I know, you already think I’m crazy, but 2019-2020 is the year the Dallas Cowboys will break their 24-year championship drought. Here’s why.
Many are quick to point out the three playoff wins since 2006, scattered amongst losses marred with field goal fumbles, a debated dropped pass and an Aaron Rodgers dime to Jared Cook on third and 20, moments before a game-winning field goal. And yes, the results haven’t been there, but this roster has something previous ones have not had: a dangerous combination of talent and experience.
Out of the entire 53-man roster, 23 players have been in the league for five or more seasons, good enough for 43 percent. Of those 23 players, 11 have been selected to pro-bowls, including three-fifths of the starting offensive line (Tyron Smith, Zach Martin and Travis Frederick) and the now un-retired Jason Witten. An even more impressive number? The Cowboys have 10 first-round picks on their roster with seven drafted in house and none more important than the man best known for his “eating.”
Cowboys have 10 first-round picks on their roster:
Tyron Smith (2011)
Robert Quinn (2011-STL)
Tavon Austin (2013-STL)
Travis Frederick (2013)
Zack Martin (2014)
Amari Cooper (2015-OAK)
Byron Jones (2015)
Ezekiel Elliott (2016)
Taco Charlton (2017)
Leighton Vander Esch (2018)
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 3, 2019
Ezekiel Elliott, the man in all the headlines after signing a six-year, $90 million extension, is the engine of the Cowboys offense. Everything runs through him, literally. In his three years in the league, the all-pro running back has taken home the rushing title twice and has developed into an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield. His 567 receiving yards from a season ago nearly match his totals from his first two years combined (he was suspended six games in 2017). Entering year four in the NFL, all eyes will be focused on Number 21 and his continuously underrated QB.
Coming out of a down year at Mississippi State, not many expected fourth-round draft pick Dak Prescott to win the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he did. Not many expected him to win a playoff game either, but he did that too (2018). Now the 26-year-old gunslinger is poised for his best year as a professional. He tossed a tad more than 3,800 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions a year ago connecting with mid-season acquisition Amari Cooper for 725 yards and six scores. (And don’t sleep on second-year receiver Michael Gallup either.) With a full offseason together and a full season ahead, the air attack is nothing to mess with in Dallas.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs
• 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL)
• 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL)
• 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 7, 2019
While the offense gets most of the attention, and rightfully so, the defense is not one to be messed with. Though they could not suppress the high-powered Rams offense in the NFC Divisional Round, the statement game for the Cowboys’ defensive unit came in Week 12 in a matchup with the prolific Drew Brees and the Saints. Lead by linebacker Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys held the seventh-ranked scoring offense to just 10 points. What did they change for this year? Nothing.
Not only is everyone returning, but they’re here for the long haul. Linebacker Jaylon Smith, who many expected to never play again after a horrific knee injury while at Notre Dame, signed a five-year $64 million extension after an 82-tackle, four-sack season. He didn’t even lead the team in either category. Fellow linebacker Leighton Vander-Esch had the most tackles (102) and interceptions (2) on the entire team as a rookie. Demarcus Lawrence, nicknamed Tank and the leader of the defensive line (self-named the Hot Boyz), went to the Pro-Bowl after recording 10.5 sacks and 64 tackles.
UConn’s own Byron Jones is the eldest member of the secondary and is fresh off his first trip to the pro-bowl after posting a career-high 14 pass breakups. He credits now second-year coach Kris Richard with his success in transition from safety to corner and is now poised to help a young surrounding cast in Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie come into their own.
With the newest iteration of “the triplets” on offense and a young, tough, underrated defense, the 2019 Dallas Cowboys are primed for success in a year where they have the 14th-hardest schedule, according to CBS sports, that includes the AFC East and NFC North. Outside of the usual six divisional games, the Cowboys’ highlights are trips to New Orleans, New England and Chicago, with a home slate that features the Rams and the Vikings. It won’t be easy, but the Cowboys open the season at No. 7 in NFL.com power rankings, so the expectations to perform are there.
The playoffs have been a lowlight for the 2000-era Cowboys, something no one expected after their dominance in the ‘90s. Now they are more than ready to rewrite the stigma of postseason Cowboys football. The talent is here now and in the future, even with Prescott and Cooper extensions looming over their heads. The time to win is now. It’s time for America’s Team to return to just that: America’s Team.
Kevin Arnold is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.