DALLAS — 2020 wasn’t a banner year for the Dallas Cowboys, who were expected to be one of the better teams in the NFL this season. The promise of winning another Super Bowl never came to fruition and there were too many things that went wrong for the Cowboys.
However, there were some positives in an otherwise disappointing season and it could pay dividends for the franchise in the future.
Let’s start with the biggest positives: With a litany of injuries, the Cowboys had almost a full season to appraise some players that they might not have looked at if the starters had stayed healthy. That’s also a negative because it meant that the team was less likely to win games, but when it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a championship season, evaluation took priority.
There was no position group that was hit harder, and none that provided an opportunity to assess, than the offensive line. Injuries forced the team into playing a host of inexperienced guys at basically every position along the line.
With their starting tackles out for the majority of the season, Brandon Knight and Terence Steele were forced to step in and play although neither had extensive experience in the NFL. While both struggled for most of the year, Steele got better as the season went on and Knight had solid games too.
Neither was an ideal option when they were called upon, but they did give the Cowboys a glimpse of what they can do if needed in the future. The play of the undrafted offensive linemen this season will help Dallas evaluate if they need to address the tackle position in the draft. After playing an extensive amount of snaps in 2020, the Cowboys are better equipped to make that decision.
The same can be said for the center and guard spots, as well. Zack Martin’s injury gave the Cowboys a good look at 2019 third-round section Connor McGovern, who filled in admirably after a few shaky performances early in the season. McGovern might have shown enough to take over the left guard spot where Connor Williams has played the last three years.
When center Joe Looney got hurt, Tyler Biadasz was asked to step in and play. The rookie performed well and showed he should be the starting center moving forward. Only an injury to himself slowed an impressive rookie campaign from the center out of Wisconsin.
Biadasz was hardly the only rookie to see action. The Cowboys were forced to play a high number of rookies due to injuries, which wasn’t optimal for 2020 but should benefit them in the future. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was always going to play a high number of snaps but injuries forced cornerback Trevon Diggs to play more than the team would have liked and ineffectiveness along the interior of the defensive line meant tackle Neville Gallimore saw significant playing time as well.
Those are some of the players the Cowboys will be counting on in the next few seasons and they gained valuable experience with more snaps than they were anticipating. The hope is that the organization can also learn from trusting and playing young players more often, something that hasn’t always been the case in Dallas.
Another positive that the Cowboys can take from the season is the play of safety Donovan Wilson. It’s no secret how bad Dallas has been at the position over the last 15 years, nor how awful the defense was during this season, but Wilson’s play was a highlight in 2020 and should provide hope for 2021 and beyond.
The second-year safety out of Texas A&M was third on the team in tackles, had 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. The Cowboys have been looking for a safety who can play the ball in the air effectively and be a force in the run game. After 2020, they may have found their man in Wilson.
Dallas hadn’t had a defender with at least two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles since safety Roy Williams in 2005.
The Cowboys also saw the value of having a solid backup quarterback. In recent memory, the organization didn’t see fit to have a capable No. 2 QB on the roster, instead preferring to have a young and inexperienced option while hoping their starter remained upright. When rookie seventh-round quarterback Ben DiNucci was forced into action this season, they saw how little chance it gives them to win games.
Adding Andy Dalton last offseason was a smart move and gave the Cowboys a chance at the playoffs even without starter Dak Prescott. Dalton wasn’t nearly as good as Prescott, but he was as good an option as the team has had as a failsafe in a long time. Hopefully, the Cowboys learned the value of investing in a solid backup quarterback moving forward.
In a season as rough as the Cowboys had, it’s good to take away as many positives as you can get, and luckily there were some bright spots during a dismal year that can help the team moving forward.
What are the things that you thought went well for the Cowboys in 2020? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.