There were high expectations for Mike McCarthy and his Dallas Cowboys coming into the season. The offense had monster potential. The defense, although not with many star names, was thought to be on the right track.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys season went up in smoke when Dak Prescott injured his ankle against the Giants and you could argue that their season was teetering on the edge then.
As with many franchises, key decisions have to be made to push the team forward and the Cowboys are no different. Here are the three key decisions that Jerry Jones and the Cowboys organization need to address in the offseason.
Sort out Dak Prescott’s contract
For many Cowboy fans, this is number one. Get Dak’s situation sorted and get it sorted soon. In reality, this should have been done a year or two ago and if it was done, then it would have cost Jerry Jones significantly less than what it is going to cost him now.
We have seen just how valuable Dak is to the team and although Andy Dalton stepped in and was ok, it was clear that with Dak running the offense, they were at least in every game. Many will point to his 2-3 record before his injury but his defense let the team down just as much he did.
With the salary cap predicted to shrink due to the effects of COVID-19, Prescott has the Cowboys where he wants them. They need this sorted out, as Prescott will have no shortage of admirers on the open market. It could possibly be a defining moment for Dak and the Cowboys franchise. Will Jerry’s ego get in the way yet again?
Fix that defense
Arguably the worst part about the 2020/21 Dallas Cowboys: Mike Nolan, and his defense. They were so bad that at times it seemed like they could not stop a nosebleed. Their rush defense was horrible to say the least and when you put it on paper it makes for bad reading.
Of the 16 games for the year, the Dallas Cowboys defense kept the opposing offense under 100 rushing yards just three times. Their worst performances came thick and fast in the first half of the year.
They gave up 307 rushing yards to Cleveland, 294 against the Ravens, and 261 against the Cardinals. Not to mention the four games in which the defense gave up over 150 yards rushing, and you get a sense of just how bad they were.
Add their inability to force turnovers to that.
Up until the bye week in which they were 2-7, the defense only managed seven turnovers, four of them coming in one game against Philadelphia. There were improvements though, with the defense forcing 16 turnovers in the last seven games, which points to Mike Nolan finally getting something right.
Demarcus Lawrence led the team in sacks with just 6.5 and rookie Trevon Diggs led the team in interceptions with 3. Ultimately, the bad defensive plays cost Mike Nolan his job with former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn now taking over as the team’s new defensive coordinator.
Injuries played their part, but with such a bad defense in 2020-21, the only way to go is up.
Rediscover Zeke Elliott’s mojo
Like many of his teammates, it was a year to forget for Ezekiel Elliott. Granted much of that was down to one, Dak being injured and two, the offensive line was decimated through injury. Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Travis Frederick retired, and Zack Martin was banged up and missed the last few games. The big gaping holes to run through were simply not there.
His inability to protect the football was a lowlight this year also, fumbling six times and in truth was one of the major reasons the Cowboys lost games early. Elliott only had two 100 yard rushing games this season and only six rushing touchdowns. His season total of 979 rush yards was his lowest since he entered the league.
Whether it was just Zeke having an off-year or simply down to the depleted offensive line, there is room for improvement for Zeke. A huge offseason lies ahead, not just for him but the entire Cowboys organization.