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The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers officially kicked off the 2021 NFL preseason in a game in which the Texas Cowboys did what they have done best for the past 25 years: lose and dampen their fans’ hopes early on.
It was a preseason game, and Dak Prescott, as well as most of the Cowboys’ offensive starters, didn’t even suit up. But the truth is, over the next few weeks, we’ll all see that these players will remain the same as ever: a roster full of expectations that probably will end in failure.
The Cowboys in Hard Knocks
For the third time since its appearance in 2001, HBO’s “Hard Knocks” will feature the Dallas Cowboys as the season’s main protagonists.
The biggest franchise in American sports became the first to appear three times on the series. However, Cowboys fans should be more concerned about their team’s background in the show.
His first two appearances resulted in season-ending disappointment for Jerry Jones and loyal Cowboys fans. In his 2002 debut, Dallas finished the season last in the NFC with a 5-11 record. In their second appearance (2008), the Cowboys posted a better record (9-7), but in the end, it was an insufficient score to advance to the playoffs.
After all, this has been the story of the Dallas Cowboys over the past 21 years. Since 2000, the “Lone Star” team has been part of the postseason just seven times.
But when its owner is someone named Jerry Jones, the expression “any publicity is good publicity” is taken to another level. It’s no secret that Jones is more of a businessman than a capable general manager of a sports team. For proof, we only need to recall the melodrama surrounding the re-signing of his franchise player, quarterback Dak Prescott.
The return of Dak Prescott
For several reasons and absurd arguments, Jerry and his son Stephen complicated and prolonged for two years the negotiation of their most important player. Prescott, who suffered one of the most horrific injuries seen in a long time on an NFL field, returns along with the hopes of Cowboys fans around the world. But oh, surprise! Prescott is already hurt in the lead-up to the new season. With a little luck, some rest, and proper treatment on his throwing shoulder, Prescott will be ready for Week 1 of the season.
Before the injuries, Prescott was an all-rounder. He never missed a beat, but imagining a return to his best years is an increasingly distant dream. While Dak insists this is not important, the team is taking a different approach and is being cautious with the injury.
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Last season, through 4.5 games, Prescott was on a record pace, putting up numbers until he injured his ankle in Week 5. Everyone got very excited about his incredible start by throwing for over 6,000 yards. Few remember, however, that those yards came when the Cowboys were scoring, but always ended up losing in the end.
If the Dallas Cowboys want to turn history around, it’s time for Dak to step up and become the leader his team needs. But for him to do that, he has to get and stay healthy.
The Cowboys defence
The Cowboys’ defense has received a bit of a makeover in hopes of improving on a forgettable 2020. It improved as the season progressed, but it wasn’t enough to save former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s job. If no other changes were made after last season, Nolan’s departure had to be the only one.
Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn also lost his job in 2020 because his defense was historically bad. Sound familiar? The fact that Jones thinks Quinn is the person to rejuvenate his mediocre defense says a lot. Quinn is still living from the success he had in Seattle as the Seahawks defensive coordinator from 2013-2014.
But Quinn and the Falcons never recovered after losing that big lead in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots of the immortal Tom Brady. Quinn kept his job as head coach for another 3.5 years, but the Falcons, and especially their defense, continued their free-fall descent. And it is to the man responsible for that debacle that Jones has assigned responsibility for his team.
Ezekiel Elliot Performance
Running back Ezekiel Elliott has returned this season in the best shape of his career, but that may not be enough to bring him back to his glory days of just a couple of years ago. Elliott’s yards per game average has dropped every season since his rookie year. Rushing for 1,631 yards in his 2016 rookie campaign, Elliott may have set the bar too high right out of college. Elliott ran for 108.7 yards per game that season but dropped to just 65.3 last year.
Injuries along the offensive line over the past two years are partly to blame, but anyone who watched the Cowboys regularly in 2020 could see that Ezekiel is not the same player he once was. Typically, we see running backs in the NFL begin to decline as they approach their 30s. Elliott is only 26 years old and, according to the pundits, should be in the middle of his prime as a professional player. If last season is any indication, then Elliott’s best is in the past.
Any fan holding out hope that Elliott will return to being a 1,500-plus yard rusher is living in an alternate reality. Those days are long over and Elliott, at best, will rush for 1,200 yards on the ground this season.
With this background, it is impossible to imagine the Cowboys in the next Super Bowl. The reality is that no one in their senses should have any expectations about Dallas’ 2021 project.
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