probably the most talented team I've been on," says running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) catches a pass against defensive end Justin March (59) during an NFL training camp football practice in Frisco, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Expectations are as high as could be for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, as the new head coach Mike McCarthy takes the reigns of a team with loads of talent.

"We've had some success, but we're just trying to take that to the next level," said quarterback Dak Prescott. "And that's what [McCarthy] offers us."

Running back Ezekiel Elliott points out how talented the team is. 

"Look at the depth chart," said Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. "Look at how many Pro Bowlers, how many all-Pro guys. This is probably the most talented team I've been on."

The most talented team he's been on. Strong words. And it's a sentiment echoed by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on Wednesday.

"Just seeing all these big-time names that we have on our team," Lawrence said, "I just can't wait to go out there and run around, and get some hits with them."

Is this the best team he's been with?

"Going by stats, and Pro Bowls, etc.?  Yes, absolutely, this the best team I've been on so far," Lawrence said. 

With no real offseason to speak of, the new Cowboys may look a bit like the old Cowboys, as offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's scheme remains the driving force of the game plan.  

But McCarthy's fingerprints will be there, too.

"It's the system that I've always ran," McCarthy said. "But schematically it was important to keep the language, and build off the concepts that were successful."

Prescott says that consistency has been helpful, not just for him, but the entire offense.

"The majority of the quarterbacks that you look at in the league that have had a lot of success, have stayed in the same system," he said. "So that was a big importance for him, was to keep me and this offense in the same system, and take what we've done over the past few years, and grow on that."

No matter how much it may look similar to last year's offense, there will be variances. And this comment from Elliott, in particular, will make Cowboys fans smile.

"It's a lot of the same stuff.  I would just say we've married up our pass looks and our run looks a lot more, so we're a little bit less predictable," Elliott said. 

Less predictable.  I can just see the twitter feeds lighting up, as the Cowboys offense rolls out some new looks, that open up holes for Elliott before he's even handed the ball.

And to think -- we haven't even yet mentioned rookie sensation CeeDee Lamb. The Oklahoma product is expected to be a major piece of the Cowboys offense, as firepower is everywhere you look on the Dallas attack.

"To see what he's done, to see what he could do -- I think he's had as good a camp as anyone has, at any position on this team," Prescott said of his rookie wideout. "And that's exciting.  He's gonna play a huge role in our success, not only this year, but in the future."

Everyone has raved about Lamb, the defense is expected to be better, thanks to big-name additions on the defensive line.  Everything sounds great, coming out of Cowboys camp.

But amid COVID-19, with no preseason games, and with little to go on -- it's all talk until Sunday. No one has seen this team do anything at full speed, against a hostile opponent. Heck, no one's seen this team play with numbers on their backs.  It's all three-quarter speed, routes, on air, and playing against your own teammate.  In many ways, it means nothing.

Which may only excite the Cowboys more, to show what they can be.

"We'll show the brotherhood and the culture that we've created," Prescott said. "But you're going to see a lot of excitement between the lines, a bunch of guys that love to play the game, and that are gonna support each other through it all.  So, I'm excited for it, excited to show the fans what this team has been about, and growing towards."

We'll see Sunday night just how real it all is.