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Pitfalls that the Cowboys will need to avoid to contend in 2020

With COVID-19 concerns being the most obvious example, there are things that could derail the Dallas Cowboys on their quest to reclaim the NFC East title
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 28, 2018 file photo, Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore, left talks to quarterbacks Dak Prescott (4), Dalton Sturm (1), Mike White (3) and Cooper Rush, right, during NFL football training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Two years ago, Moore went into training camp as the backup to Tony Romo before breaking an ankle in practice. Because of that injury, Prescott became the starter when Romo injured his back in a preseason game. The Cowboys ran off a franchise-record 11 straight wins that season, forcing Romo to concede the job to Prescott before retiring to go into broadcasting. Moore was a backup again, this time behind Prescott, before losing that job to rookie Cooper Rush last season. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas, File)

DALLAS — Fan is short for fanatic for a reason, as those that root for sports teams tend to have unrealistic expectations for their favorites. 

For diehards of the Dallas Cowboys, there appears to be no shortage of optimism for the 2020 season. Considering the roster enhancements and changes in the coaching staff, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. 

The Cowboys have the look of one of the better teams in the NFL on paper and, if things go their way, it’s not hard to imagine America’s Team in the Super Bowl for the first time in 25 years.

However, not every team catches all the breaks each season. There are things that could happen to derail a team’s championship dreams. First and foremost, the 2020 season already has a baked in question mark simply because the country continues to experience a pandemic. 

If the season is to be played, the pitfalls on the field remain for the Cowboys and they will be doing everything they can to avoid them:

Injury to QB Dak Prescott

One of the best moves the Cowboys made this offseason was adding a solid backup quarterback option behind Prescott. Andy Dalton is a good QB who is capable of winning games if called upon, especially considering the talent the team has on offense. He may not have had much playoff success in Cincinnati, but Dalton is the best clipboard holder that Dallas has had in some time.

However, as solid as Dalton is, he probably isn’t equipped to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. There’s a big difference between keeping the Cowboys above water if Prescott went down with an injury, and being able to compete for a championship. The goal in Dallas is to make a deep playoff run, not to just make the playoffs. 

Dalton could probably lead the Cowboys to the playoffs if he had to replace Prescott, but he likely isn’t going to take them on a championship run. That’s where the franchise needs Prescott.

Pass rush questions aren’t answered

The defense has depth at a number of positions, but edge rushers isn’t a place of strength. The only player that can be counted on to pressure the quarterback is DeMarcus Lawrence. If no one else steps up to consistently rush the passer, Dallas could be in trouble on defense. 

Someone else needs to wreak havoc off the edge just as Robert Quinn was able to do in his one season with Dallas in 2019. If Aldon Smith can complete his comeback, it would make one heck of a story and Tyrone Crawford being healthy will help. But there has to be another pass rusher to account for and Dallas is perhaps hopeful that one of the young edge rushers will surprise. 

The Cowboys play a high number of good QBs in 2020, so if it’s Lawrence or bust, it will make life difficult for the rest of the defense. The lack of a complementary piece for Lawrence to bookend the defensive line feels like the biggest concern for the Cowboys.

Cornerback makeover doesn’t pan out

When Byron Jones left in free agency this spring, the defense lost one of its best players. Jones was as close to a lockdown cornerback as the team had, and now they need someone to step up. 

This becomes even more of an issue if the team decides to move Chidobe Awuzie to safety. That would be two starting corners to replace. It’ll be very interesting to see how the group plays out.

Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis return, but are best suited for the slot, although Lewis seems at least capable of playing outside. 

Veteran Daryl Worley arrives to add depth, but the hope is that Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson make the team look smart for drafting them. 

Rookies tend to struggle in the NFL – especially at technique-heavy positions such as cornerback – and without the preseason to help speed up the learning curve, it might be a lot to ask. 

If the plan for the Cowboys at CB doesn’t work out, there could be a lot of shootouts on the scoreboard coming for the Cowboys. 

Blake Jarwin isn’t what they hoped for

It’s Jarwin’s time now with Jason Witten fully out of the picture. 

The offense in Dallas is about as good as it gets, but after Jarwin, there isn’t much of a receiving threat up the middle. If Jarwin gets hurt or can’t handle being the number one TE option, the Cowboys might have some issues. 

The hype train for Jarwin seems full-steam ahead, but the team is putting a lot of faith in a bit of an unknown.