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Patrick’s POV: High octane offense should make Cowboys contenders in 2020

The Dallas Cowboys are set to embark on their 2020 season beginning on Sunday and they should be in contention to reclaim the NFC East after a successful offseason.
Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hands off during an NFL football training camp in Frisco, Texas, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

DALLAS — After one of the strangest offseasons in memory, football is finally here. Week 1 of the NFL season is now upon us. On Sept. 13, the Dallas Cowboys will take the field under the lights for an actual football game. Training camp is now behind us, just as preseason games now seem like a relic from a bygone era.

The Cowboys had one of the better spring and summer months around the league in terms of their NFL Draft, free agency, and training camp cycle. While starting the season with the likes of Sean Lee and La’el Collins on the injured reserve list isn’t ideal, a handful of injuries were just about the only hiccup for Dallas in the ramp up to the season.

The word from Vegas is that Dallas’ odds on wins is set at 9.5, so are you buying or selling?

If you observe ESPN’s projections then you might take the under. Their FPI computers have the Cowboys finishing at 9-7. Then again, their simulated season also has Dallas marching all the way to an NFC championship as a wild card team before losing big to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

You’d lose money to Vegas on that 10 win gambit but you’d see the Cowboys reach a place they haven’t been since the 1995 season. While a trip to the Super Bowl would be a dream come true for many, social media would be unbearable with the takes about Dak Prescott if he couldn’t deliver in the big game.

At the same time, eliminating the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and then Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as ESPN predicts, would be one heck of a fun run through the NFC.

Let’s journey back to reality and determine buying or selling on that 9.5 win total. Taking a quick glance at the skill position players for Dallas and you can’t help but want to Buy! Buy! Buy! Indeed, take the over on the 2020 Dallas Cowboys. This team is built to win double-digit games. Why? Simply put, the offense looks to be that good.

The Cowboys lost Randall Cobb from last year’s team, but they added arguably the best wideout in the draft with CeeDee Lamb.

The team already had two-1,000 yard receivers in Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper. All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has led the league in rushing since he set foot on the field, is still a workhorse back behind Prescott.

Dallas said goodbye to Jason Witten after a legendary run for the Cowboys beginning in 2003, but it will be refreshing to have a young, athletic weapon running up the seam in Blake Jarwin. Ask the Giants how much fun it is trying to cover him down the field.

When the Cowboys go with three wide receiver sets and Jarwin out wide, defenses are going to have a tough time with matchups. If teams try to nickel and dime the Dallas receivers, Elliott can feast on soft fronts or athletic second-year back Tony Pollard can cook out of the backfield as a receiver.

Not every player can be doubled, leaving one or more of Dallas’ talented playmakers in one-on-one coverage on virtually every down. And, of course, enjoying this bounty will be quarterback Prescott who looked like an MVP candidate midway through last season after he had the most productive season with his arm in his young career. He can still pick up first downs with his legs, too.

To say the Cowboys offense is loaded would be an understatement. This team is built to score early and often.

Nevertheless, it is on the defensive side of the ball that the team has questions. They are somewhat thin at linebacker and injury potential at the position could derail them. Plus, they don’t have Byron Jones locking down one side of the field anymore after Jones left for Miami in free agency. Rookie second-rounder Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Chidobe Awuzie will be tasked with filling big shoes.

As usual, the safety spot is a concern. Stop me if you have heard that one before. Dallas will have players such as Xavier Woods, Darian Thompson, Donovan Wilson, and even Brandon Carr roaming the backfield, but they have yet to find their Earl Thomas after over a decade of shying away from using resources at the position.

Luckily one way to help your coverage is to get to the quarterback.

Dallas has loaded up at the quarterback hunter spot. Everson Griffen joins the defensive lineman room that already has DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, and Bradlee Anae. Randy Gregory will be back around midseason, as well, if he can meet the NFL’s conditions for reinstatement. 

Quarterbacks should beware as Dallas can attack offensive lines in a multitude of ways from the outside and the team at long last invested along the inside of the line, as well. Second year top draft selection Trysten Hill seems to have figured out how to play football again and he will be counted on to help soften the blow of losing free agent signee Gerald McCoy early in camp.

Add in Dontari Poe, Antwaun Woods, along with third-round pick Neville Gallimore and a versatile Tyrone Crawford and it looks like Dallas has the makings for a stout defensive line.

Certainly there are questions on the defense, but the offense is built to go and go fast. The team will likely be in plenty of shootouts but have the offense to keep pace and a new coaching staff that could revitalize a team that looked moribund in 2019. With a favorable schedule and a weak division, the Cowboys look poised to win 10+ games this year.

2020 prediction:

The Dallas Cowboys finish the 2020 season 11-5 and hope to have a run through the NFC playoffs as magical as the one ESPN foresaw for them.

Do you think the Cowboys have put together a team that will win 10 or more games? Share your predictions with Patrick on Twitter @PatSportsGuy.