Everything finally came together for “America’s Team” in 2016 and it did so in the most unexpected of ways.
Longtime quarterback Tony Romo again went down with an injury in the preseason, a setback that would have ordinarily doomed Dallas.
But instead of collapsing, a new star was born in first-year quarterback Dak Prescott who immediately became the quarterback of the present instead of the future.
The former Mississippi State Bulldog was lights out in his rookie year as he led his team to a 13-3 record and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
Were it not for a miraculous play by Green Bay great Aaron Rodgers in the divisional game, the Cowboys would have likely made it to the Super Bowl and given the Patriots all that they could handle.
Despite the disappointing end to their miracle season, the Cowboys should be in shape to contend for quite some time thanks to their one-two punch of young studs Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
It’s hard to recall a rookie quarterback having a better year than Prescott. He played like a vet and threw for 23 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions, another 6 scores came on the ground.
It was incomprehensible that Prescott was the eighth quarterback chosen in the 2016 draft and a lot of general managers are kicking themselves over the chumps that they drafted instead. Barring injury or the infamous sophomore jinx, he should have another big year.
Elliott may have emerged as the best Cowboys running back since the legendary Emmitt Smith but he continues to have off field problems. This could be an issue as too many more screw-ups won’t simply be viewed as immaturity but rather a character problem.
If Elliott keeps his nose clean he is due for a monster year, possibly even surpassing last season’s 1,631 yards with the landmark of 2,000 a possibility. Darren McFadden remains the backup.
The Cowboys have arguably the most effective and balanced running game since Smith’s Hall of Fame career and that will feed into the success of the passing game.
Prescott has dangerous targets in the receiving game with Dez Bryant finally healthy and future Hall of Famer Jason Whitten at tight end the aerial game will barely miss a beat from when Romo was slinging the rock. Wide receivers Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley add depth.
The offensive line that has long been one of the best in the NFL keeps the offense humming along. The Cowboys lost two starting linemen via free agency but have replacements onboard as they hope to not miss a beat. Like with Tony Romo, keeping Dak Prescott healthy is the key to any Super Bowl aspirations in Big D.
The defense is another story. The Cowboys are middling to mediocre and don’t have any pass rushers that will put the fear of God into opposing offenses. Dallas ranked in the middle of the pack last year and has undergone a serious amount of turnover, especially in the defensive backfield.
The team is hoping that first round defensive end Taco Charlton (what a great name for a player in Texas) will give them the rusher that has been missing since DeMarcus Ware bolted for Denver.
The Cowboys brought in cornerback Nolan Carroll from the Eagles and loaded up on corners in the draft. Also signed as free agents were safeties Robert Blanton from Buffalo and Jonathan Cooper from Cleveland which will hopefully allow the team to rebuild the depleted secondary in terms of sheer numbers.
Kicker Dan Bailey returns so Dallas is set at that position.
So, what does it all mean?
Under the veteran leadership of head coach Jason Garrett, look for the Cowboys to contend again this year and even in the competitive NFC East, should challenge for another division title.
Owner Jerry Jones had to be crushed after last year’s premature playoff exit but he is set for the long term at the two most important offensive positions.