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From a talent standpoint, the Dallas Cowboys are always the center of conversation when it comes to offseason prognostications.
On paper, the Cowboys always enter a season possessing one of the better rosters in the NFC, let alone their conference.
But what has always led to their demise has been expectations, inconsistency, coaching, etc.
For the first time in years, it seems, the Cowboys appear to have all of the elements that they have been bereft of in years prior.
Led by veteran leaders and an influx of young guys trying to earn their keep, the Cowboys’ fate will rest on the shoulders of specific position players or groups much more than others.
Here are the top three position groups currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster.
3. Dallas Cowboys are loaded at linebacker
It could be argued that Dallas’ linebacking core is easily the most improved unit of the entire team entering 2021.
Barring injuries, which have undoubtedly depleted an area of the team that was budding at one point, this year’s defense is in an ideal position to return to their old level of productivity, marshalled by the young linebackers.
While both Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have shown flashes in their own right, the majority of their success has been contingent upon their ability to stay on the field.
The additions of star rookie Micah Parsons and late-round draft steal Jabril Cox, however, could possibly combat the group’s recent injury proneness.
Throwing former Atlanta Falcons star Keanu Neal into the mix along with an already proven group provides the defense with speed, versatility, and depth at the position. The lack thereof has ultimately haunted it in the past as the unit struggled with slowing down some of the league’s better rushing attacks in 2020.
Nonetheless, Dallas’ makeover at the linebacker position is just what the doctor ordered for improvement and should be the nucleus of the defense in 2021.
2. Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys running back group
It appears that Ezekiel Elliot has turned heads at the start of Cowboys’ camp, finally showing his vintage burst that catapulted him into the conversation for the league’s best back as a rookie in 2016.
Starting quarterback Dak Prescott said Zeke is in the “best shape of his life” while head coach Mike McCarthy referred to his star running back as a “pro’s pro” during OTA’s.
These tantalizing reports may come as great news to Cowboys fans as Zeke is coming off of the worst season of his career statistically speaking.
The team can expect a better version of the 26-year-old tailback, who will have had a full offseason program, including the offseason programs that were relinquished from players due to COVID-19 last year.
Not to mention, backup running back Tony Pollard is currently waiting in the wings for a larger role and is expected to force the Dallas Cowboys’ hand for more reps this upcoming season.
Based on his performance last year, Pollard enters his tertiary season as the perfect compliment to Zeke with his versatility and pass-catching ability. The former Memphis Tiger has also taken reps at wideout during OTA’s, which adds yet another dimension to the Dallas’ one-two punch coming out of the backfield.
It will be intriguing to see how creative offensive coordinator Kellen Moore gets when trying to exploit defenses with his dynamic running back duo this year.
Look for Pollard and Zeke to establish themselves as one of the better tandems in the league this year.
1. Dallas Cowboys dominating wide receiver group
What makes Dallas’ receiving core so dangerous is that there’s a possibility that we haven’t even seen the best of this group yet. The unit’s “big three,” Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, all will be under the age of 28 entering the start of the season.
While Gallup and Cooper have gelled since Cooper’s arrival via trade in 2018, it was expected that the addition of CeeDee Lamb would propel the Cowboys’ offense to elite status.
Lamb is now entering his sophomore season, a year in which his breakout could indeed remove any doubt surrounding exactly how prolific Dallas’ aerial attack can finally be.
On paper, there’s no question about the position group’s talent. Instead, there are questions and reticence surrounding the wideout position because of its lack of consistency last year.
Dropping passes on third downs that needed to be converted, going nonexistent against some of the game’s premiere cornerbacks, and inconsistency at the quarterback position begs the question. What makes this year’s group so different in comparison to others?
Similar to the aforementioned linebacking core, each wideout brings something different to the table.
Whether it’s Cooper’s savvy route running, Gallup’s dog mentality,or Lamb’s big play potential, Dallas’ wideout depth alone will frighten defenses.
If one isn’t playing particularly well, there’s always the threat of the other two popping and vice versa.
There will be absolutely no way to defend all three this year, after having more experience with each other and more space to improve upon last season’s deficiencies.
While Dallas’ offensive success has generally come from a dominant running game as the engine, it will be the passing game that will give them the best chance to make a deep playoff run entering 2021.